It’s Time for a Chief Web Officer

I was in a meeting last year with the CEO of an international corporation and a few of his people. This company had just spent $200,000 on a massive web site only to have the development shop hijak the site and leave them with nothing. When we met the web site was under threat of being “turned off” if $40,000 extra wasn’t wired by weeks end. Pretty amazing.

We discussed hosting since they planned to move the site to our servers and I asked about what kind of traffic they get. I wanted to be sure that we would be setting up an ideal hosting environment.

They didn’t know.

Doesn’t that just strike you as a small problem? Talk about throwing money at something without understanding the surrounding issues. I think there are probably a lot of companies like this. Companies end up making bad decisions because they don’t understand the web and how people use it.

I think it’s about time companies get their act together and hire a Chief Web Officer, or CWO for short. I’ve seen enough CEOs try to make important decisions regarding their web sites only to end up with sites that don’t pass for Web 1.0. (haha, wasn’t that clever!). Companies need to hire a single person — someone that gets it — and have that person oversee web projects.

9 responses to “It’s Time for a Chief Web Officer”

  1. No doubt! I work for an IT department that understands the importance of our external web presence, but yet we don’t have the power to champion a solution. We just hired a CIO, but our shop is so far behind on critical infrastructure updates, he’s not concerned with our web.

    I almost miss the days of a single webmaster who had the CEO’s ear and when he talked, executives listened. Ahh….the golden years!

  2. Something important I left out of my meeting was that I wasn’t saying an IT department or a marketing department can’t pull of a successful web site. By all means if there are web savvy people working in those departments that’s great. I think you summed it up well when you said someone that has the CEO’s ear and the CEO actually listens.

  3. I absolutely agree. The CEO’s have enough trouble keeping the company together and knowing the business. They have all sort of people — we’ll call them experts for lack of a better term — in different areas of the company explaining what’s up in their area, why isn’t there one for online or web initiatives?

  4. I worked for a division of Honeywell where the Marketing department was actually a sub-group of IT. It was a brilliant arrangement. Technology drove Marketing. It supported our brand as technological leaders, and certainly served our customers better. Ah yes, the golden years indeed. Love your site BTW!!! 🙂

  5. Chris,

    This is a great post, and I totally agree with you. There are few corporate officers who genuinely understand how the web works in a comprehensive way (technology, content, hardware, software, aesthetics, branding, etc.).

    A web site is a living, growing organism, and as an increasingly fundmental part of so many businesses, it’s essential that major companies have an executive whose job it is simply to understand and manage it. It would cost a lot less to create such a position than these companies are probably losing in a given year because of their sloppy, haphazard web presence.

  6. Yeppers, I have seen money tossed out the window on many occasions. Companies do need marketing people, but marketing people need to understand the box, before they can work outside of it. There are some great marketing people (and CEOs for that matter) that strive to understand the production and delivery systems that the web has to offer. But unfortunately, they are far and few.

    David Martinez

  7. This is exactly what I do for the company I work for (Kudos to Chris for putting me in contact with this employer). My title is “Director, Web Systems”. Meaning that anything my company does on the Web is delegated to me and I make the technical decisions. This place has been burned many times and it’s my job to see that it doesn’t happen again.

  8. […] Today I accidentally surfed on this blog post about Chief Web Officers. I must say I’m with the blog post in that companies and corporations of this age should start considering hiring top-level officers to be in charge of the company’s whole web environment and presence. There are way too many wrong paths that can be taken with web strategy and way too many evil n’ greedy consultants. […]

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