Why the IT department shouldn't manage your website

This person should not manage your website

By Mark McGrath, August 2019.

This article is written for staff who feel they have a substandard website managed by their IT department.

IT managers shouldn't manage your organisation's website. This is because your website is about things the IT department doesn't manage. Brand, content and service delivery.

Your website is your reputation

Your website is the public face of your organisation. It is your most viewed asset. It's also what you use to conduct most of your business through. So, your organisation's reputation relies on your website.

IT Managers are not brand managers. Nor are they content or service delivery managers. But that's what makes a good website. Quality content, easy to use online services wrapped in an attractive brand.

Insourcing the tech not a good use of IT's resources

But what about the software and servers behind the website? That's information technology I hear you say.

Yes, there is technical expertise in developing, hosting and maintaining websites. But this is best done by people whose sole focus and expertise is building and maintaining websites.

Your IT department looks after the hardware and software within your office. Yet very few organisations nowadays host their own website in-house.

It's a bit like the marketing manager wanting to go into the printing business because they are producing a brochure..

Yes, it's possible to buy your own printing press and learn how to run it. But would this be the best use of the marketing manager's time?

It's the same for websites. Yes, it's possible for the IT department to build and host their own website in-house. But would they be able to do as good a job as a specialist website development agency? And is this the best use of their time?

The answer in both of these cases is no.

If you are a website development expert you are not going to be working in an IT department. You are going to be working in a website development agency instead. If you are working in an IT department, then you are not likely to be as good as a professional website developer.

The sandpit syndrome

Unfortunately, there are still some IT Managers out there wanting to own the organisation's website. This is usually so they can use it as a vanity project and their personal plaything. I call this the sandpit syndrome. Here, the focus tends to be on what the software can do rather than delivering what the users want.

IT managers don't share your priorities

A further problem exists with IT managers running websites. They don't share the same priorities as communication and service delivery managers.

Communications and service delivery managers focus on delivering quality messages and services. The IT department focus instead on maintaining IT infrastructure.

So when an in-house website fails, it's not surprising that a fix is not treated as a high priority. In the same way, the IT department will tend to be slow to respond to new development requests. This is because they have more important things to do.

I had one client in this situation. The organisation's website was in-sourced and managed by the IT department. But for each new project that required an online presence, they outsourced website development. They did this because getting this done via the IT department was too hard, slow and substandard.

The end result was about 10 satellite websites. All disconnected to each other and the organisation's website. This proved a nightmare experience for their users. It was the online version of asking the user to navigate their way through a two-dollar shop.

Making the case for change

If you do have a website managed by your IT department then you need to make the case for change. You can do this by trying to answer the following question.

Comparing quality

How does the quality of your website compare to your peers (who have websites developed by an agency)? In particular, using the following criteria:

  • Design (does the branding match the quality of your other publications?)
  • Ease of use (how hard is it for users to find what they want?)
  • Online services offered (e-commerce should be mandatory)
  • Response time (pages should load within 3 seconds)
  • Uptime (should be at least 99.9%)
  • Support service (how quick are support requests resolved?)
  • Getting new features developed (how hard is this, how long does it take?)

Comparing costs

You can make an economic case by calculating the costs of an internal and external website. To do this adopt a total cost of ownership (TCOO) approach over 5 years made up of:

  • Development costs plus;
  • Annual costs (hosting, maintenance and support) x 5

For calculating the internal TCOO over 5 years you need to account for:

  • Purchase and depreciation costs of web server
  • System administration costs of web server (hrs per week x 52 x 5 x hourly rate of system administrator)
  • Bandwidth costs
  • Development costs (hrs taken x hourly rate of developers)
  • Support costs (hrs per annum x 5 x hourly rate of support staff)

The TCOO over 5 years for an external website will probably be lower. This is because you are not paying for 100% of the ongoing costs (you are sharing this instead with other clients). Whereas with an internal website you are funding all these costs.

Cost-benefit analysis

Using these two approaches allows you to do a cost-benefit analysis of both options. This is a value for money assessment of each option.

By applying a weighting to each criteria you can calculate a quality score for each option. For example, let's say you came up with the following weightings and scores for each criteria.

Ease of use251520
Online services201017
Response time151013
Support service1048
New feature development524

Then let's say you calculated the following TCOO over 5 years for each option.

Cost itemInternalExternal
TCOO over 5 years$135,000$100,000

This would then allow you to calculate a cost per quality point score for each option. For example:

OptionCost per quality point
Internal$2,411 ($135,00 divided by 56 points)
External$1,205 ($100,000 divided by 83 points)


IT managers shouldn't be managing your organisation's website. If they are then you are probably compromising your organisation's reputation. So you should make the case for change using a cost-benefit analysis. 

Mark McGrath is the Principal Consultant and Director of Social Change Media.

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Last updated: 10 June 2020