Friday, November 27, 2009

How much should a government website cost - are we over-engineering our websites?

These days when I personally need to set up a new website, I either hop onto Wordpress or download one of the free open-source content management systems, purchase space on a decent US server and follow the installation instructions.

I use a design template found online, customising it with some style tweaks where required, then spend a few days writing content.

It's not very hard and doesn't take very long (normally under a week).

However in government we have very strong governance structures around website creation - with good reason - to ensure that the platforms we use are secure, reliable and effective. We also have extensive content approval processes which can require a number of steps before words reach the screen.

This places a great deal of overhead on the process of creating and managing government websites, adding significantly to IT and resourcing costs.

I don't question the need for public organisations to guarantee the reliability and security of their websites. However I do wonder if we're placing a disproportionate level of cost onto this process - so much overhead on our websites that they may be slower to deliver and less cost-effective than other communications channels.

I also wonder if departments spend much time scrutinising their governance arrangements to see if they can reduce the burden, and therefore the cost and time to market, (without compromising the outcome) by either planing ahead or working together better.

If we are really one government shouldn't we be able to - as a group or via some central agency - security assess and review a group of web technologies then pick and choose between them as needed - depending on our internal platforms and needs?

Why not compare our departmental content management processes and learn from the organisations who are most effective and efficient?

Food for thought.

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