© 2005 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved President, Ministry Business Services, Inc. Reprinted from Christian Management Report
The advent of the website and the technology it involves has forced most organizations to react quickly to get something “up and running.” As is true with most new technologies, best practice strategies follow their introduction based on lessons learned. An issue we’re just beginning to put our finger on that can cost or save an organization tens— or even hundreds— of thousands is: Who is in charge of your website?
The Source Of The Confusion
Many see websites as electronic brochures that inform. Some see websites as magazines or newspapers that keep an audience updated. Others see websites as selling and delivery tools that generate income. All of these are correct! Relatively few stop to consider that websites are part of the organization’s information technology structure.
As a result most put their graphics, communications, marketing, or accounting teams in charge of their websites. While these are the correct teams to determine its appropriate look and feel, and are the correct teams to develop its content, these are usually not those who have the greatest depth in information technology systems which would help them make the best website strategy decisions.
Why Is This A Big Deal?
Our firm, MBS, has seen enough ministries choose unnecessarily expensive website solutions that it’s become apparent that these non-IT teams are being sold overpriced solutions. Many are nice and full-featured, but also much more expensive than they should be. There are many ministries paying hundreds of thousands each year for their websites to be developed and hosted that, with IT’s help, could have had the same websites for tens of thousands! On a more typical scale, many are spending tens of thousands for websites that should only cost thousands.
The bottom line is that the organization budget suffers because there are some vendors who sell hard and well, and take more than they should. And because our organizations are ministries charged with building The Kingdom, the results are eternal when excessive fees cut into programs and other important functions.
What’s The Right Model?
Like all information technology issues, the first step in the process is learning what your team needs and wants. The solutions are then sought by your IT team (whether in-house or outsourced). The IT team is the one who understands how the internet functions. They know that using many webhosts who each have unique functions can provide a seamless website to your audience AND save you from having to pay to develop services a webhost doesn’t yet offer. Once your IT team has identified the best webhost, website designer, and any other needed service-provider choices, then your graphics, communications, marketing, and accounting teams should work with your designer to get the effect and impact you’re after.
Helpful Website Tips
- Website Design. The best way to find a designer that can do what you’d like is to search around the Internet and find sites that are close to what you want. Then contact their designers and ask if they’re available to design your website similar to the one you liked so much. The benefit is that they already know how to do what you want, so you’ll save on design time AND get what you want!
- Website Hosting. Don’t feel like your designer also needs to be your webhost. Most website servers run Unix, Linux, or Windows. Once a designer knows what system the site will be hosted on, they should be able to generate your website for that system.
- Updating Content. Make certain you and your team will have a simple method of updating the website’s content yourselves. Don’t get caught in the trap of having to go back to your designer every time you want to make a change. Many webhosts have the ability for you to securely access and update your website. Some can even let you assign different rights for each page so that various team members can be responsible for updating their unique pages.
- Multi-Sourcing. It’s great if you can find a webhost that offers all of the services you want in your website. Keep in mind, however, that using a single webhost is not a necessity. You may want to use a different webhost for your online store or for delivering streamed multimedia content. Doing so may save you a lot of money and get you better quality! And those visiting your website may not be able to tell that different services are being served up by different webhosts!
Making your Internet presence an IT function will save your ministry a lot of money in the short and long run. Your IT team will ensure you get the quality of presence you want, and find vendors that want to serve you rather than soak you.