Staffing a Digital Commons Website

The Web is integral to government communications, customer service, and, increasingly, to the delivery of government services to citizens. Agency websites and online services need to be actively updated, managed and supported. Agencies should establish Web communications as a core government business function and staff it accordingly.

This best practice covers a staffing strategy for Web operations, rather than the creation of new websites or applications. Web operations encompass websites, mobile apps, and other online applications.



There are three primary functions of the agency website(s):

  • Information: Most government websites started out as a set of linked electronic brochures. But Web content needs to be dynamic, not static, and constantly improved.
  • Customer service. The digital space is where most encounters between an agency and citizens occur. The two-way conversation enabled by email, surveys, social media, crowdsourcing, texting, and blogs leads to unprecedented opportunities for openness and customer service.
  • Contain or Link to Online services. Creating online services is a win-win: cost savings for government and efficiency for citizens. Usable, useful and high value online services are increasingly expected and necessary from a cost perspective.


Suggested Practice for Digital Commons Web Staffing

The agency Web presence should be staffed according to its size and complexity. A good strategy to staff a website (regardless of size) includes these elements:

  • Strategic Website Owner
  • Web Manager
  • Content Coordinators (for larger agencies)
  • Subject Matter Experts


Strategic Website Owner, over Website Manager, over Content Coordinators, Over Subject Matter Experts


Strategic Website Owner

The Strategic Website Owner is usually the Communications Director/Public Information Officer of the agency, or someone who works closely with them. He/she works with senior leadership to align digital efforts with the business priorities of the agency and the needs of the site visitors. He/she communicates these priorities to the Web Manager, who works with the Content Coordinators (or, in smaller agencies, subject matter experts) to ensure all changes and updates to the website support the stated priorities.

The Strategic Website Owner and Website Manager must be entrusted by the agency senior leadership to make all decisions about the website.


Web Manager

A Web Manager with the authority to align the Web with business goals, who is entrusted by senior management to make decisions about how content is placed on the site, is essential. As a best practice, this role should be full time for any agency and website that is large and complex. This role is primarily a communications role and is more appropriately aligned with the Communications/Public Information office than with IT.

The Web Manager is the primary steward of the Web presence for an agency. Depending on the size and complexity of the agency website(s), all content-related functions are either performed or managed by the Web Manager.

This includes:

  • Working with senior management to determine overall direction of the agency in the digital space, and how the Web can support business goals
  • Acting as the primary liaison with the NC Department of Information Technology, Digital Solutions Section, for the Digital Commons Project, regarding functional needs of the agency website as well as training needs of the agency.
  • Information architecture: How information is organized; the labels for navigation; how new programs are incorporated into the website; and determining when new websites are warranted.
  • Content Strategy: How the Web fits with other communication channels, editorial workflow, and calendars.
  • Drupal Role: It is recommended that they be the sole or the primary Site Admin in the Drupal environment.
  • Assigning appropriate roles to those on the Digital Commons Drupal platform: editors, publishers, etc.
  • Working with IT staff (within the agency or in DIT) on public-facing online applications, to ensure usability, to align with them the website, and ensure they are branded for the website.
  • Creation of digital assets such as graphics and video.
  • Customer service through all two-way channels: email, social media, blogs, crowdsourcing, SMS, etc.
  • Usability and clarity of online information.
  • Search engine optimization.
  • Website measurement: Monitoring Web analytics, and defining and monitoring key performance indicators.
  • Social media campaigns.


Subject Matter Experts

While the Web Manager (and, if applicable, his/her staff) is the steward of the Web presence—setting the information architecture and editorial standards — the Subject Matter Experts own the content that pertains to them.

This means that the Subject Matter Expert owns the content, but not where it goes or how it is written on the agency website(s).

When Subject Matter Experts work directly on the website in a content management system, they must adhere to the website’s editorial standards, which are overseen by the Web Manager and Content Coordinators.

It is recommended that Subject Matter Experts be Editors in the Digital Commons Drupal environment, or, if they are savvy communicators, Publishers.


Content Coordinators

For small organizations, the Web Manager coordinates content with the Subject Matter Experts. For large organizations, Content Coordinators may be assigned to work with Subject Matter Experts. The Content Coordinator becomes the liaison between the Web Content Manager and the Subject Matter Experts. If a website is complex enough to need Content Coordinators, it is recommended that the Website Manager meet with them regularly to ensure consistency across the site. 

While not a technical role, Content Coordinators need to be technically proficient in the Web platform and willing to learn and enforce rules such as metadata standards and file-size limitations. Working with the content owners, the Content Coordinator is the front line of Web standard enforcement.

The role of Content Coordinator is not full-time. They should be good communicators, but not necessarily communication staff.

Content Coordinators can be given flexibility to either obtain the content from the Subject Matter Experts and enter it into the website, or to have editorial control over content entered by Subject Matter Experts. If it is the latter, the Content Coordinator is the trainer and editor for Subject Matter Experts.

It is recommended that Content Coordinators be Publishers and/or Site Managers in the Drupal Environment.

The role of Content Coordinator is significant. Each should be evaluated for these duties during the annual VIP personnel review, and their manager should consult with the Web Manager to understand how well the Content Coordinator has performed this role.


Agency Web Governance

The Strategic Website Owner works with senior agency leadership to ensure that digital efforts are aligned with the business priorities of the agency. He/she communicates these priorities to the Web Manager, who works with the Content Coordinators (or, in smaller agencies, Subject Matter Experts) to ensure all changes and updates to the website support the stated priorities.


Role of Department of Information Technology, Digital Solutions Section

The DIT Digital Solutions Section supports the infrastructure for the Digital Commons websites and related digital products. This includes:

  • Maintenance of the Digital Commons platform, to include server management, performance, security, database administration, integration with NCID, module updates, search engine, etc.
  • Working with agencies to determine priorities for enhancement
  • Support analytics, ensure guidelines and policies are followed
  • Training and documentation
  • Vendor liaison, if applicable

References on Web Governance

Web Governance: Where Strategy Meets Structure