Web Publishing & Governance Models

Centralized Vs. Decentralized Web Publishing & Governance Models
Posted on 11/13/2017
CivicLive blog - Centralized/Decentralized Web Publishing & Governance Models

The discussion around centralized and decentralized website content management has likely been discussed at some point within your organization. Both sides of the argument have positive aspects, as well as some detractors. You may currently have a dedicated web team/department, or that responsibility may fall under the purview of a few different parties within your municipality.


A centralized approach has a small team publishing content on behalf of the entire organization. In some municipalities, the public information office manages, maintains, and updates the website, with very little input from other departments. This model is best defined as a “hub-and-spoke” approach, with one manager responsible for all core web functions.


Conversely, a decentralized model has multiple departments, teams, or employees responsible for only one or two key aspects of the overall website. A municipality that takes this approach may have an IT manager that is responsible for maintaining the backend of the site (coding, server equipment, etc). At the same time, a member of the public information office may be responsible for community newsletters. The clerk may manage council meeting agendas, forms and minutes. Finally, the tourism department oversees pictures, videos and community pages. This model is often called a “spiderweb”, as each business function contributes to one portion of the overall website.


Here’s what many within the community are saying with regards to web governance:


Centralized Supporters Will Typically Mention That They:

  • Can provide more consistent and higher quality content.
  • Are much more efficient as they are working on web content daily.
  • Spend more time strategizing and improving the website instead of constantly retraining staff who may only update content a few times a year.

Decentralized Supporters Will Typically Mention That They:

  • Can provide a quicker turn-around with less time writing instructions for someone else.
  • Are more cost-effective as content can be posted directly without the need to be vetted by a department responsible for oversight.
  • Make content owners directly responsible for their own content and keep them engaged.

One approach over the other is not necessarily better, and many municipalities try and use a combination of methods for managing their content.


What may not be mentioned in these debates is that without a content governance model which clearly outlines the policies, procedures, guidelines, expectations and enforcement's expected and required, either one of these models will fail.


Developing a Clear Web Content Governance Model

The discussion that should be happening is: Does our organization have a clear web content governance model and if not, what can we do about it?


There are many components of a governance model, but the questions it needs to answer are:


  • What are the roles, responsibilities and expectations for all staff who create, review, edit or approve content?
  • What are the approval processes?
  • Who publishes content?
  • Who has the final say determining if content stays, goes or is changed?
  • How often must content be reviewed?
  • What are the web content standards?
  • What are the repercussions for non-compliance and who monitors and enforces this?

With the above questions clearly answered and understood by staff, the centralized vs. decentralized models become less of an issue as there are checks and balances in place. Achieving consistent and high quality web content is really the goal of any of these discussions.


No matter what model your agency prefers, you want to ensure your content management system is flexible enough to adapt to your processes. CivicLive recognizes that no two organizations are the same, and our SitePublish CMS platform gives you a level of adaptability other CMS systems don’t. Learn About the CivicLive CMS.

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