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Political policies

Published on Tuesday, 20 February 2007
Many major commercial and non-government organisations thrive on policies and manuals. There are times and places where such documentation is needed, but also times when such things do need to be correctly addressed. As the web industry is changing daily in term of technology, make up, focus, direction, social networks, new programming languages, new ways of solving old problems, the risk is that a policy guiding web development will become out of date fairly quickly.

So how does one allay web development in a traditional or an environment with a high amount of corporatism from being superseded , misunderstood or just plain outdated ?

Most policies have a review date of somewhere around two years, sometimes even longer. You need to keep this in mind when writing the policy. Whatever web technology you use now will be severely outdated the next time it comes up for review. Therefore the obvious direction to take your web development policy is away from the technology and towards the standards, rules and guidelines that will manage you, your web teams, your third party vendors and anyone else remotely associated with web design and development inside a major firm over that extended period. Technology may change, industry best practice design may be revised in light of new technology, but it does conform to standards.

So the aim is to focus on industry best practice. It is with this in mind that you can start influencing the politics of an organisation because your aim is to provide the best service, the best value for money, with the web technology you have available at your fingertips. This does, fortunately or unfortunately, depending how you see it, include design changes like retrofitting a content management system to web standards compliance.

As some or all of the software used in your website may be commercial closed source, unless your organisation has openly adopted open source solutions, this is where you need your vendors onside. The best way to get your vendors onside in terms of web standards and industry best practice is to educate them, and to likewise document that you expect your vendors to keep to industry best practice as part of the web policy. Within an open source web design and  development environment, this job is substantially easier, firstly because the cost of licensing to a closed vendor is significantly reduced, and secondly because the source is open, it becomes a lot easier to customise to your organisations' needs.

This education of vendors also may apply to those inside the organisation who fail to see the benefits of a web policy, primarily because it may involve risk or change to day to day operational management and other policies. After all, one change in an organisation usually has a flow on effect elsewhere.. be it morale, be it business processes or or be it policies. Change for the sake of change isn't helpful to any organisation, but what is being suggested to write inside the policy are grounds for why industry best practice web design and development aligns with the ethos and strategic direction of the organisation. This helps with the education process, even if people don't understand exactly what industry best practice means.

The one risk in developing such a policy is that an organisation can face entropy, in that an structure such as an organisation may start deterioriating due to a burden or reliance on policies, manuals and structures that remain outdated and unable to change and adapt to the current surrounds.
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