Selecting a web governance model for your organization

Ryan Boudreaux describes the main governance models that organizations use to guide their website strategies.

In the previous post about web governance plans, I gave a brief overview along with a self-test of questions to assist you with a determination of the existence or non-existence of web governance within your own organization. If you have not read that piece, I suggest you visit that segment first and then come back to this page, as it is a continuation on the Web Governance theme.

You might be wondering why your organization would want to incorporate a web governance strategy for its website or Internet presence. While the Internet is not governed by any agency, government, or entity, there are projects underway that offer guidelines and key concepts for the implementation of self-governance for public and private organizations. The web governance models and types in use today are an evolution of the Internet Governance key concepts that started to take hold in 1991 with the phrase "Internet Society", and later at the World Summit on The Information Society (WSIS), which was first held in December 2003 in Geneva. The primer "Internet Governance", by Akash Kapur, with a foreword by Vinton G. Cerf, is a good starting point for anyone who desires to learn more about the background, issues, and key concepts of Internet Governance as it relates to today's society; the book is donated to the community and is online at wikibooks. It is also available for download as a PDF from Asia-Pacific Development Information Programme at  APDIP publications.

The Internet Governance approach utilizes a layered model to focus on content, logic, and infrastructure as parts that conceptualize several issues such as Intellectual Property Rights, Domain Name System, and Universal Access, just to name a few. While the layer model approach of Internet Governance is an important foundation, it is not the primary focus of this piece today.

What I will do is briefly review several types of web governance models including the Advisory Board Model, the Co-operative Model, the Management Team Model, and the Policy Board Model. In a future segment, I will briefly review several case studies for web governance models that are in use today at several organizations within the United States.

Advisory Board Model

The Advisory Board is a typical governance model for small to medium sized non-profit organizations and puts an emphasis on providing a supportive role by assisting, guiding, and mentoring the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or Chief Information Officer (CIO). The board members are recruited because they are trusted and have the professional skill sets to provide or increase the credibility of the organization, and typically provide their consulting services pro bono, or for a drastically reduced fee. In most cases this board is run by the CEO/CIO with the board members in an advisory role only; however, the caveat with this model is that while the CEO/CIO makes the final decisions, from a legal standpoint in some countries, the board is ultimately responsible for the organization. This can lead to problems if the board is not willing to overrule the CEO/CIO, and as a result can result in the organization losing some of its accountability and credibility.

Cooperative Model

The Cooperative Model is a shared approach that includes several peer groups combined into a collective management board structure. In this model there is no CEO/CIO, the final decision making is a shared consensus and no individual position on the board has power over any other position — all positions have equal power. The typical Cooperative Board will consist of a single governing body composed of official members such as a president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, accountant, and unofficial staff members, volunteers, and in some cases customers or clients. Board members typically share a common sense of commitment and determination to work with others, share the responsibility, and have willingness to negotiate and compromise for the general benefit of the organization.

Management Team Model

The Management Team Model typically mirrors the organizational structure of the organization, with members or committees of members based on the departments or function, such as human resources, finance, accounting, planning, products, services, planning, administration, and others. Board members function in both operational and administrative roles and typically report to the CEO/CIO. While board members are selected from existing members based on the needs, requirements, skills, and abilities, the CEO/CIO is usually in a liaison role and is on the board as part and parcel of being in that position.

Policy Board Model

The Policy Board Model creates, prepares, and administers policies that will bring added value to the organization by establishing guiding principles and policies that then are delegated to the CEO/CIO, who then has the responsibility and authority to enact and enforce them within the management structure. It is also the responsibility of the board to monitor compliance and to ensure that the policies are actively applied and followed throughout the organization, including the CEO/CIO.

Which model fits my organization?

It's a question you and your organizations stakeholders will need to ask, and your answer(s) will depend on several factors including the following:

  • Size: small, medium, or large business
  • Type: business or non-profit organization
  • Organizational structure, CEO/CIO, hierarchy of management, many departments, few departments, etc.
  • Willingness to change, cooperative corporate culture, or set in their ways unwilling to change

The matrix below is just a guideline, marking the selections that are most likely a good fit, depending on the size and type of organization.

Business/Organization Factors
















Management Team










The next segment on Web Governance will review several case studies including the United Nations Inspection Unit, the Website Governance Functional Model, and the Website Governance Modeling Tool.

About Ryan Boudreaux

Ryan has performed in a broad range of technology support roles for electric-generation utilities, including nuclear power plants, and for the telecommunications industry. He has worked in web development for the restaurant industry and the Federal g...

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