The question is a fundamental one, and one which doesn't appear to be asked by enough business owners or boards of directors.
It is simply this, "Who should own our website?".
A corporate website is amongst the most important interfaces the business has with the outside world. It is not limited to communicating with customers (for this would put it in the remit of 'Sales'), but instead with every external stakeholder who interacts with the business.
The American Marketing Association defines Marketing as, "the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large."
With this in mind, the corporate website should sit so firmly inside the Marketing department's remit that it is difficult to understand how it could reside elsewhere.
However, the temptation amongst 'the business' is often to think that a website is a technical issue, so of course it should be owned by the IT department (after all, websites run on 'servers', right?!). I've even encountered elements within Marketing departments who, when faced with the prospect of managing a website, have offered up the project to their IT department.
So, why shouldn't the IT department take control?
- It's none of their business. This isn't meant as a slur, and it is not to say they shouldn't be involved at some level, but it is literally not their business. The purpose, direction, content and objectives of the website are simply not the concerns of a corporate IT department.
- They don't have the skills for it. Often, the intention behind putting IT in charge of the corporate website is that they will be able to build it themselves.
The problem with this is that most corporate IT departments exist to implement, maintain and support the technological infrastructure within an organisation. This may include servers, computers, printers and the various other devices used to help connect them all together. This significant amount of effort enables the rest of the employees of the organisation to go about their business quickly and efficiently.
It is very rare that an IT department with these skills also possess the skills required to build a compelling website. Topics such as user experience design, branding, visual design, accessibility, usability, cross browser testing and search engine optimisation are completely different to those required to service an IT department.
The Right Answer
So, who should own our website? The answer is, "Marketing".
For most businesses I believe the remit for specifying, overseeing and maintaining the website should lie within the Marketing department. They should have the freedom to select a trusted partner (or a number of partners) with whom they can work to deliver a website which meets their specific needs.
These partners should be specialists in all of the many and varied disciplines required to build a successful, modern website. They should be employed in a commercial relationship which encourages them to work with the Marketing department to deliver the best possible website for the business.
The IT department can still play a valuable part, though. When selecting a partner to work with, your IT department should be well equipped to assess the technical merits of each offering. They will be able to help ensure the proposed technologies 'fit' with their vision for the company's future infrastructure, hopefully extending the useful life of your investment.
Should your website need to integrate with any other systems within the business (such as your CRM system), your IT department will clearly need to take a big part in the project.
But - it should always be remembered - the Marketing department owns the website; the IT department is there to provide support in the process as required.