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The Web requires leadership if it is to achieve its full potential. That leadership will rarely be given by senior management. So that means it's up to you.

Most Web sites are only now beginning to develop a clear strategy. That's because the Web has evolved within most organizations from the ground up. Most sites began as pioneering initiatives by individuals or small groups. Rarely was the Web driven by a senior management that was truly engaged.

The Web is still new. It only began to build momentum about 10 years ago, and it wasn't until five years ago that it began to go truly mainstream.

Most organizations are only now beginning to put in place the necessary processes to manage their sites. Only a small percentage have developed a clear Web strategy. Even fewer measure success, except perhaps in the most basic of ways (by measuring number of visits, pageviews, and so on).

This is all perfectly fine. Too many of us believed the myth of the Internet month, where everything was moving with incredible speed and if you didn't move at that speed you'd be left behind. Most of the entities that moved at Internet speed quickly crashed and burned.

We shouldn't rush things. A good intranet will become an integral part of how staff will do their daily jobs. You've got time to get it right. A quality Web site will serve customers better.

That's not to say that you can take forever thinking about what to do. It is to say that you need a robust plan that you won't have to change six months down the line.

You must lead. You must put forward a vision. You must establish a road map for where your Web site should go over the next three to five years. That's tricky, because leadership is mainly the job of senior management.

You're in a delicate situation. You need to show leadership for your site, at the same time not being seen to usurp the leadership of your senior managers. How do you bring them along? How do you make them feel that they are still the "real" leaders?

It's not easy, though far from impossible. You must be careful to set the groundwork for a visionary Web strategy while encouraging management to take the reins and drive that strategy. (A strategy that is not driven by senior management is rarely sustainable.)

Your leadership can cause a positive momentum that senior management can then be encouraged to get behind. "What has worked for me is to figure out what is the right thing to do for citizens and then persuade people to do that," states Candis Harrison, cochairperson of the US government Web managers advisory council.

"You give them examples. You give them encouragement. You keep up a drumbeat for the cause of 'the right thing' to do," she says. "We have to see the way and then lead those who must contribute, in that direction."

One way or another, you need to take the initiative. Create a road map for your Web site. It's a great opportunity, both for you and for your organization.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Gerry McGovern
Gerry McGovern (gerry@gerrymcgovern.com) is a content management consultant and author. His latest book is The Stranger's Long Neck: How to Deliver What Your Customers Really Want Online, which teaches unique techniques for identifying and measuring the performance of customers' top tasks.