Mr. Obama and the Proliferating Fed-Web Landscape

The President’s June 13 directive concerning the sheer numbers of Federal websites is an overdue wake-up call. Two thousand primary websites and another 24,000 (and likely more) subsidiary sites evidence an agency realm that’s gone overboard with this unbeatable communications and customer service resource. Even so, this website population explosion is a symptom of widespread enthusiasm for the far-reaching capabilities of the Internet in helping agencies performs their missions better. In itself, that’s not a bad thing.

 

Even so, the President is right in calling for moderation in deciding what content is Web-worthy and how it should be presented. No one is calling for a shutdown of useful citizen services and direct information sites. After all, more than half of all Americans visited Federal websites in 2010, and (we hope) many dollars have been shaved from agency printing budgets by the easy availability of online info. Recovery.gov, the Federal site that TMP Government has developed to assist citizens, businesses, and agencies in tracking Recovery Act funds, is a case in point. Nowhere else, online or off, is the big picture on Federal recovery funding available to the public and American industry in comprehensive project-by-project detail.

 

But for every Recovery.gov that rolls up and packages vital information in a single online location, there are others (as Mr. Obama pointed out) that simply add to the confusing redundancy of sites housing similar or parallel content. In my view, the best answer to this website population explosion is not scattergun eradication but measured and strategic consolidation.

 

Admittedly, that’s easier said than done. Program teams within agencies will surely fight to hang on to their little footholds in cyberspace, mission-justified or not. That’s why I’m advising agency leadership and agency IT shops (which are generally responsible for their agencies’ websites) not to get engulfed in the inevitable bureaucratic tussles. Instead, they need to call in the cavalry, if you will, enlisting impartial third-parties – expert in the technology and in the creative aspects of 21st century Web practice—to lead what I’ll call “Web Value Audits.” These initiatives will help:

  • ·         prioritize the utility of what the White House calls “sub-sites”
  • ·         phase them out where justified, and/or
  • ·         consolidate them where possible.

If there’s a bright spot in this Federal cyberscape, it’s in the realm of recruiting, where many agencies (with help from TMP and other qualified providers) have refined very successful sites to engage and enlist talent for the future. This is a critical priority for all agencies, and an area where overzealous Web-pruning could threaten how well agencies perform their missions in the future. I see these talent-attraction sites as bright spots not so much because our company is a prime mover in developing them, but because:

  • ·         they’re entirely scalable to suit agency needs, and
  • ·         thanks to the vast and independent Web infrastructure for social networking, they can effectively outsource many functions and resources for building brands and cultivating relationships with potential recruits.

 

Think about it. The current social media craze has resulted in scores of wide-ranging sites—notably Facebook, Twitter and YouTube—where agencies can hitch a free (or almost free) ride when it comes to engaging talent. Today agencies can stand up multiple recruiting footholds outside the firewall, leaving basic promotional tasks (like where and how to find us) in the expert hands of the social network in question. That’s not to say a given agency shouldn’t devote thorough attention and creativity to its inboard careers site and energetic outreach under its own power. Recruiting is certainly a mission-essential function. But now every agency has options—not to mention a potential scope for recruit engagement far more extensive than it would have under its own Web power.

If there’s a complicating factor here, it’s the sheer number of potential social media sites available. Our TMP team has considered this wealth of options and released a utility that simplifies all this for the agency recruiter. Called TalentBrew, the product effectively integrates all of an agency’s social media functions (and all of its recruiting outreach and relationship tasks to boot) on a single dedicated external site.  You can learn more about TalentBrew here. It’s a model of online task integration and mission efficiency.

I guarantee the President would have no argument with that. 

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Thomas Delorme
Written by Thomas Delorme

VP, Digital Products & Strategy

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