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The Plight Of The Sme Webmaster

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Jaz-Michael King

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User since: 16 May 2002

Articles written: 5

What SMEs Offer

Companies with between a hundred and a thousand employees can be the best and the worst places to work. Working the Small and Medium Enterprise niche offers freedom to innovate, greater decision-making responsibilities, enriched intimacy with the content and its producers. Be alert though; SMEs also offer greater accountability, easier firing, slower promotion and less money.

Roles and Responsibilities

The SME Webmaster fills many roles. He must be able to perform the duties of what would take half a dozen employees in larger environments, and perform those duties to near expert proficiency:

  • Webmaster - manage the web content
  • Database Guy - design and maintain database services
  • Systems Guy - administer Linux, Apache, Windows
  • Programmer - create scripts and software
  • Web Designer - conceive and produce audio/visual creative, manage the creative guys and gals
  • Project Manager - manage the unit and produce reports

The SME Webmaster cannot afford to specialize; instead he must be highly proficient in many fields, and extremely adaptable. The SME Webmaster must be able to speak authoritatively on any or all the following subjects while wearing the respective mantle:

  • Webmaster - (X)HTML, XML, HTTP, FTP, SSL, CMS
  • Database Guy - SQL, database design, disaster recovery
  • Systems Guy - Linux, NT, IIS, Apache, cron, backups
  • Programmer - PHP, Perl, Javascript, shell scripting
  • Web Designer - SMIL, CSS, HTML, JPEG, file compression, WAI
  • Project Manager - statistical analysis, logging, reporting, documentation, technical writing

The important point here is that while you might not have to actually perform all of these duties, you�d better be ready to manage someone who is, know how to hire them and be able to tell when prospective staff or consultants are flim-flamming.

The Work Environment

The SME Webmaster also usually works in relatively small departments, no more than 5 or 6 staff of content producers, coordinators and a coder/scripter or two. Liaison between non-webified departments, policy and procedural development, strategic focus and technological enhancements are all calls the SME Webster will be answering, with or (more often) without the support of the CTO or CIO. Webmasters who do not answer to the CIO/CTO may find themselves under the auspices of a Vice President of IS; in these instances be sure to document everything. SME IS departments are already swamped and trying to do everything with nothing. The last thing they want is another unit to foul things up and break the budget. Oftentimes the web unit will be stuffed in a corner and given little or no direction or support. IS loves me, IS loves me not�

Webmasters, especially in the SME niche, will find themselves being referred to as web designers, programmers, chief geek� all sorts of misnomers will be hurled indiscriminately. It�s not their fault - no one really knows what it is you do. Stand up for yourself, the true Webmaster is a proud, highly capable individual who can guide the company to bigger and better achievements both online and off. Everyone loves to hear about eBusiness strategy, so go get some.

What SMEs Want

The main thing you can do to help yourself is document your projects thoroughly, and keep a score card of everything you do or are responsible for. Don�t be afraid to rewrite your job description; Human Resources needs to know what you do for when you bail and they need another you.

Create paperwork. Project reports are how they understand your efforts. User manuals are not that hard to create and they will win you many brownie points. Pitch in with policy; your unit needs procedural documentation that says who is allowed to do what and why. Try and come up with something to take to management every three months or so, whether it be a new Web Publishing Manual or a list of new enhancements to the web site. Just because you think it�s easy to add a subscribe button to the home page doesn�t mean it doesn�t have value. Improved usability, enhanced stickiness and higher signup rates make for great bullshit bingo at the next inter-departmental meeting.

Responsible Webmastering

Finally, many Webmasters are apt to start believing they know everything about everything. While almost true, it�s not always. Be sure of your information, double-check your sources, stay well read and even better informed. If you can�t back up your statement, don�t state it. And if ever -- by some mysterious quirk of the fates -- you find there is something about which you know too little or (gasp) nothing, figure it out by tomorrow or I�m posting your name all over Usenet ;o)

Jaz is currently the senior director of eservices and health care transparency for IPRO. He is also Welsh, something he is not likely to let you forget. His favourite things are beer, cheese and monkeys (in that order). Jaz co-chairs Medicare's SDPS Web Strategies Workgroup, and serves as judge for the WWW Health Awards. His portfolio of recent work is available at

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