Digital business and running operations - the role for WebOps

With more businesses forced to work on their eCommerce approaches and deliver what customers want, that online experience is more important. It has to change quickly in response to what people want. So where can WebOps practices help?


Following two years of pandemic, companies of all sizes have had to change their operations. The move to eCommerce sped up - according to McKinsey, digital adoption in Europe jumped from 81% to 95%, a shift that would have taken two to three years pre-pandemic. In practice this put the focus on building and operating digital experiences for customers. This means websites.

Creating online services and sites that deliver what customers want is a challenge. Open source Content Management Systems have helped to drive results for many companies. However, there are ongoing responsibilities to keep those sites healthy. This covers the technology side - the constant need to manage security for website platforms and components like plug-ins, as well as protection against distributed denial of service attacks - and marketing requirements, such as updates to content and new services.

The challenge here is how these requirements crossover between different teams. While a security update will normally sit wholly with IT, how should companies manage their operations around site refreshes or alongside new campaigns? Where does the responsibility lie, and how well do teams actually collaborate around these areas?

The world of WebOps

This situation has its parallels to the world of IT operations and software development. In the past, developers wrote code and then passed that new software onto the IT operation teams for them to put into production. While the developers were focused on short sprints and delivering new functionality based on business demands, the IT operations team was accountable for service availability and reliability … again, based on business demands. Both teams had their own goals and metrics to work to, and they did not line up.

Enter DevOps. Since 2009, when the first DevOpsDays event was hosted, DevOps has become a standard practice for IT teams based on collaboration. According to Nutanix, 83% of companies have adopted practices that ensure developers and operations staff work together on their goals so they can deliver better software, faster, and reliably.

This same methodology is needed around the digital experience side. While Marketing teams are focused on business goals like demand generation and new business, the IT and software teams are measured on how well sites run and how they are kept up to date. These goals can potentially clash, particularly when security updates have to be deployed alongside running successful marketing campaigns or ensuring branding updates are implemented. The other challenge is how to manage sites over time - campaigns may have microsites associated with them, which can then be left once those activities are over but still have to be maintained.

WebOps, or Website Operations, describes how all the stakeholders involved in running these digital campaigns and sites can collaborate with each other. In other words, it means bringing marketing, development and IT to the same table and gets them to understand what pressures they are under. All too often, it is easy to assume that other teams don’t face the same kinds of challenges due to lack of visibility.

Sharing what each team’s goals are is the first step here. For IT and developers, it can be interesting to see how much technology the marketing function is now using in its approach. From lead scoring tools and personalisation services through to customer journey design, marketing professionals now rely on data from their websites in order to track performance, iterate their strategies and anticipate customers’ needs at any given point in their journey.

Similarly, marketing may be surprised at how much work goes into keeping websites updated. When all that effort is hidden in one team under the banner of ‘business as usual’, it is easy to assume that this work is easy in itself. To solve this problem involves looking at the entire process and how it links to that business goal. In the same way as DevOps helped teams release more reliable software faster, WebOps should link business goals around customer success and deliver a better experience to technical processes required to reach those goals.

How to deliver faster

To support this collaboration, it is important to look at giving everyone the tools they need to work more efficiently. One of the biggest challenges around WebOps is how different teams approach content.

While marketing teams may be responsible for designing and delivering the content to sit on website pages, actually updating those sites can typically involve handing that material over to the website developers instead. This is a frustrating task for both sides - marketers want to manage their content so it is ‘just right’ while developers want to be working on code rather than content. Both sides end up less efficient.

Splitting up website operations can help. For example, decoupling the content management system (CMS) from the front-end technologies and web platform can make it easier for both sides. Handing responsibility for managing content in a CMS to the marketing team can make it easier for them to work with their updates themselves, rather than needing additional handovers to get the changes made. This should make it easier to manage those updates at speed, giving the marketing team more control over their content rather than needing developers to step in all the time. In practice, this means that the team spends less time on back and forth discussions, and puts more emphasis on collaboration and co-creation to meet business goals instead. At the same time, both sides can come together to talk through what their actions mean for the whole group of stakeholders.

From a developer perspective, this means less time on low level implementation work and more time on things that will make a difference to the business, such as supporting new digital services. For marketers, it means they can work in the ways that they are more used to around their content and get more consistency across all their sites and campaigns.

Good WebOps practices make it easier to deliver those digital experiences that drive real world business results. To achieve these results, there are three areas to consider. Firstly, manual procedures make it harder to manage digital experiences, so automating processes and operations can help. Freeing up staff from routine tasks and maintenance allows them to concentrate on innovation.

Secondly, you must also concentrate on employee experience - when your developers use software they enjoy working on, they will create experiences your customers will enjoy too. Last but by no means least, bring your people together and be inclusive. By collaborating across functions, it’s easier to deliver those extraordinary digital experiences you need to have happy customers.


Scott Massey is Managing Director, International Markets at Pantheon, where he has spent the last ten years developing the company’s approach to development, partnerships and supporting team culture development. Prior to Pantheon, he spent years helping companies serve the Japanese IT market.