Website costs

June 1, 2011

The topic of web site costs still keeps popping up! This time from Craig Thomler in Australia, and I must thank en.europa-eu-audience for putting it under my nose, although I’ve linked to Craig since the start of this blog! Craig, of course, is aware of all the challenges in dealing with measurement of both the cost and value of government services, and in this instance points us back to the UK and Diane Railton at drcc, a communications agency, who points out the work of the Digital Policy team at the UK government Central Office of Information (COI).

The one trouble with the example of central government is that it is largely focused around single services and is unlikely to reach the complexity of the hundreds of services and thousands of web pages that local government deals with. However, an attempt at an approach is better than nothing at all.

Unfortunately the COI guidance states ‘Costs of fulfilling transactions must be excluded from reporting’, which in the world of local government where a key job for the web is channel shift, being transactional is a necessity and needs to be built into the costs and value, which then needs to be viewed within the channel costs as a whole along with any additional IT.

In 2009 I considered Channel Accounting but didn’t go into detail of the calculations required. I see it as necessary that it needs to be done at a channel level, with some way of costing for the web pages used, the software required, the hosting and links with any back office system (used instead of the human being channels whether telephone or face-to-face).

Modern government websites should not be the labyrinthine devices that are frequently seen, they should have the necessary information to facilitate self or mediated service, along with the links to key back office systems providing the more frequently used transactions, suitably linked to together where they overlap, such as payments with Council Tax inquiries, or planning applications.

In some ways this makes calculating web site costs and value more complex but if anything it is made so by archaic accounting systems that haven’t moved on with investment and value management. Under such a regime calculating costs is only getter harder.