What is a Web Strategist?

My long time friend Martin McKeay (Network Security A-Lister) asked a curious question when I tweeted about Len Devanna, EMC’s Web Strategist. Martin asks: “I saw your tweet about EMC, saw that Len’s role is Director of Web Strategy. Better question would be what does that really mean?”

What is a Web Strategist?

The web strategist is responsible for the long term planning and ongoing programs for a website, at least one exists at every corporation.

A web strategist (this isn’t just a term I made up for my blog) is a REAL job title typically found in large corporations where the web is a necessary communication channel, or a title used by internet consultants who provide high level advice. Most often the web strategist is in marketing, but this role can appeal to the intranet or extranet. They are responsible for balancing the three spheres of web strategy (See graphic).

They manage budget, and ultimately are key decision makers for which vendors are hired.

Questions they have to answer:
How do we align our website with our corporate objectives?
How do we spend our resources?
How do we measure our return on investment?
How do our customers think of our website?
How do I prioritize our projects?
What future technologies do I need to be aware of?

They are often at Director level, VP level, and on occasion, when the website is mission-critical, they are at C level (Chief Internet Officer, or some variation), at eCommerce companies this may be the web product manager. They often report to a senior rank in marketing, or sometimes engineering or IT.

Web Strategists are business people first, tech people second. They understand the direction and strategy of the company, and know how to use the web to meet those needs. They do have a background working in web, often from 5-10 years, and they know which of the many forms of web marketing they need to use to meet their business objective.

A Web Strategist is actually a program manager, this means they manage ongoing projects, teams, and resources, to understand the difference between tasks, projects and programs, read this guide. They manage a profit and loss, and often responsible to other business units, manage budgets, and measure ROI.

Often, they act as a director to project managers, web managers. Those teams assemble the technical teams, as well as technical teams reporting directly to the Web Strategist.

Who they interact with:
Aside from managing their own team, they deal with the many internal business stakeholders, their management, and spend time managing relationships and deliveries from vendors. See this list of the many external constituents.

They are paid as director or VP level. In the SF bay area, and experienced web strategist who’s responsible for the public website of a large corporation should be paid at director level or above. I would expect that to be 80-120k, and in the rare case be 120-300, esp if it’s a large web or eCommerce company. This varies greatly, so do not refer to that example as doctrine, as I’ve not done formal research to back it up.

Notable Professionals
Here’s a few people that are doing good work, many I’ve worked with in the past, do note the title isn’t as important as the responsibility and duties.

  • Michele Frost, Director, Web Marketing, Forrester Research (current colleague)
  • Peter S. Group Director, Enterprise Web Strategy (my former boss)
  • Lisa D. Director of Online Marketing at Joie de Vivre Hospitality (former colleague)
  • Olivier N. Director, Global Web Marketing, Hitachi Data Systems (briefly, my former manager)
  • James Spanfeller President, Chief Executive Officer, Forbes.com
  • Dave Churbuck, Vice-President of Global Web Marketing
  • Bryan Rhoads, Senior Internet strategist, social media and online community specialist, Intel
  • Where to find them:
    If you’re trying to hire a senior web strategist, they can be found already working at another company (you’ll likely have to poach) or they are members of my Facebook Web Strategy Group, or attend regional meetings at the Internet Strategy Forum, a group I’ve been involved with for years. In 2006 they published research based upon a member survey.

    If you’re a recruiter, you can advertise a job opening on the Web Strategy Job board, powered by Job-o-matic.

    I’ve video interviewed Len before, if you want to know him better. You can follow me on Twitter, my handle is jowyang.