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Online management model

Investment in online channels

An online management model will help website owners and business managers make informed decisions about making efficient use of their online channel and optimising resource and investment.

This guidance will help you identify what online outcome is sought and how much it is going to cost to achieve it, and help you ensure your investment in online products aligns with your online channels strategy.

Each online product requires ongoing investment and can be expected to make a measurable contribution to an agency's strategic goals.

To meet this expectation, agencies should be able to align each online product with their channel strategy and have assurance that each product is delivering measurable results that contribute to the agency's strategic outcomes.

For some agencies, this may require re-thinking approaches to aspects of online delivery.

Aligning your channel strategy with strategic outcomes

Your agency should have, or plan to have, online channel strategies which outline your broader approach to online delivery and management.

These strategies should specify the principles outlining your agency’s approach to your online channel. It may include considerations such as:

  • How the agency’s online channel supports, and is supported by, other delivery channels.
  • Relationships with other participants in the agency’s sector (government, non-government and private sector), and principles of engagement with them as appropriate to achieve strategic outcomes.
  • Alignment with the Strategy for a Digital Public Service.
  • How to optimise the agency’s total web presence.
  • Guiding principles around the relationship to common government capabilities such as:
  • User engagement and strategies to ensure a user-centric focus for online products.
  • A programme of periodic review of online products to assess ongoing effectiveness and provide assurance of continued fitness for purpose.
  • The agency’s style online (for example, this may include consistent branding standards and a focus on plain English).
  • Expectations of conformance to required standards including security, privacy and accessibility.
  • Requirements to ensure critical factors such as accessibility, usability, security and privacy are embedded into the lifecycle of online products.
  • Requirements to ensure clear business outcomes can be defined and measured for each online product.
  • Expectations of business owners around ongoing monitoring and assurance activities.
  • An agency-wide approach to measuring online operating costs.

A checklist for your product strategy

Agencies should have, or plan to have, a simple strategy for each public online product they operate.

Web strategies need not be exhaustive, and agencies are encouraged to favour succinct and factual statements over aspiration.

A web strategy might briefly describe objective, audience, alignment, linkages, engagement, a monitoring and measuring plan, maintenance and a lifecycle plan.

This table has questions for each element of a web strategy to help you develop or evaluate it.

Table 1: Online product checklist

Element of web strategy Evaluation questions
  • What value does the online product provide to users?
  • What is the value to the agency of providing and maintaining the online product?
  • Who is expected to get value from using the site?
  • How well does the site align with the principles of the online channel strategy?
  • How does it support the agency’s strategic goals and contribute to the delivery of the agency’s SOI?
  • How does it align with broader government policies and common capability initiatives?
  • What relationships exist with other sites in the sector including those of other agencies or private sector partners?
  • Have you explored opportunities to consolidate efforts?
  • How will the intended audience be attracted to the online product?
  • What strategies are needed to encourage uptake, and how will uptake be measured?
Monitoring and measuring plan
  • What indicators will you use to measure how well the online product delivers on its objectives of value to users and value to the agency?
  • What metrics will you collect and report, and how?
  • What processes are in place to ensure content is reviewed for accuracy and currency?
  • How will site managers and publishers engage with business units to ensure content remains relevant and current?
  • What metrics can be captured to assess content review and update?
  • How can users have confidence that content is still current and reliable?
Lifecycle plan
  • What’s the anticipated lifetime of the online product (before rebuild)?
  • Are milestones set to periodically review the success of the site?
  • How fresh is the content and what is its ongoing relevance?
  • What allowance have you made for enhancement and improvements to functionality over the life of the online product?

Ensuring your product budget is complete and reliable

Agencies can reasonably be expected to report accurately on the cost of investment in each online product. The following checklist may help you check that you have included everything in your cost estimates and that you monitor costs more reliably.

Total implementation costs

Checklist to ensure you have included all implementation costs

  • Can you measure total implementation costs?
  • Do your cost estimates include the following:
    • procurement
    • security and vulnerability testing
    • user research and testing
    • accessibility testing?
  • Are user testing, accessibility consultancy and testing, and security testing and remediation, factored into the implementation plans from the start?

Cost of maintenance

Checklist for measuring costs of maintenance

Does the product's maintenance budget include the costs of:

  • content development and maintenance
  • additional specialist expertise
  • hosting
  • technical support including patching and upgrades to the platform
  • periodic security review and accessibility assessment
  • third-party services the site may require (such as hosted Web Application Firewall or security monitoring and scanning services)
  • allowance for any necessary remedial measures through the life of the site?

Cost of enhancements

  • Is budget allocated for future evolution or enhancement to meet changing expectations and technical capabilities?

You may want to use or adapt a website budget planning spreadsheet that was developed by the Department of Internal Affairs.

Website budget planner (XLS 31KB)

Website budget planner

Outcomes from online channels

This guidance will help you identify if your intended online outcomes are being realised and if continued return on investment is justifiable.

This section cannot be prescriptive due to the variable nature and purpose of individual online products.

However, agencies can be expected to convincingly demonstrate they are actively measuring and assessing the effectiveness of their online strategy, and the performance of their websites and services.

Assessing your channel strategy

You should establish simple measures to gauge the effectiveness of your online channel strategies by monitoring and reporting on their implementation.

Indicators of the effectiveness of channel strategies could include:

  • trends in overall use of the online products
  • trends in the use of online channels compared to call centre and front office
  • opportunities to collaborate with other parties identified and realised
  • a measure of progress on a rationalisation strategy, if appropriate
  • trends in user feedback or satisfaction surveys
  • your agency’s overall performance and trends over time against usability, accessibility or security assessments.

Assessing performance of your online products

Your channel strategies should include key measures to assess how well your online products are delivering on their objectives of providing value to both users and the agency.

If you are the business owner of the online product or service, you need to be accountable to your agency for reporting its performance against these measures:

  • how well it aligns with the principles of the channel strategy
  • how effective it is, as measured by metrics identified in the strategy
  • how successful the engagement plan is against expectations, as measured by metrics identified in the strategy
  • how well it conforms to required standards and progress against risk mitigation plans
  • the effectiveness of the content maintenance plan, as measured by metrics in the strategy
  • user satisfaction with the online product, as measured by appropriate metrics.

As a business owner of a site or service, you should be able to justify ongoing investment in it. Ask yourself: does the online product contribute enough to your agency's strategic outcomes to justify ongoing investment in it?

Accountability for online channels

This guidance will help you identify if you have the right governance structures and roles in place to measure and manage cost-effective online delivery. It will also help you set out your responsibilities as a business owner or manager of an online product or service


Agencies should have, or establish, governance functions around online delivery.

Government agencies could appoint staff to key roles to inform effective online governance. For example, a senior manager could be appointed to be responsible for online strategy for the agency, and an online champion could be appointed as a skilled advocate of good practice online.

Chief executives of government agencies are ultimately responsible for their agency’s online channel, and can expect assurance that their investment in it is efficiently managed.

If necessary, agency staff responsible for online services should promote the benefits of formal online governance structures at senior levels, to:

  • strengthen a strategic approach to their agency’s overall web presence
  • foster good practice across the spectrum of online disciplines, from privacy and security, to usability and accessibility, to information and data management
  • seek linkages with other online initiatives in their sector or in wider government, to maximise efficiencies and optimise the user experience
  • ensure training programmes are in place that provide staff with the skills needed to manage online products in accordance with required standards such as security and privacy management and accessibility.


For every online product that an agency operates, agencies should have clearly defined accountabilities and responsibilities defined by their online governance bodies.

Responsibilities of product owners

The product owner is a business manager who carries the accountability for a given system and ensures it is fit for purpose from a business viewpoint and is fit to operate on the public web.

If you are the business owner of an online product you are responsible for:

  • assurance and formal acknowledgement that the product meets required standards in security and privacy management through a programme of periodic testing and assessment
  • assurance and formal acknowledgement that the product meets required standards in accessibility and usability through a programme of periodic testing and assessment
  • assurance that the product meets the requirements of the Public Records Act
  • monitoring the costs of operating the online product
  • ensuring there are measurement, monitoring and reporting frameworks, and their associated performance targets, to provide ongoing assurance that the product continues to meet both user and agency needs, and continue to justify investment
  • engaging with users as appropriate, to assess the ongoing usability of the product
  • ensuring adequate budget is available for ongoing development and continuous improvement throughout the product’s lifecycle, in response to changes in user expectations or technology
  • managing the level of funding to allow for technical maintenance that can respond to changes in technology and the online threat landscape
  • ensuring system managers and publishers receive adequate training, according to their need, in accessibility, privacy management and security.

Responsibilities of product managers

Product managers take responsibility for the day-to-day operations of an online product and are responsible for maintaining its operational readiness online.

If you are a manager of an online product you are responsible for:

  • monitoring and reporting the metrics to enable business owners to provide assurance that the online product remains fit for purpose and continues to justify investment
  • maintaining the required suite of documentation for the product, which should include:
    • standard operating procedures
    • incident response procedures
    • risk register
    • system security plan
    • security risk management plan
    • accessibility risk management plan
  • managing periodic reviews, testing or assessment of compliance with required security, accessibility and privacy management standards
  • ensuring maintenance procedures are carried out in accordance with service level agreements (SLAs) with hosting providers (internal or external)
  • ensuring publishers and administrators of sites or services maintain appropriate levels of knowledge of accessibility, security and privacy management.

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