Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Internal Politics Limit Global Websites

Every FT 2000 corporation has a website. But very few of these sites make major contributions to the business or to the communications objectives of the firm.

Why not?

The three biggest reasons have to do with governance, strategy and process; all topics that are political hot potatoes.

1. Everybody or Nobody is in Charge. In typical matrixed organization IT owns the plumbing and Marketing owns the content of the corporate website. Often they spend their time fighting with each other. Rarely is there a clear leader. So rather than advance the cause, they squabble over resources and over who gets to make each internal decision. IT fights using technology to enable or block each move. Marketing uses budgets to the same ends.

This is unresolved civil war is often compounded by the fact that few customers do business globally. The real action takes place on local or country websites. Here too governance is often not clear even when a set of global design, interface and technical standards exist. Global players lay down the rules but local players, asserting their rights allegedly based on local P&Ls, skirt them. The net result is an on-going battle for control that nets out very little progress in terms of impacting the business.

2. No Clear Objectives. Websites are beautiful things. They can hold and display mountains of material. And they can address and engage multiple target audiences simultaneously. But too many global firms have a website for its own sake and cannot articulate what the site is supposed to do or where it fits into a selling, a communications or a messaging strategy. As a result it becomes a White Elephant thrashing around consuming time, money and resources in search of a mission.

The best sights prioritize audiences in their interface design and create well-marked pathways for each target audience to see and get what they need quickly. They regulate how much gets published on the site, use content management tools and carefully assess how many bells and whistles are needed. The also-rans present a Chinese menu of stuff, turn the website into a great repository of blab, get distracted by the technical parlor trick of the week and hope that whoever lands on the site will either find their way or forgive them.

3. No Process Integration. Websites can play distinct and effective roles in selling things, generating leads, raising awareness, addressing legislative and regulatory issues, providing service to customers, cataloging or demonstrating products, collecting information or opinions and in interacting with people. Many sites have built-in the functionality to accomplish these tasks.

Far fewer have placed the website into a sequence of events or a contact strategy designed to leverage the strengths of the digital medium and link them to pre or post human-to-human interactions (in-person or by phone) or connect them to the natural steps in a deal flow. This short changes both the website and the corporation because it minimizes the chance to leverage combined assets to achieve company goals.

Genuinely leveraging the web means thinking carefully about how each task gets done and breaking each task into its natural steps and then assigning part of the effort to the website. It requires a plan to get people to and through the web and/or follow-up tactics to use the digital interaction to advance a sale, solve a problem, deliver information or build a relationship. It’s about placing the unique capabilities of a web site into the context of discrete business processes, then measuring the web’s ability to expedite and accelerate the process of accomplishing key tasks.

2 Comments:

Blogger Impact Interactions said...

Hi Danny,

Excellent post. This quickly sums up the true issues that defeat web initiatives. Bridging the divide between IT and business is the single greatest issue facing corporate web use today.

Mike

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