7 Steps to Smarter Integration
Sometimes, change can be worthwhile. The key is knowing what's worth pursuing and what's not.
Information Week recently took a look at the state of corporate websites and discovered for many, integration is a serious weak spot.
We're not just talking integration of data, here. We're talking individual silos of websites, usually without a single portal for customers or employees, with multiple log-ins and a disjointed presence that-were it a phone system-would mean you'd often have to start all over if you wanted to reach a different department.
Information Week surveyed 326 business tech professionals about their corporate Web presence and found that 45 percent of them run more than five separate online sites. A minority of 14 percent even manage more than 50 sites.
And therein lies the problem: This disjointed Web presence is no doubt costing business customers, but it's hard to pin-down that cost.
And all that's without even considering lack of data integration across websites and other corporate systems. Plus, you add in the whole Web 2.0/social networking thing and it gets even uglier. The survey found that only eight percent collaborate on the business' social networking strategies.
Information Week contends this is an area where IT can provide some simple, focused discipline without being seen as "big brother" and without undo costs:
An Internet-facing presence is arguably one of the least expensive investments a company can make, compared with sales reps, customer support staff, printed catalogs, and so on. But a poor Web presence can cost you customers, prospects, business partners, and more. IT needs to help encourage online growth while protecting the company and providing stewardship of the user experience online. The goal must be a comprehensive and well-integrated Web presence.
The article is actually pretty specific about how IT can start a discussion about an integrated Web presence and hopefully guide this mess toward something more strategic and cohesive. I recommend you read the full article, which includes a number of excellent ideas. But the first step and perhaps hardest step will be to get back into the loop on Web projects. Many times, the article notes, IT isn't even aware of a project already being developed.
One place to start: Become the go-to team for helping business units figure out whether customers will use the site. The article offers a few ideas about how to do this. You might also look at how a content management system (CMS) can help, since integration is an emerging feature of CMS.
The key, though, is to guide and collaborate. Don't try to become the "Boss of All Things Internet." Quoth Information Week:
IT must provide guidance, architecting a framework other groups can build on. Don't try to take over; IT must pull the expertise and knowledge of the different departments into this framework. We may think we know about customer support, for instance, but if we don't engage the people who talk with customers every day, we'll likely miss the most obvious solutions.
I second that.