How long is a piece of string?
How long is a piece of string? How deep is half a hole? These philosophical riddles leap to mind when approaching the subject of a measurable Internet strategy. As with the two aforementioned riddles, I have seen numerous clients struggle to find the answers when defining success for their web endeavors. Organizations typically have not defined what success looks like and have no measurable goals or key performance indicators (KPI’s) in place.
Sometimes a simple question deserves a simple answer: “A piece of string is twice as long as half its length”. This is a brilliant answer… if you have its length. It also begs the question, why would you use this numeric calculation when you already have the answer?
It is not uncommon for most organizations to march ahead and “redesign” their website without any strategy or plan. After six, nine, 12 months or more (riddled with delays), the site is launched. Without a strategy, how do you know if it is successful? It might be prettier, but is it solving a define business problem, saving or making money, or fulfilling any measurable goals? In other words: can you measure the string?
If you don’t have specific objectives, future success is left to chance or guesswork. And that means you need a measurable strategy.
“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat,” said the ancient Chinese general, Sun Tzu, credited with being the author of The Art of War.
“The essence of strategy is that you must set limits on what you're trying to accomplish,” says renowned business guru and Harvard professor Michael Porter.
Whether a general or a business school legend, it is not only important to have a strategy, but to have tactics or limits to define that strategy.
Creating a web strategy
A thorough strategy should include the following:
- Vision and/or Mission Statement
Vision and Mission Statement
Many organizations simply don’t have a web strategy, specifically a vision or mission statement. If they do, it is typically not communicated or adhered to. A vision and mission statement allows the web team to make sure any new potential enhancements to your web endeavor adhere with the strategy. For example, if someone in your organizations wants to create a blog and your mission/vision states nothing about open communication or transparency, you might want to examine if it fits within your strategy.
Goals are Qualitative, something worked toward, or striven for. Some examples of goals are:
- To improve process and efficiencies
- To improve organizational effectiveness
- To increase compliance with policies and procedures
- To improve data security
- To improve client engagement
- To improve overall communication
- To provide the most current, accurate information
These goals are nice, but at the end of the day, how will you be able to say that you improved processes, client engagement or overall communications? Specific measurable objectives are required.
Objectives are Quantitative, the finish line, and end result of an endeavor/effort. Objectives must be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time Defined. Some example objectives:
- To reduce the number of client calls by 50% , 6 months after launch by providing a reliable standard source for up-to-date information
- Decrease the amount of paper mail-outs by 20% 1 month after launch
- To increase user engagement (e.g. the 53% moderately engaged and the 9% with low engagement) by 10% overall, 6 months after launch
- To increase client communication by increasing readership of the Home Page News by 25%, 3 months after launch
- To automate the top 20 most used forms and processes at launch date
- Increase user rating of the web site from 4.1 to 7.5 3 months after launch
Measuring the string
If a strategy is to succeed the objectives must be met and measured. This universal truth is equally applicable to websites (and intranets). There are numerous tools organizations can use to measure their website's strategic performance:
Metrics (Log Analysis): Tracking the log files from your website is a no-brainer. Look at the monthly statistics and monitor trends. Look for unique visitors, page views, departing pages and undertake click stream analysis.
Audience Analysis: Web surveys, focus groups, and usability testing are popular and easy to implement (though a third party assessor is strongly urged), and a great way to get a feel for your users. Ensure you re-use the same questions in your semi-annual/annual surveys to build trends. Some organizations utilize usability testing and personas. See Focusing on your website user by developing personas
ROI: Many organizations are asked to create an ROI for their web. This can be difficult and can require a lot of work. See Prescient’s ROI Articles
Heuristic Evaluation: Have a third party evaluate your site for ease-of use, content, design, innovation, search, and planning and resources. See Evaluating and Benchmarking – how does your site measure up?
Benchmarking: There are numerous resources for reviewing what the “Jones’s have”. Utilize those resources to borrow new and innovative ideas and metrics for your web strategy.
Is your web strategy as long as a piece of string? Can you measure what success looks like? You don't have to be a legendary general or Harvard guru to develop a strategy, but your website must have one that is both clear and measurable.
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