Proving To Senior Management Your Website Delivers Value

    September 12, 2005

It’s time for public websites and intranets to show clearly how they are delivering value. The first step in doing this is to understand how senior management thinks about value.

Jared Spool is one of the smartest (and wittiest) people I know. He is one of those rare people who thinks sense and talks sense. Jared founded User Interface Engineering, and they run a brilliant conference on usability. (I’ll be doing a full day workshop at the next one, to be held in October.)

“I learned quickly that business executives didn’t care about usability testing or information design,” Jared has stated in an interview. “Explaining the importance of these areas didn’t get us any more work. Instead, when we’re in front of executives, we quickly learned to talk about only five things: How do we increase revenue? How do we reduce expenses? How do we bring in more customers? How do we get more business out of each existing customer? How do we increase shareholder value?

“Notice that the words ‘design’, ‘usability’, or ‘navigation’ never appear in these questions,” Jared continued. “We found, early on, that the less we talked about usability or design, the bigger our projects got.”

How does your senior management think about value? What makes them sit up and pay attention? I find that there is often a disconnect between web teams and senior management. Sometimes I hear about a lack of senior management buy-in. Sometimes I’m told that senior management just don’t “get it”.

One of the best ways of ensuring senior management “get it” is to speak to them in a language they understand. What language is that? The language of value.

Many senior managers indeed don’t understand the Web. What people don’t understand can make them nervous, skeptical, cynical. Some will try to ignore it, while others may develop unrealistic expectations of what it can achieve. Many will allocate a certain budget because they know they need some sort of website. However, they will resist spending much management time on it.

Many web teams I come across are fascinated by technology. They are fascinated by usability, personas, metadata, classification, search, navigation, layout. Some of them are even fascinated by content. These are not things that senior managers are remotely interested in.

How does your intranet reduce costs and increase revenue? How does your university website bring in more and better students? How does your government website increase the revenue and reduce the expenses of your nation by saving the time citizens spend interacting with government?

Senior managers are finally waking up to both the potential and costs of the Web. You need to lead them down the path of value, showing them how your website is increasing revenue, productivity, and shareholder value, while reducing costs, complexity, and inefficiencies.

This period is a wonderful opportunity for everyone involved in the Web. If your website is delivering true value, and if you can communicate that value in a language senior management understands, your stock rises too. Can you rise to the challenge of delivering and communicating web value?

For your web content management solution, contact Gerry McGovern

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