Time management for IT

I just attended a time management Webinar by the Dale Carnegie Institute. The focus was to announce a new Live online class, but I got some good tips and tricks on improving time management, although it was a little too light-weight for me. I think GTG (Getting it Done) is a little more my cup of tea. But in any case, it made me think time management is something that can benefit all IT projects and initiatives: Email use, group calendars, collaboration tools and web conferencing tools are just a few of the tools that can help or hinder your time management capabilities. So, the next few blogs will be about the use of these technologies from a time management perspective as opposed to purely an IT perspective.

Web governance?

Has anyone thought seriously about Web governance? Really, this is not something at the top of a Webmaster’s mind. Content freshness, new content, dead links, new design, etc. That’s what we worry about on a daily basis. However, a successful site is one that is planned and resourced like any other IT or communication project.

Many seem to forget that when they create a site. Information architecture, standard look and feel, access rights, workflow, content reviews, and other WCM issues is what they focus on. I used to think the same way… However, a good governance will ensure that the right people make the right decision about the WCM system. Business objectives need to drive the Web site. And business objectives come from all parts of a company, not just sales and marketing. That’s why setting up a governing body is critical to the success of a site. The Web team and content providers do their work, but the strategy of the site is developed by the governing body.

Without a Web strategy?

Would you run your business without a strategy, or at least a set of goals everyone can rally around? Obviously, the level of planning depends on many factors, but all companies need a point of reference that will drive their efforts in the right direction (or at least the one chosen). Assuming you answered “no” to the question above, you’re on your way to understanding the need for a Web strategy. You need a yearly (or more often if necessary) review of your Web site goals. From there, you can define the end-products you will need to provide for the site. This exercise will help determine whether your site is still in line with your company’s business objectives, and ensure that your Web resources will be used to support the business.

A hosted WCM?

ASPs died prematurely following the dot com bust of 2000. The idea of getting your application hosted by a professional hosting company was ahead of its time. However, it’s back, and with a vengeance. There is a resurgence of web hosted services, and I believe that WCM is not going to be left aside this time. The best WCMs are already Web-based, and so, it’s not a difficult to see that getting your WCM as a hosted service is a good idea. Now, it’s not for everyone, but if you have a manageable site (a few thousand pages), a few content providers (a dozen or so), and most importantly you do not want to be bothered with having your own Web servers, you are a candidate for a hosted service. In the next few days, I’ll elaborate on this re-emerging topic. Watch this space.

Keep it simple

When companies want to build their Web presence, or re-design their site, they tend to think big. In most cases, thinking big is a good idea. However, on the Web, that’s usually not the right way to go. If you take on too much, and your site is too large for your team to maintain, you will be wasting resources in producing the site in the first place. In my many years of managing Web sites, I think that this is the number one problem I’ve encountered. People do not realize that you’re not done when the site is launched. Building a Web site is not putting most of your resources on building site, but rather you should be focusing your efforts on maintenance and future enhancements. That’s better planning.

What stats can’t tell you

Good traffic stats are truly hard to get. Sure, there are many stats packages available, but my biggest problem is the misconception of what information traffic stats can provide you. I will not disagree that measuring the number of visits, visitors, and page views can provide site managers with a basic view of their site usage. However, when people try to look at path analysis (how do visitors go from point a to b), average time on the site, top exit pages, top entry pages, I think that we need to take these with a grain of salt. Afterall, what you are missing here is the motive. You are not there with the user to look at their behavior. I think that these analyses are interesting, and can provide some insight, but not the true picture of what is happening in your site. If your Web presence is essential to your business goal, you will have to rely on good old user tests to see what’s working and what’s not; and that’s expensive!

The CEO wants a new site!

That is the scariest thing I hear in my business. Although the CEO may be right, it’s usually a bad sign if the CEO wants to be involved in the site re-design. The site is built for a company’s constituents, and that’s not the CEO. Too often, a CEO will see a competitor’s site, and uses that as a benchmark: “I want to have our site like xyz corporation!”. Unfortunately for the Web project manager (or the person assigned with the ungrateful task of managing a company’s Web presence) this is the kiss of death. Today, everyone is a Web expert, and the CEO always seems to be the most knowledgeable. A Web site is designed to provide information, data, service, etc. to a company’s constituents, all this taking into consideration the company’s brand. A competitor’s Web site, may or may not be the best guide for creating your site. It’s not a bad idea to look at other sites for design and organizational ideas, or to at least get a sense of direction, but this is done as part of a thorough analysis that starts with defining the Web strategy all the way to the publishing guidelines.

Policies not policing

An interesting dilemma facing Web teams today is that on the one hand they need to encourage content creativity while ensuring that the site remains uniform. Best practices show that you need to have policies and guidelines in place to ensure that content is developed, vetted, approved and published in a matter that reflects positivily the corporation’s brand and image. However, a balance between enforcing policies and policing Web site development is sometimes difficult to achieve. Corporate culture will often dictate how much policing is necessary to control sufficiently the publishing process. A good rule of thumb is to monitor site publishing while educating content providers, and make them aware of the policies as part off their training. Today’s more advanced Web publishing can help in this matter.–

Adopting collaboration tools

Collaboration has always been a mainstay in corporations, especially ones that value knowledge sharing and have a distributed workforce. To be able to work on the same documents while not being in the same office generally improves productivity. I say “generally” because it often requires a corporate culture change. Email is usually serving as the means to share documents: People create their documents, save them on their hard drives and send them via email for comments. However, it gets pretty tricky to gather all the comments into one document using this method. Alternatively, in a virtual workplace users post documents online and allow others to leave comments or even make changes to the documents directly. The problem is often that people do not feel they own the document unless they have it in their possession (e.g. hard drive, USB disk, etc.). It takes a change of mentality to adopt collaboration tools, so do not underestimate the costs associated with training users when planning to roll out online document sharing systems.

Focus on creating usable sites, rather than pure esthetics

People tend to prefer nice designs over bad designs. That’s obvious. But they rarely would put esthetics over practicality (except for fashion, obviously). If a toaster is designed as a beautiful piece of (industrial) art, but it burns toasts every time you use it, it’s not going to be a big seller. For Web sites, this means that beauty remains second to usability. Clients often are interested in getting samples from our previous work. We obviously have many of those, but we prefer to provide examples of good Web strategy and information architecture. Once you have those two pieces, it’s easy to wrap a look that meets your corporate colors.