Opinion: Adopting a frugal approach to the web

Staff Writer on
Opinion: Adopting a frugal approach to the web

Companies can still reap big rewards via their web sites by adopting a "frugal web content management" strategy, says Forrester analyst.

In the era of the consumer-centric web, people expect rich, engaging and satisfying online interactions with companies and brands.

Since the recession will do nothing to depress this expectation – ­ indeed, it will likely make consumers more fickle and demanding – ­ firms should avoid the temptation to apply across-the-board IT budget reductions to external web projects.

Before cutting the budget of their web content management (WCM) initiatives, executives should consider their responsibility to do no harm to what is frequently the company’s primary channel for attracting and servicing customers. Rather than radical changes in the name of cost savings, Forrester recommends that businesses adopt a strategic approach we call “frugal WCM”.

Instead of slashing budgets in a panicked reaction to an immediate crisis, frugality should combine the wise use of what you have with careful consideration of what you acquire, all in the service of long-term health and sustainability.

Companies can practice frugal WCM by extracting the maximum value from their existing systems and investigating lower-cost alternatives for specific enhancements.

Many firms use only a fraction of the capabilities of their WCM tool and poor adoption by contributors remains a key reason for under-performing WCM projects.

Despite improvements, the user interfaces of many leading WCM products remain hostile to users.

Companies can increase adoption by allowing business users to create content in favoured desktop applications or team collaboration sites and designating a few power users to manage content in the WCM system.

Creating content is hard enough –­ yet some teams create the same content multiple times due to lack of co-ordination on multi-lingual sites, multiple web properties, or across non-web channels.

By the same token, companies should review whether existing content can add value to other sites. For example, one European resort chain significantly improved revenue simply by displaying floor plans during the booking process.

Web teams can begin to experiment with personalisation features despite the stranglehold on their budgets.

Most WCM tools are able to support basic content targeting, for example, with simple modifications to visitor profiles and the rules that control delivery.

As it is best to start small with site personalisation, experimenting now will allow a team to move more quickly after the recovery.

Frugal WCM is not only about getting more out of what you have. It can also reap benefits when making new investments.

Given the potential for top-line growth from optimising the online customer experience, firms will continue to justify large investments in new or existing WCM projects during the recession.

But supporters can expect intense scrutiny of business need and return on investment.

As the web shifts from information delivery to customer experience, more projects are opportunistic.

They may require quick turnaround, such as a sales promotion; focus on social elements, such as a fan site for a sporting event; and be highly interactive.

Frugal WCM counsels investigating lower-cost alternatives to custom development of the firm’s WCM, even at the risk of multiplying the number of systems you need to manage.

Smart firms will use the recession to adopt new approaches, such as frugal WCM, that will contribute to their success long after the crisis ebbs.

Tim Walters is senior analyst at Forrester Research. For more comment from Forrester, visit http://forrester.computing.co.uk
Copyright © 2010 Computing

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