I am in the middle of a few different discussion threads with clients and colleagues about the definition of ‘business value.’ It started over Software as a Service (SaaS) and Cloud Computing. Clients who do care in any way about SaaS usually come from the business and not from IT, and are hoping to get around an IT department that is either too bogged down in other initiatives, or just lacks the urgency/competency to help improve the customer experience. The argument goes that if the marketing or customer service or customer experience office can skirt IT, they can get down to the business of winning profitable customers for life.
But then there is the irony that the majority of the products architected for your website are not SaaS or Cloud Apps, but old fashion hosted or client/server. They are also a hodgepodge (or, that terrific British way of putting it, a ‘dog’s breakfast’) of cobbled-together applications with chat, email, ecommerce, search, content management, marketing-design-firm Flash objects, social networking (if you are really lucky), and more.
The really funny thing is that when I point this mess out to folks, and want to discuss how to create great customer experiences while lowering complexity and costs, I get two reactions: 1) we don’t want to talk about it, because we are ‘heads down’ in our Web 2.0 initiatives. 2) we have no clue how much maintaining the website costs anyway, so we’re not sure it needs improving.
These arguments are hard to overcome. Web 2.0, or making our websites more ‘social’ is an important tactic, but it isn’t the strategy. The strategy (if you are a business) is to attract customers, get them to interact and buy and keep buying, profitably. Chatter and interaction and idea sharing and gossip are all a part of it, as is managing your reputation. But these are all tactics in the overall corporate goal of profitably growing sales and revenue. If that means looking at the more mundane aspects of your website, the old fashioned pre-Web 2.0, in addition to the social aspects, then that is what you have to do.
The eye-opener is the tiny span of control our different stakeholders have on the web – they are finding it difficult acting strategically, because none of us has the ultimate ownership of the website or the customer experience goals. When you see a corporate officer evolve with a title like, “Director of Social CRM,” you’ll know we are getting there.