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Building Internet Bridges

Building Internet Bridges

Marketing and IS haven't always got along. But when it comes to the Web, the two groups need to bury the hatchet and work togetherIn the beginning, the information technology people discovered the Internet.

They found it was easy to create a Web site . . . and they did. Six months later, the marketing people discovered the World Wide Web and were shocked and appalled that the IT people had been representing the company to the world.

They responded by snatching control of the Web site and loudly proclaiming ownership.

Soon, however, the marketing people learned that a decent Web site is more than just an online brochure. Marketing needed the help of technology people to turn the Web into an interactive medium. At most companies, this launched a new era.

The IS department has typically reported up the chain through operations or finance. Marketing has typically reported to the president or CEO. The two departments used to cross paths only at the annual company picnic.

Now, thanks to the Web, marketing and IS must work together. They have to make their needs known and create the foundations of a working relationship. It won't be easy. But it starts with common goals and a willingness for each group to imagine themselves in the other's shoes.

MEMO

Date: June 1, 1998

To: Vice President of Marketing

From: CIO

Re: Our External Web Site

We've learned a lot in the three years we've had a Web site up and running. But if we are to take advantage of the Web and work closely together, the marketing team needs to understand a few things about the technology and the process of Web site development.

A Web site is frighteningly easy to create. A little HTML goes a long way, and everybody who has a teenager at home knows that a Web site can be created in a couple of hours. But get the least bit fancy and the magic fades because the basics behind a sound Web site go hand in hand with the basics of software programming.

If you want the site to be bullet-proof, to collect information properly and to dynamically serve personalised pages, we can deliver. But we need help from you.

Think of the IS department as the builders of your home. We have architects, we have supervisors, and we have people who are good at concrete, framing, electrical, plumbing and wallboarding. You have an idea of how many rooms you want and where you want them, and you want to take care of the interior design.

The coordination between all involved in construction takes good timing and strong communication skills. If the concrete gets poured before the plumbing is installed, there will be problems. The same goes for the Web. We have established specific procedures for how new content gets hosted on the server to ensure we don't finish the walls before the electrical conduit has been installed.

Adherence to these procedures is paramount to the timely success of each project.

That's why we require functional specifications documentation.

Like builders, we need to create architectural drawings from which to work. If we don't have an accurate survey of the land, the resulting structure will not be built to code, and you won't be happy living there. To help make our working relationship better, I pledge that we will:- Keep you informed as to all changes in our completion estimates.

- Ask sufficient questions so that we can go about our work without interrupting you.

- Explain to you that what you are asking for is either easy, hard or beyond our reach.

- Stay educated about the best tools and techniques for getting the job done.

- Make it as easy as possible for your people to maintain their own content.

- Create standards and procedures that work best for all members of the Web team.

Together we can create a trustworthy Web site that is both a testament to good, solid software engineering techniques and a communication tool we can count on.

MEMO

Date: June 1, 1998

To: CIO

From: Vice President of Marketing

Re: Our Web Efforts

Thank you for today's memo. I, too, want to work together with IS and get the most out of our Web efforts. For that to happen, it would help if the IS department had a clearer idea of what marketing has to deal with on a day-to-day basis.

To use your construction analogy, we are building multiple houses for multiple types of customers. It is our job to find out what sort of house each customer wants to live in and then create a description of that house that's so compelling the customer will fall in love with it.

Like you, we move from project to project with changing requirements and tight deadlines. We also work in an arena where the competition is actively out to make our houses fall down. As such, we sometimes have to respond in very short order.

If the marketing team discovers a new marketplace metric or suddenly faces a new competitive product, the response must be swift and sure. A new brochure can be designed, printed and delivered into the hands of tens of thousands of prospective customers within a few weeks. But the moment we issue a press release announcing our new strategy or product, prospective customers will come knocking on our Web site. We have to be ready for them.

To remain competitive in this electronic world, we must find better and faster ways to communicate with the public. We also have to educate our front-line staff and publish critical information at a moment's notice. I'm trusting that the IS department will come up with the ways and means to empower the rest of the organisation to use the Web effectively.

In addition, we need the Web to deliver things that traditional marketing techniques can't. We need precise numbers: the hits, the page views, the sessions, the click-throughs, the travel paths, the logons -- all of which tell us whether we're doing a good job. We need them daily, and we need to be able to drill down and slice and dice them every which way we want.

To help the company use the Web as a competitive tool, I pledge that the marketing department will- Maintain structure by adhering to regularly scheduled updates.

- Use the given tools to make content changes without interrupting the IS department.

- Refrain from dabbling in experimental technologies.

- Outsource only those tasks that will not compromise the integrity of our data centre.

- Avoid promising new features to customers before they can be delivered.

Together we can create a vibrant Web site to foster building electronic relationships with our customers.

MEMO

Date: June 1, 1998

To: CEO

From: CIO and Vice President of MarketingRe: Our Web EffortsThe Web represents new possibilities for reaching new markets, servicing our current customers and conducting business in whole new ways. Marketing and IS are finding ways to use the Web for furthering the stated goals of the company.

But the more we study the Web phenomenon, the more we realise that the Web offers an opportunity to transform the company into a new type of organisation.

At the same time, the Web represents a real threat that our competitors (and others we don't think of as competition) are enabled to change and adapt before we do.

The Internet can dramatically change the dynamics of our industry. Along with the ability to conduct commerce at the speed of light comes the ability to establish new strategic alliances, deliver new services and create new value chains.

The majority of our efforts to date have been off the books and off the clock.

As the time comes to implement our new ideas, we require two things from you: a clearly defined statement of corporate direction for the Web and a formal commitment in terms of budget and organisational structure.

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