We are sitting on a goldmine when it comes to our online presence; but we are managing it like a coalmine. 

There is tremendous consensus among the 1,000 online professionals surveyed in December 2012 that we must:

  1. Ensure customers can quickly and easily complete their top tasks.
  2. Make decisions based on evidence and facts, not opinions.
  3. Identify our customers’ top tasks based on what they do, not on what they say they do.
  4. Keep content as concise and simple as possible.
  5. Act on customer feedback and behavior -- don't simply collect and observe it.

However, there is also widespread frustration. We feel that professional management is grossly lacking, that there is a chasm between online professionals and senior managers. That we lack the resources to do even the basics such as updating and removing content. Many of us feel that organizational ego is what drives decision-making. This is true whether people are working on intranets, public websites or mobile web. It is true whether we work in the public or private sector.

Enough complaining. It’s time to act. What are we going to do about it? It’s not as if we’re trying to justify the pony express in the age of the automobile. We are selling the future, and we need to sell it better. We need to communicate better. Our primary role is as change managers. Our first job is to make our organizations Internet-ready. We need to sell the vision with passion, reason and logic.

We need good metrics. Surprisingly few of us saw metrics as a key challenge, but in my opinion it is THE challenge. The metrics we use today -- HITS, visitors, page views, time spent -- belong to the Cult of Volume. They don’t communicate value.

We voted overwhelmingly that our number one principle must be to “ensure customers can quickly and easily complete their top tasks.” Well then, what should our key metric be? Task completion. We must measure how quick and easy it is for our customers to complete their top tasks. We need to consistently inform senior management of such things as:

  • 50% of our customers can’t even complete this top task.
  • 40% of customers take more than 4 minutes to complete this top task when it should only take them 1 minute.
  • An improvement in task completion has led to a 10% reduction in support calls.
  • Conversion has gone up by 50% after we reduced time on task by 20%.

“Every customer task is important. Give all tasks equal priority.” This is the absolute bottom principle. It received 25 of your votes out of 15,135 cast. 

That’s progress. 10 years ago the idea that we should publish everything and the magical content management system or search engine would sort it all out was all the rage. We have our principles right. Now we need to convince the rest of the organization. Let’s rise to the challenge.