The public website or intranet that keeps screaming for attention with useless images and vain content will get little from the impatient and sceptical customer.

The needs of the organization are great, and the larger and older the organization gets, the greater those needs become. The problem is that the internal needs of the organization rarely match the needs of customers.

Organizations grow strong because they've done something right. Dell is a good example. It grew as a customer centric organization, but as it got bigger it began to lose that true customer focus.

Around 2001, you had two options on the Dell homepage: navigate by product (laptop, desktop, etc.) or navigate by audience (home, business, etc.). Every test I have done indicates that about 90% of people prefer to navigate by product in buying computer stuff. In fact, audience navigation makes many people cynical. "Do businesses gets better deals than me?;" I just want to buy a laptop, why do I have to select what group I belong to;" "I'm a home business. Which should I select?"

By about 2003, Dell had gotten rid of the product navigation, forcing the customer to choose an audience. I am told Dell did this because the audience types mirror the powerful business units within Dell. These business units could not agree how to share revenue if someone simply selected "Laptop".

Dell was once young and customer-centric, but like nearly all organizations, it grew old and organization-centric. It began to suffer from organaritis. Similar to arthritis in humans, organaritis afflicts mainly older organizations. A stiffening of the joints makes it hard for the organization to change and move quickly.

There are signs that Dell is trying to recover from organaritis. Recently, I noticed that it is publishing reviews of its products on its website. Yes, it allows negative reviews. That to me is impressive and makes it more likely I will buy a Dell again. (After what Lenovo has done to the ThinkPad, the choices have become more limited.)

Does your organization have organaritis? If you answer yes to one or more of the following questions you probably need to seek medical help:

  • Do you have pictures of very important people within your organization (your needy children) on your webpages?
  • Do these needy children require messages from them to be published prominently on the site?
  • Do you have big pictures of smiling actors pretending to be customers? (Shiny, happy people.)
  • Do you have needy departments whose stated objective in life is to get some real estate on the homepage?
  • Do you have needy, powerful managers who demand that their latest programs and initiatives get prominence on the homepage?
  • Is your culture one that believes that the primary purpose of the website is to get customers to do what you want them to do, rather than help them quickly and easily do what they came to do?
  • Does your organization embrace verbosity atrocities? Headings such as: "Start your way to a clear new world". Sentences such as: "We are delighted to announce that our holistic approach embraces 50,000 ft thinking which is unparalleled in its reach and depth of understanding of the globalization challenges that must be embraced holistically if we are to thrive in ever-changing, shifting, hazy, somewhat unclear, cloudy, and sometimes downright quite difficult to see through clearly into the must be embraced holistic future scenarios."