Organizations have an overwhelming desire to own and control. Even within organizations, each unit/department is constantly trying to prove that it is important. The intranet emerged as a classic organization chart structure. Each unit wanted its own website and everyone wanted a link on the homepage. Each unit was not so much concerned with helping the organization as a whole (or its staff) but rather with justifying itself.
Option A: If a content publisher takes 10 minutes to quickly publish a piece of content as a PDF document on the intranet, staff will take 30 minutes to find and understand it. Option B: If a publisher takes 30 minutes to properly publish the content, then employees will take 10.
Sounds like Option B is the better choice. Not in a classical organization. Why? The time of the publisher is measured and accounted for
. It exists within a department/unit budget framework. The wasted time of staff is essentially invisible
. Sure, this time is real but it does not directly impact on any manager's budget.
Another reason this waste is invisible is that the publisher and the unit they work in rarely even recognise the waste. For example, if you work within HR, you and your team won't generally find HR material difficult to understand (because you wrote it.) You will also write it in a way that protects your legal interests. Thus you will nearly always choose complexity over simplicity. Also, if you need to find it again, you have a better chance than most of doing so.
At a break in a meeting someone came up to me and said: "You were talking about 'Gizmo' earlier, and I just wanted to let you know that Gizmo is an application. We look after it." He smiled at me, as if I was some errant child.
Gizmo was an application and IT looked after the applications. The website was looked after by Marketing. They looked after the content, but IT looked after the applications. An important distinction. Do you think the customer cares? Do you think the customer understands the politics and the silo mentalities?
In 2001, if you went to the Dell website, you would have found two major classifications on the homepage. The first was by product type: Servers & Storage; Notebooks & Desktops; etc. The second was by customer segment: Home & Home Office; Small Business; etc.
By 2004, you could only choose by customer segment. I couldn't understand why they had done that. I just wanted to buy a laptop and was confused and annoyed by the customer segmentation.
A number of people told me that the reason Dell removed the product classification was because of the pressure from its business units. These units were organized around Home, Small Business, etc., and they couldn't agree how to share revenue for customers that came in through the product classification.
Many studies showed that customers preferred the product classification, but the business units were too strong. The customer came second to internal politics
. Look at dell.com today. Not only is the product classification back; it takes up the lion's share of the homepage.
The customer is king and dictator on the Web. Those organizations that don't reshape themselves around the customer will suffer.
About the Author
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant
, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.