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11/4/2010
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Clean Up That Web Mess!

In the rush to serve customer needs, companies have created a hodgepodge of sites. IT can lead to a coordinated strategy by driving best practices.

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Clean Up That Web Mess! How many Web sites does your company operate, and how well are those sites coordinated in terms of navigation, search, and security? If you answered "too many" and "not well," join the crowd. Forty-four percent of the 326 business technology professionals who responded to the InformationWeek Analytics 2010 Corporate Web Presence Survey run more than five separate online sites; 14% manage more than 50 sites.

Unfortunately, we don't seem to be very good at it; only 39% of respondents at companies with customer-facing Web services provide customers an integrated system for navigation and search across their various sites, and 56% offer them single sign-on.

Most businesses have rushed to patch together their Web interfaces over the past decade or so, ending up with disparate systems for sales, support, vendors, marketing, and employees. The problems extend deep into the company--different business units and departments rarely meet to review an overall vision for a company's Web presence.

It's tough enough to get a new site or system up and running; pulling all the sites or systems together is much tougher. Companies always talk about being "best in class," but only 13% of poll respondents give their customer-facing online efforts top marks; 20% rate them fair or poor.

IT can fill a real need here. An Internet-facing presence is arguably one of the least expensive investments a company can make, compared with sales reps, customer support staff, printed catalogs, and so on. But a poor Web presence can cost you customers, prospects, business partners, and more. IT needs to help encourage online growth while protecting the company and providing stewardship of the user experience online. The goal must be a comprehensive and well-integrated Web presence.

The Customer Doesn't Always Come First

It's rare to find a company today that can't transfer phone calls between divisions. Call the wrong office and, generally, someone there looks up the right number and transfers your call. So why haven't companies pushed this ability to the Web? The majority of respondents with customer-facing Web services don't provide a common portal for customers; 44% acknowledge they have some work to do to improve usability.

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Strategies and Practices to Create
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