3 key elements of task-based website management

Over the last couple of years, website governance (both internet & intranet) has emerged as a key strategic management issue.

C-level executives have recognized that websites and intranets are vital business assets and that strategic interests are not well served if one department ‘owns’ a website. Many organizations – in commerce, government and education – have put together ad hoc or formal Executive-level web governance teams, with stakeholders ranging from IT to HR to Marketing & Communications.

But how do these teams focus and allocate resources? How do they prioritize amongst the apparently never-ending set of technical, employee, political, budgeting and marketing issues?

Manage Tasks, Not Technology

Some organizations have already started to show the fruits of success of a task-based management approach. They take the focus away from projects, technology and silos, and focus on tasks – the most important web interactions of their customers, potential customers and staff.

They focus resources around ensuring that their users’ top tasks can be performed quickly and efficiently. They treat websites as service delivery vehicles, regularly measuring service quality. Service quality, if ignored, decays rapidly. Service quality must be regularly measured.

Like democracy, great service quality requires vigilance.

And the service of websites is to support users’ tasks, so website service quality is measured in task performance: task time, successful completion, errors or disasters, paths taken, search quality, content quality, and satisfaction (not hits, page views, length of time on page…).

Fix the Basics

In the quest for providing great customer service, we have seen many web management teams leaping from one technological solution to another. It might be a CMS that will save the earth this week, or maybe it’s Open Source, or perhaps it’s social media.

Yes, these are all important, even necessary, but first we need to make sure we’ve got the basics right – and in so many organizations, this is not the case. It’s almost as if everyone is worrying about the staff uniforms, the colors of the new logo, the design of the product box, or what food there’ll be at the staff picnic, while forgetting to maintain the machines on the factory floor.

Task-based organizations identify the top tasks of their customers (on public websites) and their staff (on intranets), and ensure that these top tasks are being performed effectively and efficiently, delivering a satisfying and successful user experience. Websites are where some of the most important customer and employee interactions and activities take place now, yet the quality and efficiency of these interactions is rarely well-measured. Once these basics of efficient top task performance are being well-managed as an ongoing activity, then the team can turn its attention to more exciting projects. Fix the basics first.

Data, Not Opinion

Website management is such a new discipline, it still doesn’t come easy to most organizations. Management meetings and decision-making can be dogged by internal turf-wars, driven by whoever has the biggest budget, who owns the technology or the staff, or even the HIPPO – the Highest-Paid Person’s Opinion!

“WWW” might almost mean Wild West Web: the web is still pioneer territory, waiting to be claimed by the adventurous and the clever (and you have to be both). Companies like Google, eBay and Amazon have sprung up almost overnight to dominate our stock markets and commerce, but the web end-game is still nowhere in sight.

In this wild, new territory, unsupported opinion is dangerous to our business strategies; opinion based on preconceptions and old experience doubly so. In measuring top task performance on websites, you have to go back to basic data. Examine customer or staff behaviour in its raw form (and don’t rely on just asking them about their behaviour – you have to observe it to understand it well).

Take timings and measure errors, how many pages a task takes, how many mouse-clicks, how much reading has to take place, how many decisions about where to look and to click. Understand why people lose their way in your navigation, what words they have in their heads when they come to your website to carry out a task and whether and where those words are on your web pages, how well search is supporting the tasks.

Use this data to make rational decisions in the boardroom, and to override opinion. Task data usually also cuts across organizational boundaries, and the focus on customer behaviour often helps defuse territorial and political wars.

Successful Task-Based Management in Tetra Pak

One company that has successfully applied a task-based management approach to its intranet is Tetra Pak (a Customer Carewords customer), based in Sweden.

Gabriel Olsson, e-Communications Director has said “Following the Task Based strategy has been the foundation of our work to successfully develop our intranet. We have used Gerry’s [McGovern’s] real customer-centric approach to improve the ability of our employees to solve frequently performed tasks – in one area more than +50 % improvement was achieved.”

Olsson feels that the keys to Tetra Pak’s success are:

  • User-centred design
  • Measurement and clear governance
  • Facts, not opinions

View an excellent 6-minute video where Olsson describes Tetra Pak’s task-based intranet management strategy.

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“Management means, in the last analysis, the substitution of thought for brawn and muscle, of knowledge for folkways and superstition, and of cooperation for force. It means the substitution of responsibility for obedience to rank, and of authority of performance for the authority of rank.”

Peter Drucker


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