The Insighter

October 2010

View all articles on our new site

Neo Insight's e-newsletter on Customer Experience topics and techniques.

We invite you to subscribe to our monthly

In this issue

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.

To find out more about the tools and techniques that Tetra Pak managers apply, call us at 613-271-3001 or email us.

Related articles and resources

Back to Top

Gerry McGovern Masterclasses in Canada

Gerry McGovern returns to Canada in November for Masterclass sessions in Ottawa and Halifax.

This year's Masterclass is totally revised, with brand new content from Gerry's latest book "The Stranger's Long Neck:How to Deliver What Your Customers Really Want Online", and explains the methods that have proved successful for customers like IKEA, Cisco, the National Health Service, and Microsoft.

Masterclasses will be held in Halifax on Monday, November 1, 2010 and in Ottawa on Wednesday, November 3, 2010. Mark your calendars. All attendees will receive a free copy of Gerry's new book.

Gerry McGovern's new book, "The Stranger's Long Neck" shows how the "long tail" concept keeps organizations from focusing on the critical top tasks users need to do on the website. This can result in starving profitability in the long tail. The "long neck" is where the value lies.

Furthermore, users are not like you - they are more like strangers - thus the title of the book. Find out how to identify your long neck of top tasks. It is now available for purchase.

Free Gerry McGovern webinar: Web surveys are broken: how to fix them

"Please rate on a scale of 1 to 10 how interactive our site is?" This sort of question has two fatal flaws. Firstly, using a ratings scale to collect genuine customer insight has been known to be deeply flawed for at least 30 years. Secondly, "interactive" is a classical organization-centric phrase that actually has no meaning to the vast majority of people.

At Customer Carewords, we have developed a radically new method of surveying people in order to understand their true intentions. This approach has been successfully applied by organizations such as Microsoft, Cisco, Tetra Pak, Wells Fargo, BBC, etc. Find out how it works and how it can help you develop a better understanding of your customer.

  • Title:      Web surveys are broken: how to fix them        
  • Date:     Wednesday, November 10, 2010       
  • Time:     11:00 AM - 12:00 PM EST

Register for this free webinar:

Free Expert Evaluations for World Usability Day

Once again for World Usability Day - November 11th - we are offering confidential, FREE 1-hour expert reviews of websites, applications, or products. We guarantee at least two of Neo Insight's experts will be on-hand to give you the low-down on your Customer Experience.

We will walk through the website or application with you, asking you questions about the intended business goals, users and tasks. Based on this information, we will highlight the key usability issues as we see them, and provide you with design recommendations to improve your users' experience.

  • Our review will include a high-level evaluation of:
  • Global and local navigation
  • Site search
  • Top task support
  • Task-oriented content
  • Support for common workflow

The session will be entirely confidential: only the Neo Insight experts, you, and whoever you invite will see the review. After the session, we will provide you with a slide deck high level summary of our findings and recommendations, plus a recording of the session.

Identify your top 3 concerns or questions you have about your website or application, and please include a link to it, if possible. If it's a large site, tell us which section, or which 10 pages, you'd most like us to review.

For the online session, we will use GoToMeeting or another online collaboration application. You will need to have access to a computer with a high speed connection to the Internet, plus speakers or headset with a microphone, or a telephone.

Contact us immediately by calling us at 613-271-3001 or emailing us if you'd like to be considered for one of our free expert reviews - we can only do a limited number in one day.

Quote of the month

"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

If you have any comments on The Insighter, or ideas on usability topics you'd like to send us an email.

Follow us on Twitter

We invite you to subscribe to our monthly

  Home   About Us   Services   Case Studies   Training   Teamworks