June 5, 2020 Living with Corona, Corporate Web “BBB”

Hiroyuki Shinha
Product Management Dept., Systems Division

"BBB”, or Building Back Better, is the notion that when planning to redevelop something, such as a website, a better and more future-risk resilient version is produced.

The emergency declaration called by Japanese government, and which lasted for about two months, has now been lifted. However, when referencing history, a second and possibly third wave of novel coronavirus infections is almost inevitable. Therefore, while we should recommence economic activities, we should do so cautiously - although while doing so, we must be conscious that life cannot return to how it was before. Under this coronavirus-induced new normal, the forward-looking notion of "BBB" is essential.

The Corporate Web Site as Strategic IT

With COVID-19, the economic and social landscapes have changed significantly. In the subsequent rapidly deteriorating business environment, strengthening financial positions has become inevitable (recently Gartner Provided Eight Actions CIOs Must Take During the Coronavirus Pandemic for Financial Survival).

On the other hand, it’s also argued that IT strategies enhancing prospects for survival will also accelerate (70% Answer that "Novel Coronavirus has Accelerated the Implementation of IT Strategies" - ITR’s Survey on the Impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Corporate IT Trends (in Japanese)).

In order to adapt to this new normal, we must digitally convert conventional ways of earning and working. While the introduction of the remote-work and other related IT investments are common sense measures, these are not the only changes that are required. “Strengthening and reviewing the corporate website” should also positioned as strategic IT.

Common Features of Corporate Websites that Contribute to Business

So, what is the enterprise web as strategic IT? In short, taking into account a corporate website’s contribution to, and impact on the business. So, with considerations for cost reduction, is the website to remain a cost center or is it aiming to be cost-effective? Is the site aiming to be a business driver that is focused on return on investment (ROI) for business contribution?

Of course, this is different from the short-term contribution to sales used in ecommerce digital marketing activities and sales promotions. A corporate website, similar to the ZMOT (The Zero Moment of Truth) a term coined and advocated by Google since 2011, has an inbound-type purpose of which it is considered that content contributes to one’s own business over the medium to long-term.

In fact, companies that make considerable efforts in supporting their online web estates share the following three features.

1. Leadership

Companies that are doing well on the web often have prominent internal web advocates, usually referred to as "champions." The persons are experts in their own business areas, but also creative and highly proficient in information technology use. These people are human resources that are conscious of business results and can garner support from executives.

However, champions are not "strong" leaders that can do everything. Rather, champions don’t hide their own "weaknesses" and present themselves with humility and respect others (also applicable to the Human, Respect, Trust (HRT) principle (in Japanese)). Furthermore, champions derive support from a diverse range of stakeholders, including external partners, and achieve results through collaboration.

According to the results of a “Survey on Companies and IT Human Resources for Promoting DX (in Japanese)” recently released by IPA, “business designers” are listed as a category of human resources with a high degree of importance in promoting DX. So, it can now also be argued that champion talent, in the form of business designers, are important for effective corporate websites. Therefore, even regarding the enterprise web, finding and developing human resources will become increasingly important.

2. Organizational Change

This involves positioning the web as an essential business operation and organizing a centralized team to promote the corporate web.

Conventional corporate web management has often been run by departments with limited authority, budget and human resources, and where employees are often cross-functional in nature and juggle multiple work tasks. With this approach, it’s often difficult to achieve results in the medium to long-term, let alone pass on know-how and develop human resources. By having a dedicated organizational unit that consists of people, budget and authority, it becomes possible to make strategic efforts and commit to medium to long-term results.

In addition, perhaps because of a shorter history than accounting and other more established business areas, the role and scope of web activities are not entirely fixed. We are still in the midst of change. As time passes, website management is increasingly becoming specialized and is resultingly being subdivided into various dedicated occupational areas. With these changes, it’s important to regularly review organizational structures and operations.

3. Technology Modernization

This is the working on modernization of systems, such as cloud migration.

The goal is to not just update or replace existing technologies with newer versions, but rather to “improve the user experience”. While customer experience is of course important, the emphasis nowadays is on "effortless employee experience." Therefore, it’s important to create optimal management structures (through system restructuring) so that web team members can effortlessly perform their tasks.

Implementing actual change, such as establishing a serverless and secure delivery environment, automating the release process of content and applications (CI/CD), and reviewing organizational structures suitable for architecture desires etc., will vary depending on individual company circumstances.

What each of the above-mentioned features share is a mechanism that allows companies to free themselves from substantial labor that doesn’t lead to differentiation and instead concentrate on their core business. Companies that are more focused on business results, are more conscious of effortless work experiences.

In Closing

While it's easy to think of IT improvements as the purchasing new tools or developing of software, that is not the actually the case. What companies need to do before creating or purchasing software is design their business (work / organizational structures).

Business design is based evaluating on the current tasks and processes (As-Is) and an ideal vision (To-Be). When appraising the As-Is, it’s important to review the overall “business, organizational structures, and IT” policies and practices from the three perspectives of “commence”, “end”, and “continue”. Companies should consider the core work that should be performed in-house as well as any non-core work that can be outsourced to external partners.

A crisis is said to be an opportunity for introspection and change. Now that we are amid a revival in Japan, why not consider the way in which your company's web-related "business, organization, and IT" operations could and should be, while also referring to the initiatives of leading companies?

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