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PracticeByte - Reduce Web Development Cost By Sharing Web Experience With No External Spending

Analyst: Nicolas Bürki
Issue: How to reduce development costs for individual brand Web sites while ensuring corporate Web strategy?
There are various possibilities to reduce the annual recurring Web spending. However, most of them such as typically Web site consolidation or Web infrastructure homogenization result in large projects with significant investment and time to production.
For companies that are not yet ready for such investments or use different Web technologies or companies that want to reduce their Web spending with no technology investment should centralize and share their Web development.
Centralization means not to take away site ownership or responsibility of local Web teams but providing frameworks, guidelines and most important to share corporate wide Web site developments and experience.
Such a centralized approach can only succeed, if senior management supports it and if the corporate wide dispersed site and business owners and development teams play together. Large global organizations with more than thousands Web sites spend annually multiple millions for their Web projects. For example a large European company spends more then $30 M for their Web sites for site maintenance and evolution (an average of $30 K per site per year). In most cases, this spending relates to hosting and licenses fees and development costs.
As not all corporate wide Web sites have the same strategic importance from a corporate perspective, there is a huge potential to leverage Web site project experiences from strategic important Web sites into less strategic      Web sites. Practically it means that other Web teams could simply reuse Web site elements that have been developed by other Web teams. Though, this idea looks very simple, in practice it turns out to be very difficult. The main reasons are the lack of :
1. Corporate wide guidelines or frameworks that standardize the development independent of the underlying technologies. Typically, Web site design standards can be part of this corporate wide guidelines or frameworks.
2. Support by senior management to support central development processes.
For example the above mentioned European company has developed their specific Web site design standards and has reduced their annually Web site spending from $30 M below $20 M. This 30 percent reduction was also driven by centralizing and sharing effectively Web developments across all corporate sites, while staying in a multi-technology environment.
Global companies that are looking for reducing their ongoing Web site costs, without changing immediately their technology or infrastructure should perform the following tasks:
1. Senior management mandates and supports central corporate Web team to homogenize the Web development experiences. This is absolutely crucial, if senior management doesn't support the centralization of development experience, local or central Web team can nevertheless launch the centralization initiative without this support. There are proven approaches to get the buy-in and support of senior management at a later stage, such as performing Web site consistency checks, perform pilot project, etc. (see Practical Planning Framework: Best Practices - Defining Web Site Design Standards ),
2. Assess corporate wide Web sites to determine the importance per site from a corporate perspective and not from individual site perspective. This allows determining Web sites that can provide their elements to other less strategic sites. In addition, it is crucial that site owners of strategic sites are identified and that they communicate their latest Web site development or experience to the central team. Particularly, the ongoing communication is crucial to keep the developed Web feature catalogue up to date to continuously achieve corporate Web development cost reduction.
3. Establish online Web site feature catalogue to render available already existing site features to other Web site development teams. This internal feature catalogue contains the most important and recent Web site features. There will be some features that can be directly downloaded and deployed such as style sheets, JavaScripts (e.g. change of font or navigation entries colors while hovering over). Some features however will need modifications by local Web teams. It is important that developers or owners of the listed features comment at least the parts in the source code that need to be modified.
4. Define processes to update Web site feature catalogue.
A feature catalogue can only achieve development cost reduction, if it is constantly updated and maintained. The best case would be that Web developers post their features directly to the catalogue. This process should not result in additional effort but should be as streamlined as possible. For example, using preformatted templates, through which Web developers can upload their source codes, fill in mandatory fields such as feature description, contact information, version number, etc. reduces their    individual efforts. In addition, the central Web team needs to review the posted features, check them for completeness and for accurate level of provided information and most importantly to categorize the features.
5. Update guidelines and ensure the experience and information exchanges between strategic sites and less strategic sites. Providing a feature catalogue is not enough. The central Web team needs to proactively inform the less strategic site owners or local Web teams about new available site features. This proactive approach has two major advantages. First, it acts as a constant reminder for the online catalogue and site owners or development teams are kept up to date of the latest features. Secondly, it helps to inspire site owners and development teams to constantly improve their Web site using existing features, without any or only low investments.
Further cost reduction can be achieved by defining Web site development framework such as Web site design standards. Web site design standards can reduce the annual and recurring Web spending up to 50 percent (see Practical Planning Framework: Best Practices - Defining Web Site Design Standards)