- Web Business Engineering: Web Sites Versus Business Web Sites
- Five Broad Ways of Using the Web to Add Value
- Web Business Engineering: Finding Specific Ways of Adding Value
To use a martial arts metaphor, my experience shows that Web developers typically have black-belt technical skills, but white-belt business skills. Unfortunately, these developers have no desire to cross-train and learn business skills, which they view as either too soft or too easy when compared to their "hard" skills in computer science, math, or engineering.
But if such developers ever want to consult or design their own profitable Web businesses, they had better learn some business skills. Potential clients are starting to demand that Web developers create sites that add value to their businesses. In today's competitive consulting environment, where everyone is a technical expert, you simply will not get hired if you can't convince a potential client that your proposed site will add value to his or her business, as in a site that significantly increases revenues or cut costs. And even if you aren't interested in consulting and merely want to start up your own Web business, business knowledge will help you create a site that can more profitably compete in your target market.
Designing Web sites that add value requires knowing something about businesses. You don't need an MBA, but you do need to know how businesses operate and how to design a Web site around those operations. To this end, I have developed a methodology called Web Business Engineering (WBE, for short), which can be summed up in the following analogy:
Web Business Engineering is a technique that Web developers can use to systematically create high-value Web sites much the same way that software engineering helps computer programmers systematically create robust computer programs. With Web Business Engineering, developers start with business processes and end with a design for a business Web site. Similarly, with software engineering, developers start with a requirements specification and end with a software design. One of the key principles underlying Web Business Engineering is that offline activities should drive online activities. A business Web site should always be designed to support its existing, offline activities. In doing so, you design a Web site that serves a business need, not a Web site in search of a business need.
The kinds of Web sites that I build and teach others how to build are business Web sites. And I always have to emphasize to people that a Web site and a business Web site are two very different animals. A Web site is easy to create. My nephew, who's a junior high school student, created his own Web site. Moreover, according to a TV special that I was watching one day, porn stars have designed and implemented their own Web sites. Like I said, almost anyone can create a Web site, especially personal—or what I call vanity—Web sites.
A business Web site, however, is not so easy to create. A business Web site has to add significant value to its owner. In later articles, we'll use Web Business Engineering to discover exactly how to do this, but until then, let's look at how knowledge of a business's value chain gives you a broader sense of where you can use the Web to add value to a business.