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Step 4: Design Treatments

In the final step of Web Business Engineering, you take the problems or opportunities discovered during diagnosis (Step 3) and then use the value model (from Step 2) and activity map (from Step 1) to design Web solutions or "treatments" that minimize or eliminate the problems, or take advantage of opportunities.

As a Web Business Engineer, I want you to think of yourself as a physician of sorts, except that your patient is a business instead of a person. The Web is the "medicine" that you prescribe to treat whatever ailments your "patient" has. Before I show you how to design treatments, let's recap our activities. In the first step, we built an information activity map of a simple business process—an instructor sending assignments to remote students—to help us identify ways of using the Web to support that process (see Figure 1); each agent and each medium in our map was a possible candidate for Web substitution.

But our map showed us too many ways of using the Web, so in the second step, we built a value model based on this map to help us trim down the possibilities (see Figure 7). Our client's goal was to reduce the cost of the process, so the value model that we built was a cost model.

In the third step, we used this cost model to identify, or diagnose, the key factors responsible for the high process costs (Figure 10). The model identified several cost drivers, but the client could only realistically vary one of them (MAILXFEE).

In the fourth and final Web Business Engineering step, we "treat" the process by designing ways of using the Web to minimize the effects of this cost driver. We use both the value model and the activity map to help us design these treatments.

Treating a Business Process

In our specific example, to treat a business process is to use the Web to eliminate the cost driver, specifically to eliminate the mailing fee (MAILXFEE). In the interaction matrix, the MAILXFEE appears in the cost equations for the AàM interaction (covered in the last section) and the MàR interaction (not covered). These interactions correspond to a certain area of the activity map, which I circled in Figure 3.

So, if we want to eliminate the effects of the cost driver (MAILXFEE) on the mailing process, we need to substitute the Web for the affected (or "infected," if we use our physician metaphor!) area of the map. If we do this, our new activity map would look as follows in Figure 12.

Figure 12

Substituting the Web for the affected area of the map (Reprinted with permission from Flor, N. [2000], Web Business Engineering, Addison-Wesley Longman)

Unfortunately, our job isn't done. Our treatment substituted the Web for three agents (the Assistant, Mail Express, and the Mailing Room). However, besides agent substitutions, we need to make media substitutions because the Web cannot take paper as input and deliver paper as output. The most straightforward solution is to have the instructor and students upload and download electronic versions of the assignments (see Figure 13).

Figure 13

Substituting electronic media for paper (Reprinted with permission from Flor, N. [2000], Web Business Engineering, Addison-Wesley Longman)

I should emphasize that this is but one solution. For various organizational or cultural reasons, the most straightforward solution is not always possible. Instructors, for example, may be unwilling to upload assignments electronically, so you have to build "bridges" in the process to convert the paper assignments to electronic ones. I cover such alternative solutions in more depth in my book Web Business Engineering (Addison-Wesley Longman, 2000).

Given this new information activity map, you should next build a new cost model to get a more precise account of the cost savings from this treatment (see Figure 14).

Figure 14

Cost model for the treatment (Reprinted with permission from Flor, N. [2000], Web Business Engineering, Addison-Wesley Longman)

The cost model for the treatment shows that Web-based assignment mailings result in a 93.42 percent reduction in costs, which corresponds to a large decrease over paper mailings.

Finally, to better demonstrate the value that your Web treatment adds to your client's organization, you can also do a return on investment (ROI) analysis for your Web treatment (see Figure 15). I should point out that most clients consider an ROI of 20 percent to be pretty good, and our Web treatment far exceeds this level.

Figure 15

Calculating the return on investment (ROI) for the Web treatment (Reprinted with permission from Flor, N. [2000], Web Business Engineering, Addison-Wesley Longman)

In summary, diagnosis is an activity in which you design treatments by substituting the Web and other online media for problem or opportunity areas in your activity map (created in Step 1) as indicated by your value model (created in Step 2 and diagnosed in Step 3). Mapping, valuing, diagnosing, and treating are the four major steps in Web Business Engineering. By applying Web Business Engineering, you not only systematically design Web solutions to business problems, but you also create the supporting evidence for these solutions that demonstrate their value to potential clients. This level of analysis and design can put you far ahead of Web developers that merely rely on intuition and ad hoc guessing for their designs.

This article treated you as a Web consultant studying a client's offline business process. But Web entrepreneurs can also apply Web Business Engineering to discover ways of improving online business processes. In my last two articles, we'll demonstrate the flexibility of Web Business Engineering, applying it to online marketing and payment issues.

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