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Web Business Engineering: Steps to Planning a Successful Business Web Site

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Successful Web Business Engineering involves several important steps. In this article, Web expert Nick Flor outlines the path to success, including mapping business activities, modeling activity value, diagnosing problems and opportunities, and designing treatments.

Web Business Engineering enables you to not only systematically design Web solutions to business problems, but also to create the supporting evidence for these solutions to 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.

In this article, I discuss the four major steps in Web Business Engineering:

  • Mapping

  • Valuing

  • Diagnosing

  • Treating

Step 1: Map Business Activities

The first step in Web Business Engineering is to build maps of business activities (processes). From these maps, developers can identify numerous ways of using the Web to support those processes.

When you're driving in a new or unfamiliar location, you use a map to help you figure out how to get to your destination. A good map typically shows you not one, but many different ways to get from a starting point to a destination; you pick the best one, depending on a number of criteria, such as whether you want to take the most direct route or the most scenic route. Similarly, in Web Business Engineering, when a client asks you to build a Web site for a business, especially one that you are unfamiliar with, you create a map that shows you all the different ways that you can use the Web in that business. You then pick the best way to use the Web, depending on your client's higher-level objectives, such as reducing costs, improving sales, or increasing revenues, to name just a few. Such a map is known as a business or information activity map, or just "map" for short.

An information activity map graphically depicts the movement of information between the agents—both people and technology—that participate in a given work activity (or business process, as it is more commonly referred to). For example, the map in Figure 1 depicts the process of mailing homework assignments to remote students in a distance-education program. The agents are: instructor, assistant, mail express, mailing room, and student. An arrow between two agents indicates an information exchange. The arrows are annotated with the direction of the exchange and the type of information exchanged.

Figure 1

An information activity map (Reprinted with permission from Flor, N. [2000], Web Business Engineering, Addison-Wesley Longman)

Next, we look at how to use the map to identify ways of using the Web.

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