A Private Web (or Intranet) is not just a cheap replacement for existing client/server transaction systems. It is an entirely new, receiver-based, corporate communications model. The webWAVE development process allows organizations to focus on the ways that Internet technology can best benefit their company. This process provides development teams with a blueprint for establishing a corporate communications vehicle that has the potential to streamline business processes, allow increased access to corporate information, and revolutionize knowledge sharing; while reducing overall communications costs.
This process considers the challenges faced by developers who must deal with issues such as: cultural change, software distribution, security, data distribution, and business process impacts. Many issues present developers with situations where they must balance functionality and visual design with cost, performance, and corporate policy. This process will provide developers with a structured approach to tackling and justifying these difficult decisions.
The process begins with rapid information gathering and an "overnight" (3-5 weeks) proof of concept. Private Webs must have support at all levels within the organization in order to succeed. Using real corporate information, one or more applications are built to demonstrate the power of the technology. This first stage aids developers in building this support and establishing champions. It is a crucial part of the method as it transforms the potential of Intranet technology from a paper concept to functional reality in a short period of time. This functional reality is not only an early success that will bolster support for the private web project, but an excellent tool in promoting discussion and understanding as well. During the early parts of the design and implementation stages, goals are still being defined. Using these flexible technologies, each new application gives birth to ten new ideas. Many times project scope is not fully defined until the project is well underway. At this point, ideas continue to be tracked and prioritized in a database for future consideration. Quality control is central to the process. This means not only verifying program or data validity, but establishing policies and procedures for information dissemination as well.
The webWAVE development process addresses the needs of developers by giving them not only technical guidance, but useful management tools and advice on handling the cultural change associated with this new corporate communications medium. A core process guides developers through the initial establishment of the site. Then an ongoing process provides a structured way of dealing with new technologies, changing goals and needs.
This process includes four stages:
DISCOVER - This stage guides the development team through designing a prototype and setting goals. At the end of this stage, everyone involved in the project should have a clear picture of which applications are being developed and why.
DESIGN - This stage guides the development team through the visual, structural, and technical design of the site. At times, this stage runs concurrently with both the Discover and Implement stages. At the end of this stage all of the tools needed for information access, security, site monitoring, content management, and issue tracking will have been designed.
IMPLEMENT - This stage guides the development team through the implementation of the systems designed in the last stage. At times, this stage runs concurrently with both the Discover and Design stages. At the end of this stage all systems should be in place and the site should be ready for launch.
LAUNCH - This stage guides the development team through many of the follow through activities that can make a huge impact on the success of the site. These activities include:
- site promotion
- gathering feedback
- software distribution
- post mortem
At the end of this stage, you should have a successful site and be ready to begin the Ongoing Development Process.
The entire Private Web Development Methodology is based upon thirteen rules which the staff at jm+co believe are the keys to a successful Private Web project. These are as follows:
Rule 1 - BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND
It is extremely important to ensure that the driving force behind your prototype application is part of a process that directly produces value for the customer of the organization. These are typically applications that impact the corporate mission or an identified value stream. During the "Build Client Wish List" task, you will review the available opportunities. These drivers and other pertinent issues are quickly identified, so that a prototype can be built that will generate broad-based support and aid team members in setting goals for the project as a whole.
Rule 2 - MIND THE DETAILS TO ADD ADDITIONAL VALUE
While designing and prototyping applications for the private web, note ways that each part of the web can work with other parts in order to create additional value. Applications can sometimes be improved by taking a business process view of their usage and making improvements. Sometimes synergy can be acheived between applications that create a great deal of value with very little effort or time. Once you have a basic structure, take a look at application groupings and the project as a whole to see where improvements can be made.
Rule 3 - THINK ORGANIZATIONALLY, NOT COMPUTATIONALLY
It is very important to select technologies based on goals and needed functionality, not popularity with other organizations. During the "Identify Client Requirements" task, you will identify the specific functions you will require in order to have a successful system. This rule warns us to avoid selecting technologies just because, "everyone else has it". This leads to making decisions based on goals we set considering the specific costs and needs of the organization.
Rule 4 - UNDERSTAND THE POSSIBILITIES
The members of your development team must understand the technologies involved in your private web project, as well as understanding what is possible today using Internet technologies. The "Identify Project Team" task provides a matrix and guidelines for selecting team members as well as a way of documenting your justifications for selecting each developer. Throughout the methodology, you will find pointers guiding you to where to search on the web for "up to the minute" information on specific cutting-edge topics.
Rule 5 - STAY OFF THE BLEEDING EDGE
Where you really want to be is on the cutting edge, rather than on the bleeding edge. Stay a little behind the pack and let others discover problems in production. The Internet is going through a period of rapid discovery where companies will appear on the scene very quickly with new products. Many will cease to exist in the near future. Be wary of products and/or companies that are very new and unproven.
Rule 6 - KNOW WHERE YOU ARE AND WHERE YOU ARE GOING
This means understand where your organization stands and intends to go, both technically and from a staffing perspective. During the "Build Client Wish List" you gather some baseline information, which is later refined in the Design stage. Assessing not only technical impacts, but staffing impacts is crucial to the success of the new system.
Rule 7 - YOU CONTROL THE CHOICE OF TOOLS
In stark contrast to Public Web development, Private Web development does not involve developing for any and every hardware and software combination that might be used to reach the site. Designing for the lowest common denominator in this way narrows the range of possibile functions your site can offer. Since you control the standards and the selection of tools people can use,you can select the tools that offer the functionality your site requirements demand.
Rule 8 - CONTENT IS KING
You need to ensure that your content is compelling and that users can access it in ways that best assist them in doing their jobs. Ensure that information is accessible when it is needed during a business process and that the Private Web does not do anything to hinder progress. There are two basic information sharing metaphors to keep in mind when developing a Private Web:
- one is that of a convenience mart, where people can drop in, get what they need and leave
- a second way of looking at the Private Web is to view it as a place somewhere between cybercafe and community library. A place where people can walk in, hang-out, get to know each other, and get to know more about the company. Once they have done that, they are more likely to contribute content, rather than just consume what is already there.
The lesson in this is to ensure that the content you provide is something users need and deliver that content in a way that users can best use it.
Rule 9 - MIX UP YOUR STAFF
No, this does not mean intentionally confuse people. Rather it means that it is important to get different perspectives from people at different levels and parts of the organization. This rule comes into play in both the "Identify Project Team" and "Identify Client Requirements" tasks. Select your project team from a diverse group and demonstrate your prototype to broad audiences in order to get feedback from as many people as possible. In this way, you will get everyone's needs out in the open where they may be assessed and addressed.
Rule 10 - LAY YOUR FOUNDATION EARLY
The prototype serves as a model for future development, both during this project and beyond. If it can be developed in a way that allows it to be quickly altered to deliver other types of information, then similar information areas can be developed quickly and automatically be consistent with the first area. This involves two major considerations:
- the interface must be one that users accept and find useful within the context of the Private Web as a whole
- the technical design must be flexible, modular, and therefore easy to alter
Rule 11 - HAVE POLICIES AND PROCEDURES IN PLACE
You must plan for managing information delivery using policies and procedures from the day the Private Web goes live.
Content is delivered from many sources across the organization. You can have discussion groups, file sharing areas, personal web servers, and other communications vehicles. In terms of empowering the individual, the impacts of these technologies are tremendous. However, without proper information management, this can be a problem. So, develop systems with technology management in mind rather than focusing purely on implementation.
Rule 12 - EAT WHAT YOU COOK
You must have support at all levels for the Private Web. Getting the involvement of staff through feedback loops, internal marketing, and relationship building is critically important to the success of the project. Management support is typically gained through developing systems which improve value stream processes. Grass roots support is many times gained through providing value at lower levels and getting all staff involved in the project.
Rule 13 - PREPARE FOR THE PRIVATE WEB TO BECOME MISSION CRITICAL FAST
With the right marketing strategy, your Private Web should be met with a tremendous response from the day it rolls out. Properly managed from that point on, it will quickly (many times within a month) become a critical part of the way you do business. This means it must be treated as a production system from the very beginning from a technical maintenance standpoint and feedback must be gathered from users and considered in a structured way in order to ensure continued success and support of the system at all levels of the organization.
The following diagram depicts the dependency relationships between the stages in the webWAVE Development Process.