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Web business model disaster
tips on preventing another train wreck...

 11:26 pm on May 12, 2002 (gmt 0)

I'm in the process of developing a new 'business model' for my small, part-time web development company.

In the past, the focus has been on haphazard 'web design'. Clients were happy with the sites created, but the work was done in a 'jack-of-all-trades' manner. The development process has been time consuming, stressful, and inefficient.

I want to turn things around. I am interested in developing a more coordinated, meaningful service. I am considering "Web Project Management" as this new service.

As I see it, "Web Project Management" involves:
- acting as the primary driving force behind the development of quality, content rich sites
- coordinating all the pieces, from initial planning to ongoing management
- collaborating with 'partners' in specialized areas (marketing, SEO, programming, e-commerce, etc.)

With this focus, there will be a heavy concentration on:

1. Planning
- developing a 'strategic plan' with client as a 'first step' (clearly outlining mission, target markets, goals, budget, roles and responsibilities, etc.)
- regularly scheduled reviews of plan with client
- clearly defined 'service contract' with client

2. Implementation and Ongoing Management
- strict adherence to strategic plan
- ongoing (daily, weekly, monthly) service 'inputs'
- reporting and evaluation on a regular basis

3. Collaboration
- using specialized expertise of other professionals in the creation and ongoing management of the site.

I realize that this type of approach is nothing new; but it will be a new approach for me.

- Have others used a "project management" approach?
- Has it been successful? What has made it successful?
- What are some potential pitfalls to be aware of?
- Is there a market for this service?
- What else should I know?


brotherhood of LAN

 11:42 pm on May 12, 2002 (gmt 0)

4. Re-assessment

I dont know if you intended that as your 2. but for sure you will want a mechanism that assesses how your previous plan is working and how it can be improved, and how you are actually going to measure your success against your initial planning


 12:31 am on May 13, 2002 (gmt 0)

< 4. Re-assessment >

I was planning to build 'regularly scheduled reviews' into the initial plan. Say, monthly meetings or conference calls to coincide with a 'monthly report' . One function of the meeting would be to check 'monthly report' against the initial plan and revise the plan accordingly.


 12:58 am on May 13, 2002 (gmt 0)

Watch the language in your contract, especially around the area of "guarantees".

As you know, I'm sure, web marketing results can be difficult to pin down, but clients also need some sense of recourse if they feel you aren't delivering. This is a touchy area, in my experience, especially as you extend your "implied" contract by getting into other areas of your client's vernture.


 1:12 am on May 13, 2002 (gmt 0)

There's an old adage ' find a hole and fill it'. What it sounds like you're doing is just the reverse.

Would it not be a better chance of succes if you analyzed the current markets looking for niche markets that are in need of some type of web based services. Then develop a plan to satisfy those customers.

This would be especially true if you found new, unique and creative ways to make it work.

brotherhood of LAN

 1:16 am on May 13, 2002 (gmt 0)

to add to will's approach, these thick college books in front of me say that indeed that is the modern approach, marketing orientated business.

When you are dealing with a worldwide audience I guess its pretty hard to target anything. Will your web design be international bezuhov?


 2:12 am on May 13, 2002 (gmt 0)

WillTell: I think there are so many 'holes' out there, it won't be too much of a problem filling them. The vast majority of websites totally suck. They aren't updated regularly, have lame content -- nothing tangible to offer the user other than 'our services', 'about us', etc. I believe that one of the problems with many of these sites is that there is no plan, no vision. I don't think that a 'plan' stifles creativity, but is rather a vehicle for creativity. You can always tweak the 'plan' to meet the particular clients needs. But don't you think you should have some type of working 'methodology'?

Tedster: Perhaps Canada and USA, but likely closer to home. Say, 'Western Canada'.

I am interested in helping clients become online "authorities" in their field of expertise -- with content targetted towards their target market.

I am only looking for a small number of clients initially who want to buy into this concept (and an ongoing 'service plan' for a reasonable monthly cost).

I am only starting to approach present clients with this concept -- so we will see how it goes.


 2:17 am on May 13, 2002 (gmt 0)

What industry(s) are you planning to target ?


 3:00 am on May 13, 2002 (gmt 0)

I am thinking about a number of industries and target groups. Probably I will start out with construction / architecure / building since I have some experience with these types of companies. 'Project Management' is also a familiar term in these areas.


 3:49 am on May 13, 2002 (gmt 0)

Its always a smart move to stick to industries that you know well, and can find out all the unknown info quickly, rather than chat bollox, it impresses companies.

Least your staying away from the biggies, seo/design wise, i would'nt fancy your chance's with them, the best at them are some of the most experienced people around the forums.


 1:39 pm on May 13, 2002 (gmt 0)


I will add to my personal experince over the years and hope it may help you and others.

You need to look at how your current customers are doing this today. If what your asking them to do is not easier and faster, then it will not work.

I have found that people do not change habits very quickly, so if what you're trying to do is to get them to change habits, you will have a very rough road. If what you doing is taking what they do offline and putting it in a computer, it must be many times better than what they are doing today.

In construction, getting anyone to use a computer is a big step. I get to work with many of them and they are not computer people. Of course, neither are plumbers, electricians, and many of the service trades.

Wish you luck, starting a business is extremely difficult.


 2:51 pm on May 13, 2002 (gmt 0)

> clearly defined 'service contract' with client

Time and time again, this has come up as one of the most important things you can do to keep business running smoothly.

>Have others used a "project management" approach?

Many do not, but most of the good ones do use a variation on this type of "system" with extensive planning and ongoing customer relationship management. It is just good business practice.

As far as the specific industry to become involved in... There ar more blue-collar families than ever projected to come online in the next 10 years. I forget where I saw that statistic, but if you think about it, it makes sense.

It is nice to be able to target people that are just coming onlnie for the first time because they do not already have a "set" of websites that they regularly visit. It is almost easier to advertise to these folks.

Black Knight

 3:06 pm on May 13, 2002 (gmt 0)

I'm in the process of developing a new 'business model' for my small, part-time web development company.

Step one: Move to full time. The kind of web management you are describing is not a part-time job and never can be.

As a full time job it will still involve many other full-time roles that you'll have to do as part-time:
1. Marketer (for your own business).
2. Sales and contract negotiator.
3. Project Manager for each contract.
4. Web Designer.
5. Graphics and Creatives Designer.
6. Customer Support Manager.
7. Accountant / Bookkeeper.
8. CEO and manager of all the above roles.

Unless you can go full time, who will you compete with those who have? More importantly, how will you compete with the many companies that have dedicated separate staff for all of those roles and can work faster and more cost-efficiently because they operate like a optimised production line?


 11:03 pm on May 13, 2002 (gmt 0)

Step one: Move to full time. The kind of web management you are describing is not a part-time job and never can be.

The development process has been time consuming, stressful, and inefficient.

Great post Black_Knight - definitely a correlation there.

Another thing that you'll definitely need is knowledge, and lots of it. If you haven't had much formal training or professional experience, doing this part-time will not work. I started making websites purely based on my own experience in making websites. I started a BIG project, which took me 2 years to do (heh, not to say I didn't do it successfully). I was learning scripting as I went along. Later we found that a lot of stuff I did left a lot wanting as far as security and server-bottlenecks, so it had to be redone by a more experienced team (not much to the fault of the company since my layout had already set up a significant user-base... but as the site grew bigger, other things became a concern).

In order to carry out a planned project efficiently you'll have to keep the following things in mind:

1. Scalability
2. Expandability
3. Ease of editing

To implement these successfully takes a very good working knowledge of database, bottlenecks, server platforms, scripting languages, and administration technology.

A lot of these are things you won't develop part-time - and you'll be much better off if you stick to the slow, inefficient web development model. There are tons of ways you can streamline that without having to jump into a different tier of business or a whole new business model. My recommendation is working at an established company for a few years, hoard as much knowledge as you can from everybody, and then branch off later.


 11:06 pm on May 13, 2002 (gmt 0)

The best way to streamline a small part-time business model is to have a separate content-manager, designer, and programmer (each with a fair understanding of what the others can do). This kind of specialization affords you ease and quality - at the expense of lower payouts for everyone involved.

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