A web strategy in 10 quite simple steps

Is a web strategy really necessary? When I started to prepare the strategy work last autumn, I found old plans in document folders that never had been discussed with me. This was after working in Visma for more than a year as corporate web editor. So if the web work went well, without anybody complaining at least, why put the effort into a web strategy?

I initiated work on the web strategy because I felt the need for it. In any organization there are several stakeholders. With a strategy I hoped that we could move the web in  same direction. In discussions we quickly moved beyond the simple questions like what tools we should use, the purpose of the web and how we handle mobile versions to how to achieve our goals and create the right content.

A good place to start when establishing a web strategy is to know some of the questions you would like the strategy to answer. Some of this should be left open to the process, of course. But as a starting point you should know why it is important for you to use resources on web strategy.

For me it was important that Visma ended up with a web strategy that was specific. I tried to avoid complicated models and abstract language. This should be a living document , in daily use.

I didn’t start with an existing template. Therefore these steps are adjusted to Visma’s needs, and hopefully these 10 steps could be an inspiration or starting point for other discussions about web strategy.

1. Define a process

Decide on the rules of the game before you start playing. These 10 steps is an outline for a plan.

In addition you should decide on the roles involved: Who is running the process, who is involved at each step, who makes the final decision and a time schedule.

For our web strategy, the corporate web editor was leading the work. An international web editor group that meets every other week did most of the specific work with the document. And Corporate Management made the final decision on the strategy.

2. Workshops with stakeholders

Now it is time to collect information and input from everybody that is working with the web. That could include web editors, marketing, product managers and management.

I  ran workshops in each national editor group, which also included some marketing managers. We spent a couple of hours on a SWOT-analysis of web in each market. Each workshop was documented by a summary.

In addition I had meetings with representatives from the sales and marketing organizations.

3. Set scope for the strategy

It is important to be specific in the scope for the web strategy document. Even more important, it should be clear what won’t be a part of the strategy and the discussion. I waited to decide on this until we had all the information from the workshops.

My two word summary of the scope was always conversions and quality. That covers both the results that leads to sales and the work needed to give the web credibility in the long run. Subjects that we scoped out were social media, community and partner sites. We were also careful about not going too far into the work marketing does to bring traffic to the pages and how sales works with leads from the site.

Exactly how the scope is set for your web strategy will depend on the needs of the organization.

4. Create an outline for the web strategy

With the scope and all the input from the workshops, we created an outline. It both worked as an overview of the structure in the document and as a place where we put all the questions from the workshop that we would like to address. The main chapter headings were quite stable through the work with the document, but the detailed content overview changed a lot.

This is the main structure we ended up with:

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Scope
  3. Goals
  4. Coordination with marketing and sales
  5. Web organization
  6. Content strategy
  7. Improvement through testing
  8. Common tools
  9. Technical development and support
  10. Domain strategy
  11. Security, Privacy, Cookies

5. Use every opportunity to inform stakeholders

The first chapter we wrote was Goals. When that was finished, I had enough information to create a presentation that I used every opportunity to share. I talked to marketing teams, manager meetings, web editors and everybody that would like to hear about the web strategy. That made sure that stakeholders were well informed and gave important input to the work.

6. Write text

Each chapter in the outline was assigned to a person or small group in the international web editor team. Each chapter had a deadline for when it would be discussed by the meeting. It took two months and 4 meetings to get through the whole document.

I feel it is important to engage the whole group, both in writing the text and the discussions. Often it is tempting to keep full control and do everything on your own, but it could mean more work and shallower understanding of the final result.

Each sub-chapter had a short general text that described what we would like to do in the three year perspective. In addition we had a list of action items for each chapter that should be completed within one year.

The final web strategy ended up on 20 easy-to-read pages.

7. Create a roadmap with all action items

The roadmap started out as a way to check that it was realistic to implement the plan. All action items and development needed for the execution got a row in an Excel-sheet. I have spread it out during the next year and concluded that we would be able to live up to the ambitions.

One of the common fears with a strategy plan is that it disappears from sight after being discussed. With the roadmap I need to update and work with this on a daily basis. In all my presentations now I say that the Visma web strategy consists of two documents: The written plan and the roadmap. It makes it impossible to hide the strategy in a folder.

It also serves as guidance when you get comments on that something is missing from the plan. An example is graphic design, that doesn’t have a separate sub-chapter. I handled that by engaging the designers in roadmap-tasks (like guidelines) that already are defined and add it to a list of subjects that we will add in a revision next year.

Web strategy roadmap
Year Month Activity Type Responsible Participating Status

8. Write Executive Summary

To focus both yourself and the organization on the key findings, create a good Executive Summary. This should be more than a cheat sheet for management. It should reflect the most important consequences of executing on the plan.

Our summary started with defining the purpose of the Visma web presence. Although this was reflected in the goals-chapter, it felt useful to start the document with answering why the organization should use resources on web.

Then we described the four most important conclusions, including a couple of consequences this had for how we needed to change the focus of the organization. A list of chapters with more information pointed the reader in the direction of deeper information about the subject.

9. Get the formal decision

Corporate management got a short presentation of scope and goals early on in the process and access to all documents.

On the day for the decision I concentrated on the Executive Summary. Everybody was well prepared, so I received a lot of questions, feedback and comments. After an hour of discussions about the key findings, I had to update a chapter on training and add more content on employer branding.

10. Execute

With the decision in corporate management, we are ready to implement the web strategy. The roadmap is the key document now with lists of specific tasks and projects we need to do. On the last meeting in the international web editor group, we knew exactly what we need to discuss to follow the strategy plan.

And in one year a revision will start and new action items will be defined. Web will always be an iterative process.

Tor André's fate in life was set after growing up playing Pong and programming on computers with punch cards as storage method. Previous to the position as Corporate Web Editor in Visma, he worked with web pages, portals, e-learning and blogging in NetCom. He's first real job was as a game designer in FunCom.
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