Any company worth its salt will confirm that a quality website has to contain basic information on the company and its products. Thankfully, creating and managing basic website content is becoming more and more simple thanks to a variety of new website tools. But Karl Storz GmbH & Co. KG had slightly higher expectations: it wanted to demonstrate its leading position in the medical technology sector online, so to relaunch the website the company turned to the experts at the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Innovation and Organization.
One look at the design was enough to confirm that it had been years since the last update. The content and functions scarcely reflected the image of a world-class company. Editing pages was cumbersome and complex. As the Tuttlingen-based endoscope manufacturer had expanded internationally, the content and design of website pages veered off in different directions making global marketing very difficult and providing detailed information to clients problematic. It was time to create a new layout, software for writing and managing content and an overall website management process. As they were already sensitized to the issue, senior management called on the Eislingenbased Steinbeis Transfer Center for Innovation and Organization to support the entire project.
The original aim of the project was to make the existing website easier to edit and manage using a new content management system (CMS). Further down the line, the layout would be overhauled and new functions introduced step by step. Users should gain more value-added from the website so they would keep coming back to find updates and targeted information. But the project team soon realized that the CMS would only be future-proof if it already fulfilled specific functional requirements. Also, migrating data to the new site was an ideal opportunity to adapt the layout and make it truly multi-lingual. When management was presented with the obvious benefits this would provide, they signed up to it straight away. The project brief was expanded, paving the way for a more stable solution for functional upgrades further down the line. As the project progressed, new features were created needing a link between the web application and internal systems such as SAP or the customer database, so the benefits of the project multiplied, but so did the work involved.
As a result the team worked almost in parallel on two sub-projects. The first was CMS selection. Originally three system classes were laid down: a) totally open framework systems with practically unlimited design and functionality freedom, although new website projects take a long time and need skilled input; b) out-of-thebox systems, for ultimate standardization that need little training, but only with strictly defined functional frameworks; c) freeware systems, with reasonable functionality and attractive set-up costs, worth considering for a variety of requirements. The system finally chosen was selected for the maximum amount of flexibility and sensible project schedules, hand-in-hand with strategic certainty – provided by an experienced system developer who would work on the project and implement it.
The other sub-project related to the design relaunch had to be based on the new corporate design without compromising interactive website features. Based on a rough navigation concept, several design agencies were briefed on the design elements to be taken into account for the possible look and feel of the new website. After examining the ideas, senior management selected its design partner.
Both sub-projects could now progress in parallel, albeit completely independent of one another. When you define navigation menus and still have to take into account large amounts of information, everything has to be clearly laid out. To set everything up properly you also need plenty of highlevel website technology, dovetailing neatly with the design. The yardstick for each solution was always the anticipated user who had to be able to find content and click through the site without yet knowing the content or underlying structure.
With processes firmly in place it was now obvious who would do what and what skills they needed. The best approach was to pull together a project team from different departments: for many of the tasks – such as a product launch or updating recruitment advertising – it was easy to involve a departmental representative. Project members soon saw the benefits of the CMS: creative content writers enjoyed the simple way you can insert text and images and loved the advantages offered by an end-to-end IT solution. The system managers and webexperts soon took to the variety of options and link-ups to internal databases or the ERP system.
Once the organization basics have been taken care they can be built on in the next phase: rollout of cross media publishing features. In the future it will also be possible to burn website content onto CD as well as individual marketing documents and even entire catalogs. By dovetailing the technology and organizational factors with marketing processes, the CMS provides the company with the ways of working and the potential to raise efficiency. Of course, that is easier said than done. The company will have to map out and arrange organizational and technical interfaces on the one hand, on the other data and data infrastructures will need adapting to new processes. Depending on any given situation, and the quality of the data, this can take a long time. This operative time investment is often added onto CMS projects although it can also be deemed part of the basic job in each department. Unfortunately, in the early parts of projects people often have unrealistic expectations of perfect data and crystalclear processes. They then try to carry out fully-automatic data processing, but more often than not the data is not good enough.
Lots of CMS projects are doomed to fail because of the “simple task” of migrating data to the new IT infrastructure – not so with Karl Storz. Every challenge encountered was neatly ticked off. The project may have been much more wide-sweeping than originally planned, but neither the company, nor any of the experts at the Steinbeis Transfer Center found that a matter of regret.