Building a Better Mouse Trap

It’s fall and in eastern Pennsylvania this is typically the time of year that the mice decide to find a warmer home for the winter. Shortly thereafter wives and daughters demand to extract the intruders from the confines of our homes.

Since we have a dog, I didn’t want to use snap-traps. Poison based traps are no good, because I don’t want the dog getting into it, nor do I want the mouse to die behind a wall where I can’t get rid of it. I had previously used humane traps, but of course you have to release them and I had one actually chew it’s way out prior to me checking it and doing so.

I’m currently using spin traps. For the uninitiated, these have a hole that the mouse can’t resist entering and then instead of snapping, the chamber is spring loaded and let’s just say it takes care of the intruder. No mess, toss the entire trap and you’re done.

So what does this all mean? There are many ways to solve any given problem and you have to find the one that works best for your circumstances.

For a little more than 18 months, I’ve been obsessing over our business website. This is the same amount of time I’ve been with the company, so I’ve had and continue to have a steep learning curve.

I’m a big “what if” and “why” person.

Many people I come across think I’m being difficult, but really it is my way of understanding the situation.

In an enterprise corporation, I’m finding that many times “the reason” doesn’t have to do with being the best approach, but instead with what is “safe” and “done before”, or in other words, “the cultural way”.

Fool I am, I challenged these assumptions.

Our website was/is a horrid mess. Through the years there was no standard approach. Each product team (and by this I should say we have four US based business sectors and within one, medical, we have five sales forces working across roughly ten medical specialties selling everything from single use disposable items to major capital equipment) organized their own section of the website in their own way. This resulted in changes in top-line navigation and navigational dead-ends. Oh yeah, and due to a variety of reasons we had three different websites just for our business in the US.

As my boss put it, we were blowing up the old site and starting all over.

One of our biggest pain-points was that every page was individually coded and the code base was in some aspects a dozen years old. Traditionally, our Corporate Creative Services (which rebranded itself as Web & Creative Services) would project manage web-based activity, but they only have front-end programmers in their shop, our IT group was under separate management.

So to begin I had to manage the needs of our businesses, Creative, and IT.

Initially, creative recommended a major proprietary web CMS. At first, I imagined the glory of a fully functioning enterprise digital platform, but upon reflection, realized that we didn’t want to “catch-up”, but instead we wanted to “get ahead.”

When we finished I didn’t want to have the site we should have had five years ago, I wanted to have a site that could evolve, adapt, and scale to whatever changes might come. I wanted the site to serve as the hub of all our online activity on the public facing side, but also to be the model for our data organization on the back-end.

I also wanted to get buy-in from the business on what the site was designed to accomplish before we built it.

As I explored options and only a week or so before we began to review vendors, I was able to get an open-source shop into the mix. With one, we ultimately decided to have two proprietary and two open source vendors.

With support of our IT group, we made the decision to go open-source with a LAMP based solution. One further round of vendor selection and we were on our way, beginning with a discovery exercise that was for the purpose of aligning our business and outlining our navigation and wireframes from a usability perspective. I’ll discuss this in the next post.

From February to April we conducted the discovery phase. With a plan in place we searched for the right implementation company to turn the plan into reality. I’ll address aspects from this phase in post three.

And then there is launch. I’m not quite there yet, but we are getting close. My final two posts in this series will address launch and post-launch.


One response to “Building a Better Mouse Trap

  1. Really interesting tale of what goes into a corporate website. I’ve made that move from hard-coded to CMS-based, and it’s quite the leap. I’ll be looking forward to the rest of your series.