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Launching a Web site is an important first step in re-engineering the way you do business. It should be a deliberate process that’s a thoughtful blending of marketing with the architecture and specific Web applications you need.

Before the buzzwords start flying, before the engineers begin building the back-end, you need to structure the process—to ensure that deliverables arrive on target, on time and on budget. Here are 10 concise and effective steps for developing and deploying a successful Web business roll-out.

  1. Needs Assessment: Identify the "actors" in your business process. These key players will have roles that intertwine with every department in the company. They include both the internal and external procedural and technological systems that take part in any and all aspects of daily business. Practical decision makers must be identified early in the process so that expectations can be realistically and effectively mapped to budgets and timelines.

  2. Strategic Plan: The main question to answer at this stage is, "How will our new Web site satisfy our current and future key business goals and objectives?" Your strategic plan must address a user and usage-centered analysis of the integration objectives&ldots; everything from direct marketing to desktop office productivity programs to server clusters. The plan should also include the scope of the design, functional and technical specifications. Internal buy-in on the strategic plan is vital to moving forward at this point.

  3. Design Document: These specifications detail how and what your site will do, and how your customers will interact with it. Will your Web applications include a product demo? Research mechanisms like questionnaires and e-mail? Advertising? Now is the time to spell out how your site will increase workflow efficiency and thus decrease costs, or facilitate new revenue streams identified in the Strategic Plan.

  4. Functional Specifications: At this step, the technology that will be deployed to accomplish the design document requirements is strategically mapped out. A compatible platform direction encompassing the networked hardware, software, client/server platforms, hosting decisions, legacy applications, and data are compiled into an exhaustive checklist. All interactions and interdependencies are duly noted.

  5. Technical Specifications: These requirements detail the application architecture needed to accomplish the functional specifications identified in Step 4. Code libraries and component characteristics for custom "vertical business logic" development are married with existing horizontal logic services. A software applications framework that accommodates the data, network, and hardware infrastructure is developed at this point.

  6. Project Schedule: The Project Schedule identifies the milestones and deliverables that must be met by both the web development firm and the client in order to satisfy all deadlines. The project is broken into phases—pre production, production and post production. The ultimate success of the project is contingent upon an organization’s identification and commitment of the key resources necessary to provide reviews and approvals. The availability of these resources, as well as their ability to meet the agreed-upon turnaround times, is critical to achieving each milestone.

  7. Pre-Production: Procurement, installation, and configuration of systems and assets now begin. Often there are multiple systems involved for development, testing and quality assurance, and live deployment&ldots; and each one must be identified. Now, the engineers step in to develop the user interface, database diagrams and subsets of application logic.

  8. Production: During project production, it is important that an approach based on repetition takes precedence over "waterfall" task sequencing. Prototypes usually act as non-linear contingencies, so you should pick the most complicated task out of the critical path and implement a test before the schedule says to, if you can. Run the proposed interface by a focus group to see what they say. Check your server connectivity when possible. Testing and code reviews should occur often throughout the entire course of development.

  9. Post Production: Maintaining, administering, and documenting your system should not be overlooked in budgeting. Remember that backup systems and automated archiving should be planned for and implemented. If your budget allows, utilities and tools can help alleviate the manpower needed to run complex routines. Your documentation should allow for interchangeable operators who can quickly pick up on the intricacies of the system.

  10. Evaluation and Feedback: A successful project should be seen as a natural outgrowth affecting the next budget allocation, and a continuation of the previous project. In other words, try to see the completion of Project A as Phase 1 of Project B, and so on. This momentum helps to extend your IT investment, making the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Every development project should be a means to achieving your tangible vision and mission&ldots;and its success will ultimately be validated by the users.

This Ebusiness article was written by Tunde Noibi on 2/11/2005

President, PCmaX Technologies, LLC