The web is enough

August 2011

Recently at work I’ve found myself being pulled in a few directions by some departures and reshuffles and this has made me think about something I haven’t had to really articulate before so I thought I’d give it a go here.

It is enough to be good at “the web”.

Throughout the business world it’s not possible to get by without using something connected to the internet. It is a fact of life that we use computers and the web every day to complete a huge range of tasks. Most areas of any large business will be internet-enabled in some way or another. The challenge that I have faced recently is explaining that these different web-enabled pieces of the business are actually largely separate and require professionals with skills distinct from those possessed by web designers and developers. Let me give you an example.

The business I work for has many websites designed to eventually funnel leads into a customer relationship management tool. This is one process requiring significant expertise to complete successfully. From there, they are then dealt with by a team of people who are experts at CRM usage. This is another process requiring a different set of skills.

Recently I’ve been asked to add CRM to my job role (albeit as a minor part). From my perspective, this essentially this means dealing with the other side of the conversion funnel and diminishes my ability to focus on web-related craftsmanship. The performance of these funnel websites can be measured and continually improved by the careful application of a range of web skills. As the organisation is very large, improving these websites is a massive challenge in and of itself and one that requires significant teams of smiled people to accomplish. Similarly, CRM systems are huge and complex and a wide range of professionals spend their lives trying to learn the best way to implement and operate these complex business behemoths.

Although I could learn to be good at aspects of CRM and potentially like it (sure, why not), I believe they would be a distraction from my passion and the craft of building excellent websites. In the same way that it would not be reasonable to expect that an accountant is all of a sudden going to include gym instructing into his or her role, I believe that web professionals should be able to draw boundaries which say that not all web-enabled business tools should be added to theirs. The fact that as we may be better suited than most is irrelevant – the web is too a demanding a mistress to be ignored.

The ‘web’ as a professional discipline has been maturing at an increasingly rapid pace. Already fractured into many dozens of sub-disciplines, it is developing so quickly that I, like many others I suspect, find that keeping up with best-practices, new tools and techniques is more than just a full-time job. It is so demanding as a profession that only those who are truly passionate about what they do are able to get to the stage where they are able to innovate and do truly amazing things. There are plenty of average websites out there. By letting a web role be diluted by adding these extra business processes and roles, I’m actually doing a disservice to myself and my employer. My skill lies in improving the usability and effectiveness of our website as a business tool, and not in customer database management. There are others passionate about customer relationship marketing who would be better placed to do an outstanding job in that area.

Think for a second the range of topics that the average web professional must have a working understanding of (and I’m not even going to go deeply into the programming languages):

The web is enough.

Do you agree?