Site Savvy

SAN MATEO (04/24/2000) - There are loads of opportunities out there for new products, services, and partnerships that could really make a Web business hum.

There are also boatloads of bombs, and one of them may have your name on it.

I receive several "Let's Make a Deal" calls every day. How can you pick the winners instead of the losers?

We've developed a tool to help us determine the best products, services, and partnerships for our dot-com business. It's called the InfoWorld.com litmus test. Our business and technology architects are putting it into action, looking for opportunities to better meet your needs. Our architects are very different from traditional business developers. They are both tech smart and business-savvy. Many traditional business developers fail when it comes to defining, collecting, and analyzing dot-com data. They typically don't have what it takes to advance application design and architecture. If you're serious about competing in the Web space, a position synonymous with our technology and business architect is a must. Incidentally, their resumes are not available.

Our architects are the scientists when it comes to the litmus test. The goal of our test is to help identify and justify key strategic technology initiatives that maximize business results. The test shows how a proposed solution benefits our business. Our litmus test addresses business strategy, technology evaluation, and architecture strategy. It also serves as a tool for promoting our ideas, gaining consensus, and scoring the funds.

The test is divided into six sections. The first is an overview and includes a short synopsis of the proposed solution, including primary benefits for both the short and the long term. Most importantly, it explains how the solution fits into your long-term strategy. If you don't have your mission, vision, or long-term strategy in place, stop. Abandon the litmus test, and get your 40,000-foot view in place.

The second section of the test addresses brand strategy. Describe how the solution enhances or protects your brand. How will it help you build positive brand recognition? Does the solution leverage an existing product or service?

Ideally, you'd like to rely on your core competencies, but that's not always a requirement.

Now, on to serious, well-defined matters. The third section covers far less fluff, and often what matters most: revenue. What will this solution bring to your bottom line? In this section, you'll be describing the money pool. Be sure to calculate and show in detail the potential for revenue and profits, both direct and indirect. Depict this information over time and account for growth.

Going out as far as 10 years may be next to impossible, but three to five years should be well within the target. Don't overproject and oversell your solution.

Expectations will be set based on the information delivered in the money section. Don't be afraid to say that the solution will not be profitable for a while or that the profits will be indirect.

The fourth section is growth and direction. How does the solution steer growth and direction? For example, what will be the impact on Web site traffic in both the short and the long term? Does the solution provide any sort of competitive advantage? What are the effects on the growth and direction of the target audience? Be sure to include all the criteria used for evaluating the solution.

You want to show that the solution is not a fad and will not be replaced by new technology next week. You need to justify why the solution is better than other competitive or noncompetitive solutions.

You're near the end of the test now, but the fifth section is no easy task.

This section covers the costs and risks associated with the solution. Be sure to thoroughly describe the required investment, including all costs -- in terms of time, money, and people. Include both implementation and recurring costs.

Also include the list of risks associated with both implementing and not implementing the solution.

Finally, the last section. Day in and day out, we often forget to check our gut. Trust your instincts. When it comes to "Let's Make a Deal," there's no better indicator.

Laura Wonnacott is vice president of InfoWorld.com. Send her e-mail at laura_wonnacott@infoworld.com.

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