When is a website not a 'website'?

Something is becoming apparent to those business owners who are switched on, those who want to lead the way...

Not too many years ago, businesses had a tough decision to make - to invest in a website or not. Websites weren't (and in many cases still aren't) cheap - there were no stand out 'free' website builders so it was tough to guarantee a return on that investment. Usually the answer came as a result of asking another question - "Are we getting enough business?". If the answer was no, there was a chance that the website could generate more, becoming a measurable but not guaranteed return.

What surprises me these days is that websites can be so much more than just a marketing tool yet the same questions are asked. "Should we invest? Do we need the business?". For a lot of businesses, work is plentiful and has been for a long time so there is no need to generate more sales through a website. But is that all a website can do?

With the rise of cloud computing, something is becoming apparent to those business owners who are switched on, those who want to lead the way, who get excited about innovation and who are looking for ways to secure their place in their industry - generating sales is simply one small function of a website.

With user groups and staff logons, business owners can present different users with content relevant to their role. Data can be collected and analysed in real time. Stores can communicate with each other quicker and easier than with email, staff can manage time sheets, work instructions can be forever up to date, training can not only happen online but skills and qualifications can be tracked... The list goes on.

Every business has a number of systems and processes which can be automated (Usually these are tasks which are repetitive or take a long time). Most businesses will have a good idea as to what's involved and how long they take. Through an initial review it's possible to estimate quite accurately just how long those same systems and processes could take if they were streamlined through intuitive forms, automated emails and responses and automatically generated documents (PDF, Excel, etc). The return on investment becomes not only very clear but also measurable and the decision therefore becomes very simple.

How much impact would it have on your business if you could save an hour each week? How about 10 hours? That weekly game of golf could be closer than you think...