In my experience as the managing partner of Infinite Networks, I have found that there is a perception amongst some of our clients that a web application, commonly referred to as a website, is perceived to be lower value than an enterprise on premise application. This is a common discussion amongst my staff due to the lack of understanding from some of our clients regarding the importance of security updates or change management relating to their online business systems.
The major difference is that most people expect their website to operate continuously and without maintenance, and that once their website goes live, it should just continue to work with no further effort or downtime.
As web applications or websites are public facing there is a higher importance around uptime and security updates, but this is often overlooked and not budgeted for. Unscheduled downtime not only affects organisational productivity but can also result in lost sales and reduced customer confidence, which directly impacts on brand reputation. Because these systems sit outside the corporate firewall and are mainly public facing, all the important strategies implored for enterprise applications should be applied to their web applications and website, and then some.
An enterprise application requires regular software updates or releases, change management, stakeholder engagement, testing, quality assurance and in most cases, project management, yet these are a rare expectation in the web world. Now take an enterprise application and expose it to the big bad world of the Internet, then throw in a client expectation that their application exist issue free so as to protect the organisations reputation but no budget to ensure this is the case yet the risks are sometimes much higher.
So why is there an expectation from clients that a web application/service/site should be less important?
More and more web applications and websites are becoming business critical, and require strategic planning and thinking around how they should be maintained. This is not only due to education of the client, but also the web industry taking responsibility for understanding this requirement, and making it known up front.
When assessing or developing a web application or website it is useful to discuss ongoing costs such as maintenance, support and response times if something may stop working. If this is something not being discussed up front be sure to ask these questions.
My favourite analogy is you wouldn’t purchase a brand new van for your business and not take it to the dealer for scheduled services to save money and then be surprised when it broke down. So apply the same mindset to your web applications or website.
But then again…