When prioritizing which new technologies to pursue, the advice from experts is simple: Start with your target audience.
“There are a lot of new technologies and fads that come and go, but you always have to ask yourself: Does it provide a benefit to the user?” said Paul Price, Web director at Reed Construction Data. “A lot of things might be good for the advertiser or good for the publisher, but what's the real value to the end user? If there's no real value, it's going to end up being a fad and going away.”
Begin by determining who you are trying to reach and then identify what goals and tasks those people are trying to accomplish, said Marc Strohlein, chief agility officer at Outsell Inc. “Understand them as best you can and then work backward,” he said.
Companies get into trouble when they start by deciding on a technology they'd like to implement, Strohlein said. “Then they find out they've created something that's really cool but doesn't necessarily solve anyone's problems,” he said.
Another tried but true piece of advice—the oldest rule in the book for journalism, said Sam Pfeifle, executive editor of United Publications' Security Systems News and Security Director News—is to be where your readers are. “If your readers aren't using Twitter, then don't spend a bunch of time on it,” he said. “Make sure you're talking to someone and they're receiving your message.”
Coming up with an ROI game plan is critical, said Prescott Shibles, CEO of Vital Business Media. List all your cost-savings opportunities and revenue opportunities with a confidence percentage, he said. “Don't automatically assume that everything's going to hit,” he said. “Figure out what the speed to market is going to look like—what the time and effort involved will be—and evaluate them all on the same basis.”
Shibles also suggested mapping out implementation phases for each project and determining what's going to provide value and what won't. For example, a publisher that is implementing subscription-management technology might evaluate how many additional e-mail addresses the project will yield, how many additional leads can be generated from those e-mail addresses, and how much customer service and verification costs could be reduced.
And, when pitching upper management, focus on cost-savings, Shibles said. “Your CFO is more likely to approve something that will save you money,” he said. “They believe in cost savings; they're not so sure about revenue unless you have signed commitments.”
Finally, steer clear of the two mistakes that companies rolling out a new technology most commonly make: not determining—and sticking to—the scope of the project, and not documenting it well.
“Far too often, people agree to a certain scope for a project and then realize, "Oh, I want just one more thing and then one more thing after that,' ” Shibles said. “Those little things derail the project.” —M.E.M.