Gerry McGovern // New Thinking

Web’s key management metric: task completion

May 27, 2007 -- Gerry McGovern

Supposing someone has to visit 20 pages on a website to complete a task, when with better management, they would only have to visit 5. Thus, the more page impressions, the more frustrated customers become.

If a website has lots of repeat visitors, does that mean they couldn't complete their tasks on their first visits? If a website has increasing search behavior, is that because the navigation is so confusing that people are forced to search?

The trap of volume is a dangerous one. I have met people who told me that they wouldn't remove old and out-of-date content from their websites because it might result in a drop in the number of page impressions.

Task management is based on the simple idea that your customers come to your website to complete common tasks as quickly and simply as possible. It measures success by how quickly your customers can complete these tasks. Task management is not simply about transactions. It is easy to understand booking a flight as a task. However, finding out what the weather will be like tomorrow is also a task. Finding people, training, and job vacancies, are common intranet tasks. Understanding the policy on when you can book a taxi and claim it back as expenses is also an intranet task.

Reporting a pothole, contacting a councilor and checking what garbage goes in what bin, are common local government tasks. Finding details on a particular course is a common task for a prospective student visiting a university website. Researching the cure for an illness is a common health-related task. A common task for those who visit hotel websites is to get easy-to-follow directions.

Web task management measures success based on a simple question: Was your customer able to quickly complete the task they came to your website to complete? Answering this simple question demands a very different website management approach.

Task management is observation driven. It involves constantly observing customers in order to see how easy it is for them to complete common tasks. This observation needs to be turned into averages.

You need to be able to identify the average length of time it takes a prospective student to get the course details they want. You also need to be able to identify the average length of time it takes to find an expert using the intranet.

Once you establish averages, you can set a clear plan for improvement. Let's say it takes an average of 7 minutes for a mother to find out what government support is available for her autistic child. Next year you can seek to reduce that average time to 6 minutes.

What is success on the Web? Your customers being able to do the things they need to do quickly and simply. It is time to break away from the old measures of quantity, and focus on quality. Task management focuses on the quality of the customer's experience.

Managing the technology is organization-centric. Managing the content is organization-centric. Managing the task is truly customer-centric. Measuring the success of your customer is the superior way to gauge the success of your website.