Policy, Compliance

When implementing compliance standards, don’t forget the website

October 13, 2006

In recent years, the number of websites has increased exponentially. As a result of this growth, together with ever-changing dynamic content, greater compliance and usability requirements, and a diversified audience in publishing and reviewing web content and quality, organizations must explore a collaborative website and testing workflow strategy. This can be accomplished through the implementation of an automated monitoring process for the creation and maintenance of a best-of-breed website. Through a strong and proven financial return model, these collaborative website testing efforts will allow for a greater user experience, more viewer opportunities, risk management mitigation and a greater level of corporate responsibility.

Websites serve as the public face for many different types of organizations: government, corporate, educational and non-profit. These websites must accurately represent and reflect company standards and legal information, and also adhere to increasingly stringent accessibility, operational security and privacy legislation within the U.S. and around the world.

Businesses today understand that providing a quality online experience for customers is critical to the bottom-line financial health of an organization. In order to stay competitive online, organizations must develop and maintain ready, reliable and responsive customer-facing websites. The continuously changing environment of the web, however, makes it extremely challenging for managers, marketing teams and IT professionals to create, implement, manage and monitor their organizations' websites for policy compliance, security, structure, integrity and intellectual property usage.

When these standards can be structured and implemented, they have great value. Implementing a solution to accomplish this task, however, has been unmanageable and cost-prohibitive to many organizations. Organizations often do not have dedicated IT and personnel resources to allocate to such challenges, yet business opportunities can be lost without implementation of an enterprise-wide solution. Approaching web content quality management as an afterthought is not an effective strategy, and can be cost-prohibitive and time-consuming. Organizations that include quality management as part of their development plans, and quality assurance and testing practices will have a tremendous economic advantage.

In these times of increasing online competition and regulation, organizations must improve operational costs, maximize their online presence, and reduce online exposure to provide a good return on investment (ROI). As developers build content for a website, they can and should test for compliance issues relating to security, privacy, accessibility and quality. By identifying and resolving these issues early in the development cycle, organizations can save a significant amount of time and money.

As compliance issues are identified, communicating the results and the steps being taken to fix them is an important consideration. A legal compliance officer or corporate-level executive needs to be assured that repairs are being made to address any problems with corporate or legal standards. Because of the global nature of business, it can be difficult to communicate within an organization that once issues are identified, they are then being repaired. Implementing a solution that uses a standardized dashboard reporting feature can be a key factor in keeping a development project on-track and insuring that a website meets the highest standards in security, privacy, accessibility and quality compliance. Standardized reports can provide executives with a snapshot of any compliance issues identified at the development level, and also monitor what issues are being addressed in a timely manner. In addition to using reports to provide a view of where things stand today, executives should also use them to show an analysis of trends and how the organization is maintaining its website for compliance issues on an ongoing basis.

Whether or not an organization has website quality or compliance built into the development cycle, it is still crucial to monitor the site regularly. With the amount of new information being posted to sites every day, it is difficult, if not impossible for an organization to manually check for compliance issues. For example, a Fortune 500 company might have millions of web pages, and can be making tens of thousands of changes daily. Manually monitoring very large sites, and even smaller sites, can require extensive man-hours and be extremely costly. Organizations that monitor a website manually also run the risk of missing critical issues due to human error.

Implementing a solution that enables automated content compliance is a cost-effective way for organizations to lessen their risk management exposure by ensuring their websites meet the ever-changing compliance standards. Organizations that don't automate the monitoring of websites for compliance issues run the risk of facing substantial fines for security, privacy and accessibility. Additionally, by enforcing a compliance policy across a website, an organization can broaden its market opportunities and reach new customers.

In the highly-competitive environment of the web, customers increasingly choose to do business with the company that promotes consumer confidence and corporate responsibility. For example, by developing and maintaining a site that meets accessibility compliance standards, an organization can reach disabled consumers who rely on some type of assistive device to access websites. With approximately 20 percent of the population disabled, this greatly expands an organization's market potential. A consumer will likely choose to do business with an organization that has a website that is monitored on a regular basis and meets the highest standards in security and privacy compliance, instead of one that has known security and privacy issues.

As we move into the future of the web, more and more organizations will realize the importance of developing and maintaining sites that promote the highest standards in security, privacy, accessibility and quality compliance.

Kurt A. Mueffelmann is president and chief executive officer of HiSoftware.

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