Illustration by

Create an Evolutionary Web Strategy with a Digital MRO Plan

Many organizations, large and small, approach creating their web presence as if it’s a one-time project. They invest an enormous amount of time and money in a great web design, content strategy, and technical implementation; and then they let the website sit there for months and even years without meaningful updates or enhancements. When the web presence becomes so out of date it’s barely functional, it becomes clear to them that the site needs a refresh (or more likely another full redesign).

Article Continues Below

Redesigns are great. But there’s a better way: ensure your client has a website that continually adapts to their needs.

Equip your client with a framework that helps them with ongoing management of their web presence. This plan also ensures you continue to build a strong relationship over the long term. It’s called an MRO plan.

MRO stands for Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul. It’s a term most often used with building facilities or machinery.

A house is a machine for living in.

Le Corbusier

Everyone knows that a building or a piece of heavy machinery needs a regular maintenance plan. Buildings and machines are complex systems that need tuning and maintenance. Websites are also complex systems. You could say, “A website is a machine for engagement.” To keep that engagement running smoothly, your client needs a plan that includes regular maintenance along with content and feature updates.

The problem with the curve#section2

Typically, websites undergo waves of full redesign, neglect, failure, full redesign. Think of it as a series of bell curves dipping into the negative between revolutionary overhauls.

The revolution approach to managing your web presence.
The revolution approach to managing your web presence.

Your client comes to you with an initial big push to deliver a new web design and content strategy, something that they will be able to manage without your assistance. And you provide that. But once you walk away, the website stops evolving.

During this time, the client’s products or services may evolve, and they may adapt their product-based content to changes in their market—but they don’t touch the website. Like old bread, their website gets stale until the day comes when it’s clear that it needs to be fixed ASAP. That’s when you get the call. There’s a huge drive to do a website redesign, and a big new project is kicked off.

You finish the project and walk away. Again.

But this is a mistake. It’s smarter to show your client how to implement a plan that protects their investment in their website. It’s smarter for the client, and it’s smarter for you too because it allows you to develop an ongoing relationship that ensures you have recurring revenue over a longer period.

Convince your client to break this endless cycle of big, expensive redesign projects every few years. Show them that they need to manage their website the same way they manage product development–by consistently and regularly monitoring and managing their web experience, focusing on ongoing maintenance, interim updates, and major overhauls when needed.

Think evolution not revolution#section3

A digital MRO plan provides continual investment so websites can evolve in a more consistent manner over time–evolution versus revolution. The evolutionary approach requires your client to regularly update their website based on how their company, the industry, and their customer data is changing.

The revolution approach to managing your web presence.
An MRO program for a web presence–the evolution approach.

Define an MRO framework for your client with three phases:

  1. Maintenance: This is the phase that occurs over a long period, with regular monitoring of web pages, content assets, and other resources in addition to functionality. The maintenance phase is about fixing small things, making small changes or updates that don’t require major work on the website.

    How you can help: Outline a regular maintenance plan where issues are documented and then packaged together into maintenance updates. In some cases, these fixes are content-based, in other cases they are functionality bugs or small updates that need to be applied.

    You can work on these maintenance updates monthly or more often depending on the situation, delivering regular changes to the website to keep it up to date.

  2. Repair: Repairs are like interim updates. They may require a fair amount of changes to the website to fix a problem or implement a new concept or idea, but they don’t require a full redesign. Some examples include updating or removing a section of the website not visited often, rewriting an outdated key whitepaper, or improving the resources section. They could also include rewrites to web pages for a new version of a product, or the addition of a set of new web pages.

    How you can help: Whether it’s a set of web pages for a new product, or a redesign of the resources section of the website, recommend quarterly reviews of the website where you can discuss new content or functionality that can be added to the site to improve it for customers and prospects. This requires that you follow trends in both content marketing and design/development, as well as trends in the industry of the client (and their competition). Recommend “mini” projects to implement these interim updates for your client.

  3. Overhaul: During an overhaul phase it’s time for that full redesign. Maybe the client is implementing a new brand, and they need to update their website to reflect it. Maybe they need to implement a modern CMS. Overhaul projects take time and big budgets, and typically take place every five or more years.

    How you can help: Working with the client on a regular basis on maintenance and small repairs enables you to demonstrate your understanding of the client, their needs and their customers’ needs, proving that you are the right one to run the redesign project. Your knowledge of the industry, along with your experience with the website and the technology it lives on makes you the right choice. Recommend a full website review every four to five years to determine if a redesign is necessary, and to demonstrate how you are in the best position to complete the project successfully.

Your digital MRO plan should prioritize and align work based on the evolution of the customer’s organization or business, as well as the feedback visitors are giving on the website. Incorporating customer feedback and analytics into your MRO plan provides the insight you need to streamline engagement and helps your customer validate the return on investment from their website. You can use surveys, A/B tests, session cams, heat maps, and web analytics reports to focus on the areas of the site that need updating and prioritize projects into each phase of the MRO plan.

The benefits of an MRO program for web presence#section4

With a solid MRO plan you can help your client manage their website like they would their products and services: with regular, consistent updates. Creating a digital MRO plan enables you to show your client how they can get more consistent, predictable ROI from their website and other digital channels and streamline their budget.

When pitching an MRO program to your client, focus on the following benefits:

  • Budget management: By following an MRO program, costs are spread over a longer period instead of a big outlay of time and money for a large project.
  • Improved customer experience: Implementing web analytics, listening posts, surveys, and feedback programs ensures the client is listening to its customers and delivering on customer needs consistently, improving website engagement.
  • Content is never out of date: Product-based content assets are updated in line with product/service improvements, ensuring the most current information is available on the website. You can also help your client plan additions to marketing content assets or add news in line with product updates.
  • Reduced costs and increased ROI: The website is a primary value driver for every business. It’s the best salesperson, the digital storefront, the manifestation of a brand, and a hub for customer services and support. Keeping the website working well will increase digital ROI and lower costs.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of an MRO plan is more successful redesigns. With an MRO program in place, clients can take the guesswork out of large redesign projects. They will have the results of years of optimization to build upon, ensuring that when they do launch the big redesign they will have real data and experience to know what will work.

Be an integral part of an MRO plan#section5

It’s one thing to recommend and sell a client on following an MRO plan, but it’s another to ensure that you and/or your team are an integral part of that plan. Here are some suggestions on how you can build your time and budget into an MRO plan.

  1. Recommend a dedicated cross-functional digital team with time and resources allocated for the website. The team should include capabilities such as a writer, designer, and web developer. Depending on your relationship with the client, one or two of those capabilities, such as content writing/analysis or design and development, should be provided by you or your team.
  2. Schedule monthly cross-functional meetings to brainstorm, research, and validate requirements and ideas for website updates and changes. You should have access to website analytics so you can stay informed about the performance of the website. Based on these meetings, help the client package changes into maintenance or interim updates.
  3. Suggest a process and budget to handle maintenance updates based on your experience with this client and similar clients.
  4. Provide a budget for regular website design and enhancement implementation by you or your team. The scope and regularity of these enhancements will vary based on the needs of the business or organization, but plan for no less than once per quarter. Build in enough time to monitor the client’s industry and competition, as well as review website analytics and content management trends.
  5. Recommend a process for completing a full website review driven by you. This takes the burden off the client to plan and coordinate the review and ensures you are part of the review and recommendations for a redesign.

A proactive approach#section6

For many organizations, the easy route is revolution. It seems easier because it happens only once every few years. But this tactic takes more time and costs much more money up front.

An MRO program ensures businesses are strategically managing their web presence and putting in place the ongoing resources to keep it up to date and relevant for their prospects and customers.

One of those ongoing resources is you. Build your role into the MRO program, indicating where you can provide services that support different phases of the program. Being involved on a regular basis with maintenance and interim updates demonstrates your understanding of the clients’ needs and ensures you will be the one they come to when the big redesign project happens (and it will happen).

Whether you are a single freelancer, a two-person team, or part of a larger agency, the key to building long-term, revenue-generating relationships with clients is getting them to see the value of a proactive approach for website management. An MRO program can help you do that.

About the Author

David Hillis

David Hillis is VP of Business for Ingeniux, a web CMS designed for agile content. David believes we are entering the third wave of digital content, from mobile to social to cloud, where everything needs to change, even your CMS.

14 Reader Comments

  1. Excellent, in-depth piece David. I think an MRO program adds some real value added service to clients and this approach is something we will look to incorporate into our very own processes. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Great article. Creating a long-term web strategy can be difficult because the tools and trends shift so rapidly, but this is a great framework to accommodate those changes, whatever they may be. (And perfect timing – this dovetails nicely into a web optimization plan I’m working on for our org.)

  3. Glad the MRO approach is helpful. I truly believe content management is a process, not a project or a product. I think the more structure you can add to your process, the more successful you will be on the web.

    Erik, I would be interested in learning more about your optimization plan. Sounds interesting.

  4. Love it!

    Another thing that this approach has over a more traditional approach is that it is much more likely that deadlines can be met. Nothing it more likely to slip a deadline than a monolithic, momentous redesign. You won’t get everything 100 % right and you will be late.

    Again learning from industry / software development: one apparently little tweak in one place can have side effects throughout a project. This is much easier to handle if you’re working iteratively any way.

  5. When I saw this article I dropped everything in the middle of a busy day to read and now comment.

    I think the MRO analogy is terrific. Thanks for the great article.

    In the digital world, I think there’s another type of change in addition to the maintenance, repair, and overhaul: the one-off. I mention this since it’s rarely the best option but one that is frequently used by organizations. Basically, teams just hive off a project (so the MRO cycles continue on the “main site” but another gremlin is generated).

    Also see:

  6. Great points (and post) David Hobbs. Many organizations fall into the trap of creating additional sites rather than evolving the primary site to encompass the whole organization.

    To your point Charlie, building an MRO program will also make you more agile and better able to meet deadlines.

  7. Hello,
    Thank you for for your article very interesting .
    It seems indeed to be a good practice, the harder still to convince his client to comply.


  8. I’ve always been a fan of constant optimization and a proactive approach. Great article and charts were nice too. Let’s hope more web developers and webmasters get the clue haha.

  9. Nice article David. I always think that the MRO approach and similar type approaches are not only better for the client but for our industry as well. The thing is , as we “partner” with our clients in this maintenance relationship, we get a much more intimate picture of their organizations well. What started off as mere personas develop into much deeper profiles of our clients’ clients. This leads to a much more involved marketing function and a much more refined view of the end user.

Got something to say?

We have turned off comments, but you can see what folks had to say before we did so.

More from ALA