I P M A  News

  Information Processing Management Associates December 1996  

Edited By Mary Ellen Bradley

Web Page Access To All | Falling Short On The Web | FORUM '96 A Success
Paperless Technologies | November Board Meeting

"God must love the common man, He made so many of them."
—Abe Lincoln

"Imagination is more important than knowledge."
—Albert Einstein

Web Page Access To All

Pat McLain

Yogi Berra’s non-sequitur "The future ain't what it used to be," may prove to be more profound than even he could have imagined. Until very recently our future was conceived as a refinement, a continuation of the past built upon the fundamental changes that began in the 15th century marking the transition from Middle Ages to Renaissance.

Today we are in the throws of another fundamental change that will make our customary ways of succeeding irrelevant. So says Oren Harari in his book Jumping the Curve. He points to an uncharted future that is rapidly changing. For business and government this means rising expectations for service from the public.

Web sites are the place where this transformational change is happening most rapidly and where the opportunity for us to build software around the public is most immediate. If we are to remain relevant and competitive we must design and build information systems (and web sites specifically) for anyone to use at any time in any way they choose.

Anyone means the full range of public and their full range of both technical and physical abilities: People with technology capable of using Java and people using 286s in rural public libraries; people with varying abilities - the 49 million who have disabilities, the 77 million baby boomers nearing 50, the elderly who do not consider themselves disabled but have difficulty reading or hearing; and children, so adept and so adaptable.

Making systems accessible to the fullest range of users is not just the right thing to do, it is good business. Our competitiveness, our ability to deliver services and reach customers, our credibility with the public depends upon their ability to use our services easily, and transparently.

Here are a few tips you can use to make your web pages more accessible:

  • Simplify and group selection of options (buttons) together and be consistent in their placement on the page;
  • Avoid detailed backgrounds (they are slow to load and hard to read);
  • Avoid using tables and text-only options;
  • Test your web page with a Web Browser like Bobby (http://www/cast.org/bobby/);
  • Do not use blinking text; and
  • Check out the web page for Washington Assistive Technology Alliance and AssistiveTechnology Resource Center at: http://weber.u.washington.edu/~atrc/access_index.html for ideas on how to make your home page easy to read.

Pat McLain is the ADA Facilities Program Manager for the Dept. of General Administration.

Falling Short On The Web

The Web is the current hot topic. At the IPMA forum, Bruce Rogow, the Wednesday keynote speaker, said that companies are not dedicating enough resources to customer service responses on the Web and suggested that we could learn from their example. He cited an article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), October 21, 1996 which showed that many companies are falling short in responding to customer inquiries on their Web sites.

The article was titled “Simplest E-Mail Queries Confound Companies” and was written by Thomas E. Weber. Weber researched several companies e-mail responses and found that getting an answer was much harder than asking a question. In other words, companies asked for consumers input on their home pages but failed to keep up with their end of the conversation.

The Wall Street Journal zapped e-mail to two dozen major corporate Web sites with e-mail capabilities and found that most did not respond. Nine never responded, two took three weeks to respond and others sent stock replies that did not address the query. Only three companies answered within a day. If the Internet is a method for corresponding with customers, then companies that do not talk back to them are not providing a service. Many companies are courting costumers by computer now but find that providing this service is more expensive than they realized.

The problem for most companies is that providing support is expensive. L.L. Bean had to pull nine employees from their 800 number support to provide e-mail support. Apple Computer Inc. responded that e-mail requires labor-intensive, personal follow-ups. This explained why they responded to query with “we need to let you know that the webmaster can’t answer these questions.”

For example, the WSJ asked Duracell whether Duracell batteries will last longer if stored in the fridge. Duracell International, Inc. never responded.

Even high-tech companies failed. IBM answered a product inquiry with an e-mail message to call its toll-free number. Eastman Kodak responded to a question about storing film with a brochure sent through the US mail.

There were a few companies that did well. Whirpool responded to their e-mail within 24 hours. LL Bean Inc. (http:/www.llbean.com) provided tips on waterproofing boots within hours. Ford Motor Co. responded to a question within a day and even though it had a few misspellings it thoroughly answered the question.

However the more typical response came from Mercedes-Benz which said “Thank you very much for your e-mail...it would be helpful if you could give us your post address.”

The lesson for government agencies is clear. If you ask for customer input, then respond promptly. If you provide a Web site make sure that you have the resources dedicated to it that will insure that it is a satisfactory experience for your customers.

—Mary Ellen Bradley

FORUM '96 A Success

FORUM '96 continued the tradition of success for the IPMA. More than 800 government technology professionals attended the two day event to listen to the guest speakers and visit the 40 vendor displays and corporate sponsors.

Dennis Laine, FORUM '96 Committee Chairman and
Joe Brown, Sales Representative for Oracle.

Dennis Laine, Chairman of the FORUM '96 Committee, reported "The turnout was good and the attendees got an opportunity to hear about some the latest things happening in our field." "It was a lot of work and I really appreciate everything the FORUM Committee members, our corporate sponsors and participating vendors did to make this a success," Laine added.

Mike McVicker (barely in the picture), Jim Andersen,
FORUM '96 Committee Vice Chairman, and Bob Marlatt,
IPMA Board Chairman.

Plans are already underway for FORUM '97, so mark your calendars for October 21 & 22, 1997.

Paperless Technologies

The Olympia Chapter of the Association of Government Accountants (AGA) is sponsoring a technical session on “Paperless Technology and Process Innovation”. It will be held Friday, December 20, 1996 at the Labor and Industries Building Auditorium in Tumwater.

The speaker is George J. Dunn, a recognized expert in the areas of paperless technology and process innovation. He will discuss trends, risks and abilities of paperless technology as well as how to blueprint, model, and redesign an organization to use the technology.

Those interested in attending should call Holly Medlin at 902-7364 or Mark Jarasitis at 753-3030. The cost for non-AGA members will be $100.

—Mary Ellen Bradley

November Board Meeting

Members Present: Bob Monn, Shelagh Taylor, Phil Coates, Al Bloomberg, Phil Grigg, Mary Ellen Bradley, Darrel Riffe, Jim Andersen, Bob Marlatt, Joe Coogan

The Board Meeting was opened by Bob Marlatt at 7:35 a.m. November 14, 1996.

Chair—Bob Marlatt discussed some inquiries he had received concerning the discontinued monthly meetings. Several people had expressed interest in having them resume. The Board discussed the possibility of having monthly functions, not necessarily luncheons, as opportunities to discuss issues and network with colleagues. Bob Monn will give this idea consideration as part of the Professional Development program.

Secretary—The minutes were approved as published in the October IPMA Newsletter.

Treasurer—The monthly treasurer’s report was distributed, reviewed and approved. The Board agreed to discuss an investment strategy at the meeting in December.

Business and Finance—Al Bloomberg reviewed the budget status reports for the year-to-date. There was some discussion about development of a spreadsheet that would track expenditures by major IPMA event/initiative. Al will pursue this approach for the next meeting.

Phil Grigg is leading the elections process this year. Ballots are about to be sent out. Phil shared that it was difficult to find people willing to be candidates for elections to the Board. The results of the election will be reported at the next Board meeting.

Communications Committee—Butch Stussy attended the meeting to discuss his plan to include more pictures in the newsletter. The Board discussed the current status of the IPMA Home Page, and the difficulty in getting information added in a timely manner. The Board authorized Joe Coogan to pursue the purchasing of Internet services to ensure timeliness in Home Page development and maintenance.

Forum—In Dennis Laine’s absence, Mary Ellen Bradley reported on Forum ’96. It was noted that attendance was down this year, and that the decline was most likely due to the fact that a brochure mailing did not go out to all of last year’s attendees. Some of the vendors had noted that they were pleased that more decision makers attended this year. The Board discussed some possible changes for next year. Dennis and the Forum Planning Committee will hold a debriefing in December to document lessons learned. Forum ’97 will be October 21st and 22nd.

Executive Seminar Darrel reported he has begun working on a time, theme and location for next year’s seminar.

Professional Development—Bob Monn reported there were 14 attendees at the Project Estimating class in October. The Project Management class which was cancelled in September has been rescheduled for December 9th and 10th.

Shelagh Taylor

IPMA, P.O. Box 1943, Olympia, WA 98507-1943