Responsibility of site speed: NOT an IT subject (alone)

Get a performance responsible – not in IT!

Target audience for this article:

You seem to have an issue with your site. Your customers complain and you have known it for a while… there is a serious problem with the loading time of your site. Finally it is time you take action! You decide to give it the attention it deserves. So you turn to your infrastructure guy to sort out what is needed to scale up the infrastructure.

Although he tells you that servers are not the problem according to him – you tell him that the consumers voice is differently…. After a little sigh, he takes up the challenge you ask him: “scaling up the infrastructure” – so after two weeks he comes back to you with a detailed plan on how to have your database clustered, your application server synced and an additional proxy which can deal with all the incoming requests. “Really future proof”, he sais. He has sorted out the costs and hours needed to make you ready for the years to come. All good it seems.

As you consider speed crucial: you approve his approach. And you smile as you feel you are half-way your problem…You credit him for his expertise and plan of attack and off he goes.

Wrong! Wrong..wrong….

What is your problem? You want to improve your site speed!? Well – make sure you solve the problem by understanding your issue in greater detail first. Likely it is not “just” some servers you need to switch on. Also moving to the cloud doesn’t help I bet… there is a lot written about improving speed [read the speed problem overview], but at the end it is about the total ‘stuff’ you want to send from your server (and the servers from your partners) to the browsers of your audience – and that you need to optimize. And who is responsible for that? Your IT team? Normally not, as they “just” execute what the marketer and agency invents, the designers designs or the process owner specifies. Often the IT experts don’t decide about the services and new features you want on the site…Do they?

Who, for example, decided about the ads served on your site? Or the survey system you use? Or the new awesome banner on the homepage? Just think about this for a second…

Some nice examples we experienced;

If your database experts try to save milliseconds on a query, it doesn’t help that your marketer uploads a 2-MB flash banner on your site (which renders poorly – even though it was created by an expensive digital agency!) Or if your network operator buys new expensive hardware while he (and you) didn’t even consider enabling a cashing network, because such caching network has never been part of his job description!

As speed is such a critical factor for successful websites, decisions about what is shown or served to your audience needs to be made with speed in mind. From day one, not afterwards as the impact is huge! Speed optimization is something that needs to be embedded within your whole online organization; from design and marketing to your network and database experts… they all have to live and breathe speed.

If you want to create and keep a quick website – you have to make someone end-responsible for it who speaks the language of marketers AND is able to communicate well with the technical guys. Only such a person is able to make a good judgment between the commercial potential of the cool new features and the potential impact it has on your sites loading time.

Our suggestion is that the final ownership of performance should sit with the person (or within the group of people) that decide(s) about the functionalities and features on the website. They are often the only one empowered to define strict guidelines and requirements to keep your loading time to a minimum. So just remember if you have some loading time issues: don’t blame your IT team!

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