3M : Hiding from itself
Outsourcing a critical area sends it off the radar.
3M, the US-based conglomerate, shows that outsourcing the investor relations section can be a risky business.
3M has a multi-country web estate sitting largely on one platform. A search engine covers all sites on the platform. Within corporate content, Investor Relations is one area that is hosted externally, accessible from a footer link on most pages. It is run by a third party and has its own URL but follows the main 3M template closely, including a search box that is linked to the same engine as other areas of the site.
Tests show that the engine does not cover the Investor Relations section. Terms such as ‘balance sheet’, a sub-section of Investor Relations, do not come up in the results; nor do any other pages in the investor section. This means it is not possible to search the section from within it.
Quite a few companies, particularly in the US, outsource their investor relations sections. There are usually compatibility problems with this, because the investors site will rarely stay in perfect sync with the rest of the presence. However, 3M takes the problem to a bizarre level.
The starting point is good, with Investor Relations sharing the same search mechanism as the rest of the site. But it then falls flat on its face by failing to cover the section. The problem appears to lie in the management of this super-complex web estate. While the issue here lies in the search engine itself rather than the third-party hosts, it also highlights the risks of outsourcing a crucial part of an online presence. An on-site search engine that can search other sites but not itself is an unusual and somewhat pointless beast.http://www.3m.com
First published on 09 July, 2009