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Thoughts on building a Web Team

Taking a $3.8 bn retail and hospitality behemoth online is no small potatoes. As the head of Landmark Group's new Web Team, Savitar Jagtiani has some exciting challenges on his plate. He shares some of them here.

What was the need for an in-house Web Team?
We needed to raise the quality bar of the Landmark Group's web initiatives, which include design/redesign projects, project/product management & marketing, online marketing and more. 

When and how did you begin?
It all started in April 2009 with a four-fold mission:
  1. Redesign, develop and promote Citymax Hotel's online booking site
  2. Redesign the Landmark Group's corporate website
  3. Redesign the group's employee Intranet
  4. Design a loyalty website for the Landmark Group's 1.5 million loyalty card members

Citymax - before.jpg Citymax - after.jpg
The first promise was delivered in August 2009 with the redesigned and purely informational Citymax Hotels website (before/after screenshots above). Its transactional phase launched in April 2010 (our Hospitality division's first eCommerce site) along with the property launch of Citymax Al Barsha. 

Corporate site - before2.jpg Corporate site - after2.jpg

The next 3 promises were all delivered in 2010 itself with the rebooted, 150+ page corporate site (before/after screenshots above), the new socially-networked, Enterprise 2.0 Intranet for thousands of our Middle East team members (before/after screenshots below),

Intranet_before2.jpg Intranet - after2.jpg

and a clean, simple and country-specific loyalty website for our many Shukran members (new design below). As a bonus, we even rolled out the official Landmark Group blog.

Sounds like other businesses could use Web Teams too. Can you share some of your methodologies, beliefs and values?
We're big fans of design, usability and thought leaders like Apple and 37signals. The latter's 'Getting Real' philosophy is immensely useful and essentially our bible on how to approach project and product management. Some of the tricks we've learnt and practice include:
  • Building the user experience first. The user experience is the product.
  • Less is more (eg: less mass and less features = more focus, less code, less cost and less time to production).
  • Iterate, iterate, iterate!
  • The devil is in the detail.
  • Design precedes development - always.
  • Design, and products, are never finished - Kaizen (a Japanese concept of continuous improvement) drives freshness and innovation.

We're also huge believers in collaborative software like Basecamp (see our case study on 37Signals' Product Blog). Basecamp is our communication backbone and keeps us and our global network of partners both organized and connected.

What excites you most about your work?
First, there's no set formula to getting the web "right", so figuring out how to crack it is incredibly exciting. Second, I work with a great set of web professionals which is both awesome and a privilege. Third, knowing that we have the opportunity to make a profound impact on the web for millions of our users, our many businesses and the region at large, is a trip by itself.

What has been the biggest challenge so far?
Hiring. Finding and recruiting high quality web talent isn't easy; we're constantly on the lookout for fresh talent and eager, brilliant minds.

Where do you see the Web Team three years from now?
By 2014, I hope to have at least 30-40 people in our growing Web Team, a major expansion in our Product Management team, and new focused units for specific functions like e-commerce, social media and mobile products.

What's the best web experience you've had as a customer or business owner? Share it with us here!