With the obsolescence of the phonebook, businesses of all sizes can no longer afford to be absent from the Internet. For a Fortune 500—or even a 1,000—company, CIOs and chief technology officers (CTO) can put a company on the digital map. But for small businesses, the truly underserved population when it comes to IT, Web.com has been providing affordable solutions since 1997. As common knowledge of the Internet’s functionality and the intuitivism of technology and applications has increased since Web.com’s founding, competition online has stiffened considerably. Now, not only do businesses need websites, but ratings and search-engine optimization.
“Small companies who couldn’t even think of hiring the resources in IT to drive really strong online presences are getting the opportunity for us to build it for them,” says Web.com CTO Jane Landon. “They’re buying a pinky finger, an arm, and a leg of a technologist, a professional writer, a web designer, an advertiser, and even a CTO.”
Beginning as a holding company, Web.com has grown primarily through acquisition, and is now leveraging those investments to take on a customer-focused business model. In 2010, Web.com doubled its revenue with the addition of Register.com, a domain-name registrar, web-hosting, website-design, and online-marketing provider. A year later, it doubled again when Network Solutions, a domain registration, e-mail, and web-hosting enterprise, joined the fold. The real boon of both acquisitions, however, was the potential for cross-sales with each company promising at least a million customers.
What’s kept Landon busy for the last three years—besides keeping the lights on for Web.com and the millions of businesses relying on it to host their sites—has been the integration of those properties. And while streamlining conflicting platforms is a technical feat in itself, Landon also had to tackle the challenge of refocusing the company’s culture to reflect its new direction. “Change isn’t easy for anybody,” she says. “You go through ebbs and flows where people say they’ve bought in and understand, but they’re really fighting you underground.” Just as the complementary businesses brought overlapping products and services that had to be trimmed, Landon had to establish new lines of accountability between the IT and marketing teams and continually remind people of the forest despite the trees.
No more than a month after the ink dried on the Register.com sale, Landon was shoring up talent from within the ranks of eight smaller companies to be ambassadors for the unified Web.com front. The speed with which a larger, leaner Web.com has emerged is much to the credit of the company’s leadership. “From a merger perspective, senior management did a lot of growing up,” Landon says.
One of the first measures Landon took when Web.com restructured was to create an IT governance council. Meeting biweekly, the group puts the IT project docket through triage to maximize the time and talents of Landon’s department, and, equally as important, the team develops communication to translate decisions to the rest of the company. “I have a joke where I ask, ‘Are there elephants dancing on the fourth floor?’” Landon says. “If you don’t give people a rationale for a decision, it often looks like random decisions from leadership coming down on their heads.”
While technical work is ongoing, Landon says the cultural transition at Web.com is complete, allowing her team to get back to what they excel at: innovating. “I’m jealous,” Landon jokes. “As the CTO, I miss being back on the front lines, developing solutions for our customers.”
The ceiling is high for her team’s potential. As long as technology continues to progress, so will customers’ desires for increased features, utilities, and functionality. It’s Landon’s mission to ensure Web.com will be there to deliver. “We’re bringing it together,” she says. “We’re creating competitive advantage.”