Raise your aspirations

Most people don’t know what they want until they see it. And in government, where projects are big and lead-times are long, that’s a problem.
I’m currently working with plans for a major new government website, building on an award-winning successor. It seeks to address a professional, and generally a communicative audience numbering many, many thousands. There are a couple of relatively smart tricks, like a personal homepage with various forms of saved ‘bookmark’. But it all feels a bit ‘web 1.0’, if you know what I mean.
This new site is going to cost a lot of money, so it has to have a long shelf-life: let’s say five years. Give it a year at the start to bed in, and a year at the end to grow old gracefully. So ideally, the functional specification needs to think ‘what will users be expecting a year (or more likely, two years) from now?’
To me, it’s crying out for a ‘web 2.0’ solution. The audience in question is likely to be very receptive to a community-driven site. I can imagine them sharing outputs of their work with others; reviewing products and facilities; recommending good web resources; offering their opinions on controversial issues; all that good stuff. It could, and probably would, be groundbreaking. But unless the project leader lives in the ‘visionary’ segment of Geoffrey Moore‘s technology adoption curve, the specification will only reflect what is already in the mainstream today.
It’s an opportunity I’ll be sorry to miss, if that’s what ultimately happens. But my bigger worry is for the position three years from now. As we watch ‘a new high-tech wave‘ approaching the shoreline, I worry that it’s going to be a lot of money for something that will look very dated very quickly.