David Bentley of NetConstruct wonders if companies know why they have websites
In 1997, a leading internet guru said: "By 2000, 98% of large and medium-sized businesses will have a website. Only 12% will know why." Wind the clock forward to 2003, and the 98% is almost certainly 100% – but there's a big question over where the 12% has got to. The reason may well lie in the word "measurement".

For an industry that thrives on accurate measurement in the field, we have a decided lack of enthusiasm for measurement on other business issues, especially websites. That must be a mistake. Websites should, like any other investment, be based on clear objectives and give measureable returns. How else will you know you are making progress?

That's fair enough for a manufacturer with a product to sell, you may say, but surely not to the service side of our industry? Well, times have changed.

Web applications flow across all sectors.

Public or private. Manufacturing or service.

The web is about "how" you do business. A set of flexible electronic tools that, through experience, you adapt to your own requirements. Learn from the success of others, even in quite different businesses, and the opportunities are endless.

And there's the rub. Success is much easier to applaud when measured. So what should you be measuring and how should you report? Should websites have key performance indicators and service level agreements? Why not?

Behind every website are continually updated statistics that cover every page of a site. How often do these statistics reach the hands of business managers, the people who can turn raw data into reasoned decision-making? Are statistics made available on a firm's intranet? How often do they reach the board?

Sit these statistics alongside changes in productivity, reductions in cost, acquisition of new clients and other best value criteria, and the indicators for taking a business forward emerge.

Your website may be doing better than you think – but if you are not measuring its performance against objectives and targets, you may be unaware of its true value.