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Archive for October 4th, 2010

Scenario Planning For Institutional Web Managers

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 4 October 2010

It´s not too long before the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review takes place – and current speculation suggests that higher education is due for cuts between 20-40% over the next three years.  Whilst I’m sure that institutional Web management teams are currently developing plans for coping with the new spending regime (and the University of Southampton’s ECS Web team blog has recently announced how it intends to cope with voluntary severances for two members of staff) I thought I could help such activities by outlining some thoughts on possible scenarios for institutional Web teams over this period.

1. Gentle downsizing: Changes in staffing levels in institutional Web teams will be addressed by early retirements.  There’s no real need to be worried.

2. Outsourcing of Web teams: Web teams will be closed, with staff facing redundancies, to be replaced by outsourced provision of activities previously carried out by Web teams. Staff in the institution will be responsible for managing the contractual agreements with outsourced providers.

3. Greater use of outsourced Web technologies: Staff in institutional Web teams will move away from using internal CMSs and make greater use of externally-provided services.

4. Greater use of cheap labour!:  The University of Southampton’s ECS Web team blog has stated that it intends to address the redundancies which is taking place within the team: “Other tasks we may hire students for. There’s some great talent amongst our students and they work relatively cheaply, but gain experience and it looks good on the CV“.

5. Move towards centralisation: Web content providers and developers in departments will face redundancies, as greater emphasis is placed on provision of Web services from central Web teams.

6. Move towards devolution: The central Web team is down-sized and Web content provision is delegated to departments.

7. Time for growth and expansion: Policy makers within the institution agreed that the Web provides a cost-effective service. Greater responsibilities – and resources – and given to institutional Web teams.

Of course such scenarios are not mutually exclusive.  But I´d be interested in which scenario appear to be most likely – and how Web teams are preparing for the various scenarios.

For what it´s worth I think that scenario (1) is being too complacent; (2) I believe is already happening (see, for example Lucy Burrow’s talk on Partnering with third parties and vendor management at Kings College London which she gave at the UCISA CISG 2009 conference); (3) I think is not only inevitable but also, in many cases desirable, as discussed recently in the context of event Web sites; (4) whilst seeming threatening to Web professions can provide benefits to students who, we need to remember, will also be suffering from changes to students grants;  (5) seems to be happening in the case of IT Service departments in a number of institutions; (6) could happen if a smaller central Web team resulted in departments taking responsibilities for Web work which cannot be done by a shrunken central Web team and (7) whilst appearing unlikely reflects the ideas given by Ranjit Sidhu in his IWMW 2010 plenary talk in which he reminded the audience that the Web is a much more cost effective way of recruiting overseas students than traditional approaches.

I´ve given my thoughts on these scenarios. What are your thoughts?

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