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Guest Post: Reflections on IWMW 2014 from the University of Edinburgh

Posted by Brian Kelly on 18 September 2014

In a recent guest post on this blog Mike McConnell described how the IWMW event  “is much loved by its community and reflects a collegiate and resolutely non-commercial mindset that was once taken for granted in HE” and went on to explain how the key theme for the IWMW 2014 event  was “The Year It Went From Web To Digital” and describe how there was “an unapologetic focus of the user as customer and repeated references to ‘product’ and the user experience“.

Mike was not the only participant to find this year’s event a stimulating experience which provided new insights into institutional developments.  Neil Allison, a speaker at this year’s event, attended along with a number of his colleagues from Edinburgh University. In his report on the event Neil described how “my big takeaway was the need for organisational change and executive-level buy-in to truly bring about digital transformation“. Neil, together with his colleagues Aldona GosnellMartin MorreySteven RossStratos Filalithis  and Bruce Darby have summarised their reflections on the event on the University of Edinburgh’s University Website Programme  blog. They have kindly agreed that a slightly modified version of the post can be republished here.


Higher ed web managers conference write up – Neil Allison

Last month a small group of colleagues from across the University of Edinburgh attended IWMW 2014,  the annual web managers conference held, this year, in Newcastle. I asked everyone to answer three quick questions to give you a snapshot of what they thought of the event.

The Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW) has been running for nearly 20 years now and I’ve been attending (most years) since joining the University Website Programme in 2006. This is probably the largest turnout by Edinburgh staff (apart possibly from 2012 when we hosted) and definitely the highest number of contributors with myself and Martin Morrey giving plenary talks, while Bruce Darby ran a workshop.

Blog posts on my talk at this year’s IWMW and Martin Morrey and Neil’s preview of their IWMW 2014 presentations have been published previously on the University Website Programme  blog.

As ever, the IWMW event provided a Lanyrd site to capture slides, write ups and various thoughts from contributors and attendees. I recommend you explore the resources, perhaps steered by the additional comments of colleagues which are included below.

Quick conference write ups

I asked colleagues who attended to answer three quick questions:

  1. Why did you decide to attend the conference?
  2. What was the best presentation or session?
  3. What was the big trend or takeaway point you took from the conference?

The responses from my colleagues are included below.

Aldona Gosnell

Ross Ferguson at IWMW 2014My reason for attending the IWMW conference was mostly to keep my eyes open and to listen. Not under any pressure to deliver my own presentation or sell a product, I had the luxury of not having to worry too much about what to say, and the freedom to explore whatever caught my interest. The truth is that we (the CHSS Web Team) don’t get a chance to stop and look around very often.

It is hard to choose one talk out of the many expertly delivered and entertaining IWMW presentations this year. Perhaps the one that rung particularly true for me was “Using the Start-up playbook to reboot a big University Website” by Ross Ferguson (University of Bath) as I have a long standing interest in both start-ups and big university websites. To some extent it echoed the agile processes developed in my team – especially  “release iteratively and often” and “provide ongoing support”.

I had my eyes open for any signs of the agile trend. I discovered that some of the delegates held the official SCRUM accreditation. It was interesting to meet with an official “Scrum Master” – Edele Gromley – and her team from the University of Kent. We have been trying to find our feet in the agile world for some time and come up with a successful recipe for the right balance between planning, doing and documenting.  Had I been less worried about making a nuisance of myself, I would have asked her outright – do you really have the everyday stand-up 15-minute meeting, and is that working for you guys?

Aldona is the Web Team Manager at the College of Humanities and Social Science. See Aldona’s staff profile and the HSS Web Team blog.

Martin Morrey

Martin Morrey and colleagues at IWMW 2014 conference

Martin’s answers to the questions posed by Neil are:

  1. I was speaking (!) + It’s the best way to find out what the rest of sector is doing.
  2. Ross Ferguson.  Reminded me that you can achieve change quickly if you are determined/stubborn/insensitive enough!  Also, Paul Boag on Digital Transformation.
  3. Digital Transformation.  Rethink digital experience from scratch, and from the point of view of the end-user.

Martin is the Manager of the Web Integration Team in Information Services, with responsibility for portal, web development, and graphic design services.

Steven Ross

This was the first IWMW I had attended so wasn’t sure what to expect. I hoped it would be an opportunity to gain insight into industry best practice and also a chance to pick the brains of others facing similar challenges. It’s too easy to become stuck in your institutional ways, so a reminder that others face and address similar challenges, was revitalising.

The theme that weaved its way through many diverse presentations was digital transformation.  To meet our users’ needs, we need to enable digital teams to function beyond organisational bureaucracy and dated processes. It’s clear that without organisational belief in the value of digital, we will continue to be perceived as facilitating the vision of others, rather the driver that brings improvement and keeps pace with fast evolving user demands.

Ross Ferguson’s presentation encapsulated these points well and unsurprisingly grabbed peoples’ attention. He countered the challenges we all face by presenting a brave new world where digital teams possess all the building blocks and resources required to deliver user focused services and products. Being able to quickly deliver and iterate products gives credence to this approach and generates confidence within the organisation and management.

I’ll be keeping an eye on Bath to see if the rhetoric rings true.

Steven is the Senior Digital Marketing Officer in Communications and Marketing.

Stratos Filalithis

As this was the first time I have attended the IWMW 2014 conference, my goal was to listen, learn and engage with people working within the UK Higher Education. It was a very nice opportunity to understand how common challenges are dealt in other institutions, as well as to understand different solutions or approaches to similar problems. All IWMW presentations were interesting and I was really happy that they covered an area of themes rather than focusing on a specific subjects.

I think that the presentation by Ross Ferguson (Head of the Digital team at the University of Bath), titled “Using the Start-up playbook to reboot a big University Website” really stood out, and was probably a taste of things to come on how to govern websites and digital services in general.

What was even more interesting was the following ‘birds of feathers‘ session around web governance itself where interesting conversations around how centralised and devolved models address the issue. It was apparent that there isn’t a magic solution as teams are structured in a way to suit each institution’s philosophy, business or organisational structure, while it’s too difficult to make radical changes even though they might directly fulfil their needs. It was really an optimistic touch, though, that there are initiatives, like the one at the University of Bath, which can rock the boat of web governance in UK Higher Education, if successful.

These are, certainly, interesting times and IWMW 2014 showcased the amount of change around us.

Stratos is the CMS Service Manager at the University Website Programme.

Bruce Darby

I’d heard a lot of good things about the IWMW conference but the main reason for going was that I thought it would be a good opportunity to see what issues other education institutes around the UK were concentrating on and what their approaches were. If you never leave the University to go to conferences there is a real danger you can become institutionalised!

Ross Ferguson’s talk on using start-up techniques to reboot the University of Bath’s website was also the best of great bunch for me. I felt that it was an honest and open presentation about his working practises. He’s implementing some of the things we are setting out to do with the new Drupal CMS project we’re currently working on. Three slides in particular I liked which seemed to say if you are using the agile methodology, which we are, be confident to follow these techniques and approaches through to the end however difficult it can become.

A few statements from the three slides stood out:

  1. Put users’ needs first.
  2. Keep things simple and consistent.
  3. Fail fast and lower risk.

And two final points were ‘too much product’ and ‘burn out’. I took the first to mean that there is lot of pressure to build too much into projects in one go and so ‘burn out’ is the inevitable outcome. If you are aware of this and constantly look out for it then at least that gives you some protection.

What surprised me was that quite a few universities seem to be embracing the term ‘digital’ even going as far as to include it in team and job titles. Paul Boag, who was at the conference, has been saying this for some time. It’s about incorporating digital into everything rather than seeing it something separate with its own strand and strategy.

Bruce is a Project Manager at the University Website Programme.

And finally, my thoughts …

Steven Ross at IWMW 2014 conference

I attended the conference as I think it’s a fantastic forum to network with colleagues in the sector, to learn about what they’re up to; their challenges and successes. The presentations are always varied and typically of a high standard. So great from a professional development and a social point of view. I always follow up with a few people via email or Twitter afterwards and end up with a new reading list and a few new people I can call on for an opinion or a bit of help.

Everyone has been talking about Ross Ferguson’s presentations so I will pick on something else – there were a good few excellent sessions besides him. (Martin and I for starters!) I went to a workshop session run by Richard Prowse (coincidentally from the University of Bath) in which he went through the principles of Create Once, Publish Everywhere (COPE) and shared his experiences of trying to implement this with his university’s prospectuses. As I suspected, it’s been a big challenge for Bath, but it sounds like his hard work will pay dividends in the years to come. It’s not the first time I’ve seen Richard speak, and his experiences in the emerging field of content strategy are always worth hearing [or reading – see Richard Prowse’s blog – Content Bear].

My big takeaway was the need for organisational change and executive-level buy-in to truly bring about digital transformation. We web management folk can do great things in our sphere of influence, but there comes a point where you have to accept that to be able to present information and services in a way that really works for the customer, then the culture of the organisation needs to change. This message came across loud and clear in the presentations of Ross Fergusson (on agile development), Paul Boag (on digital adaption) and Tracy Playle (on social media). It was also a major point in my own presentation about user experience.

I’d encourage you all to check out the conference materials available and consider coming along to next year’s conference.


About the authors

The contributors to this guest blog post are:

  • Neil Allison, Head of User Experience, University Website Programme, University of Edinburgh.
  • Aldona Gosnell, the Web Team Manager at the College of Humanities and Social Science, University of Edinburgh.
  • Martin Morrey,  Manager of the Web Integration Team in Information Services, University of Edinburgh.
  • Steven Ross, the Senior Digital Marketing Officer, Communications and Marketing, University of Edinburgh.
  • Stratos Filalithis, the CMS Service Manager at the University Website Programme, University of Edinburgh.
  • Bruce Darby, a Project Manager at the University Website Programme, University of Edinburgh.

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Guest Post : It’s Not About Technology! The Digital Challenge is Institutional

Posted by Brian Kelly on 4 September 2014

Mike McConnell has attended many of the IWMW events which have been held since its launch in 1997. This year’s event made a particular impression, particularly with its focus on ‘digital’ rather than ‘web’. In this guest post Mike reflects on the event and describes the moves towards digital taking place at his host institution, the University of Aberdeen.


In June I attended the Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW 2014) event which was held at the University of Northumbria. IWMW is primarily aimed at Higher Education (HE) web managers and their teams and has been running as an annual event since 1997. Its ponderous and slightly quaint title is much loved by its community and reflects a collegiate and resolutely non-commercial mindset that was once taken for granted in HE.

I have attended IWMW, on and off, almost since its inception and each conference seems to have its defining, epochal ‘thing’, which often overshadows the formal agenda, e.g.  The Year Of The CMS, The Year Of The Rejection Of The CMS, The Year We Daringly Asked Marketing People Along, The Year The Everything Became Irrelevant Because Of Web 2.0, and so on. This year’s formal title was ‘Rebooting The Web’ but the real ‘thing’ was The Year It Went From Web To Digital. There was an unapologetic focus of the user as customer and repeated references to ‘product’ and the user experience.

I expect that before too long the word ‘digital’ in this context will sound as anachronistic as Web 2.0 but currently it makes the term ‘Web’ itself sound dated. My view is that this is because, to an extent, the community has ‘solved’ the Web, if Web is defined as technologies related to the traditional university website. Of course there are massive, ongoing operational issues related to university websites, but the challenge is no longer primarily a technological one.

The disintermediation brought about by social media was an early indicator for institutions of the disruptive effect of digital. Many have risen to the social media challenge, but social is only a piece of the digital jigsaw. Digital goes beyond web and marketing; it is about institutions, how they are structured and how they respond to change. The traditional guardians of Web – IT and Marketing – find that digital increasingly requires them to operate outside their normal spheres of influence – it is a business-wide problem that requires strategy, governance, technology, people and processes. How can IT and Marketing effect the scope of change required?

At my own institution, the University of Aberdeen, awareness of the digital issue grew out of a traditional Web project to implement a new information architecture (IA) for the University site. Once the IA had been approved and the templates created in the CMS, it became increasingly apparent that the challenge was no longer a technological one but was instead related to content, ownership and governance. It became apparent that there was no-one at all in the entire institution who wrote content for the Web as part of their formal duties. This might seem startling to non-HE readers, but I suspect it is not just our institution where this was the case.

The result of this was that we created a new type of role, the Digital Communications Officer (DCO). The DCO job description included the model skills we felt were lacking in the institution’s web authors: writing for the Web, an understanding of IA, web usability and user experience, social marketing experience and the ability to utilise analytics to inform web design.

Our initial appointment of two DCOs and the adoption of a third from another role proved to be transformative for the traditional website. Almost immediately the Web Team were released from having to make decisions about governance and content. The DCOs rationalised website structures and used analytics data to make their arguments. The website became smaller, more effective and standardised.

However, the DCOs also started asking awkward questions. Why is the site not responsive? What is the brand? Why does the architecture reflect the institution and not user journeys? Why do we not have a content strategy? And so on. In short, all the questions that the Web Team had been aware of for years but not had the time, resource or authority to do anything about.

The result was that we managed to persuade the University to create a Digital Strategy Group (DSG). The DSG is a traditional University committee, comprising senior staff from across the institution as well as Web staff and the DCOs. Its remit is “to provide high level direction for the delivery and resourcing of the University’s digital engagement, including the production of an overall digital strategy”.

At the time of writing, the group has convened three times. At the first meeting the group was presented with a vision piece from some third party consultants. This showed a digitally enabled student journey, from applicant to student, alumnus and beyond.

This was tremendously helpful for showcasing the potential opportunities of digital. DSG members responded with enthusiasm, the result of which was that we engaged with the consultants for 5 days of ‘discovery’ work to ascertain our digital readiness. The consultants conducted 3 days of interviews with staff from across the institution to understand activities, strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats.

The results of this discovery work were presented at the second meeting of the committee. Findings were broadly as follows:

  • There is lots of digital-type activity ongoing in the institution, much of which is good, but there is no overall vision for this, or alignment with strategic objectives.
  • There are varying levels of digital understanding across the institution and no individual interviewed has a complete vision.
  • The University does not currently have the structures or targeted resources in place to deliver a digital vision.
  • The University does not need separate digital strategy; rather it requires an overall business strategy that is fit for the digital age.

It has been difficult for the DSG to convey the universal scope of the digital challenge and indeed group members themselves have differing interests and views. It is hard to explain to some staff that, for example, for a student to have a responsive, seamless customer experience on the front-end website that the institution might require a customer relationship management (CRM) system and beyond that an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB). Understandably, such systems and concepts can be alien to many of the key University decision makers.

The DSG acknowledged that to overcome these challenges and identify and articulate a digital vision for the institution it was desirable to seek outside expertise. The University therefore went to tender for support. The following text is abstracted from the tender documents:

This Invitation to Tender (ITT) is issued as part of an initiative to define a digital vision for the University of Aberdeen; to ensure that this is embedded in University strategy, and to help assess what people, systems and processes are necessary to deliver this vision.

The University wishes to define a digital vision that will enable it to achieve its strategic ambitions; differentiate itself significantly from its competitors; engage with all its major stakeholders and customers, and enhance and develop its brand.

It is suggested that in order to achieve this, suppliers might wish to follow the following methodology:

  1. A discovery phase, which would provide a detailed understanding of current capabilities and activities; market analysis, and customer groups
  2. A vision stage, which would identify and prioritise ideas; run research with target groups; identify opportunities, strategic aims and an operating model, and formulate a business case
  3. A planning stage, which would produce a high level business plan, options and recommendations

Suppliers are however welcome to suggest alternative methodologies and outputs to help the University achieve the objectives defined above.

The tender was deliberately written in broad terms because the DSG wished suppliers to engage with the University prior to submission and also because the DSG itself was unclear on what the strategic objectives should be, prior to any visioning stage. Concerns that suppliers would find this confusing or off-putting have proved to be unfounded and we have been encouraged by how many suppliers seem to ‘get it’. Almost all understand the scope of the issue and that it is not about technology – at least at this stage.

The tender has now concluded and we have had healthy number of responses. The DSG trust that the exercise will provide us with a digital vision that is broad in scope and world class in its ambition.

However, I am conscious that despite the University’s aspirations, we are approaching this challenge using traditional methodologies – committees and projects – and existing structures. I am curious how other HE institutions are approaching the digital challenge and would ask colleagues the following questions:

  • What is the focus of your digital activity: student lifecycle, research, alumni, donors, public engagement?
  • Who owns digital: Marketing, IT, senior management?
  • Who drives digital: is it top down or bottom up?
  • What new roles or teams are required?
  • What has changed about the institution? What should change?
  • What effect has this had?
  • What does digital ‘success’ look like?

About the Author

Mike McConnell

Mike McConnell is Business Application Manager in IT Services at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. He manages the Web and Corporate Systems teams who are responsible for digital, web and corporate applications development.

His main duties are:

  • Leading on institutional IT digital strategy, including web and mobile development.
  • Supporting and developing the institutional corporate systems environment including Finance, HR, Admissions and Student Record systems.
  • Supporting and developing the institutional SharePoint and CRM environments.

Contact details:

LinkedIn: mikeramcconnell

Twitter: @mike_mcconnell

 


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Reflections on #IWMW14

Posted by Brian Kelly on 23 July 2014

IWMW 2.014: Rebooting the Web

IWMW 2014, the 18th annual Institutional Web Management Workshop, took place last week, from 16-20 July, at Northumbria University. The theme of this year’s event was “rebooting the web“: an idea which came from a participant at last year’s event who felt that, although he felt there was a continued need for an event focussed on the needs of those involved in providing institutional Web services, the event would benefit from ‘rebooting’.

The cessation of Jisc funding for UKOLN meant that the event would change its focus in any case. When the event benefitted rom Jisc funding we tried to ensure that we provided a forum for Jisc-funded work, including Jisc services and Jisc-funded projects, which were involved in web-related activities.

This year the content was very focussed on sharing of institutional case studies. In addition this year future-gazing was informed by observing work of early adopters, with advocacy on the benefits of new ways of working being based on organisational issues rather than technological developments.

The Key Themes

Perspectives from Outside

The event began with three talks which provided Perspectives from Outside.

tweet-about Tracy Playle's talkTracy Playle, Picklejar Communications, opened the event with a talk on “Why you don’t need a social media plan and how to create one anyway“. Tracy argued that you shouldn’t create a social media plan in isolation from other activities, including real world engagement activities. A second point which Tracy made was picked up by David Aldred:  “good social content has to be able to have balls – use humour and cross lines. Difficult if committees involved!” This is also true of talks at events – and it was pleasing that many of the speakers were willing to make controversial points or make their pointes in controversial ways which, I suspect, would not go down well with the institution’s marketing team! Perhaps the lack of live video streaming at the event for the first time in several years resulted in more honest and open talks.

christinamcg's tweet about Paul BoagThe need to challenge mainstream orthodoxies in providing institutional Web service was continued by Paul Boag in his talk on “Digital Adaptation: Time to Untie Your Hands “. Paul argued that there was a clear need for changes in the approaches to the provision of Web services which have been taken in the past and of the need to circumvent institutional bureaucracies. He recommended the establishment of a ‘digital transformation team’ to replace the existing Web team as a recognition of the importance of transforming current business processes in light of the impact of today’s digital environment. Christina McGuire (@christinamcg) provided a value service during the event in her comprehensive tweets about the plenary talks. She tweeted a summary of one of Paul’s key recommendationscreate a Digital Transformation Team – name = crucial. Digital = more than a website…transformation = communicates not service“.

The final talk in the session from speakers who were invited to give their perspectives from outside the institutional Web management perspective was given by Martin Hawksey. His talk had an intriguing title “Hyper-connectEd: Filling the vacuum by switching from blow to suck”  Martin’s talk sought to provide a big picture, going beyond institutional Web management issues and addressing the nature of education in higher education in a networked environment. Martin drew parallels with centralised, decentralised and distributed networks and the changing nature of education, and provided some examples of moves towards distributed approaches to leaning. Martin also helpfully published a blog post shortly before he gave his talk in which he explained that “The main idea I want to convey is that in a world which is benefiting from being digitally distributed, networked and increasing crowd driven the IWMW audience is in the prime position to support their institutions creating opportunities for learning aligned to this“.

Institutional Case Studies

Kevin Mears sketch note for Ross Ferguson's talk.The opening day provided inspirational and provocative talks which argued the need for significant changes to the ways we go about providing Web services in higher education. The second and third days provided an opportunity to hear case studies about how institutions have been delivering a variety of services, ranging from use of the Google Cloud Platform for providing the infrastructure for delivering services; ensuring that the importance of the user  experience (UX) is being addressed; rebooting an institutional portal; developing web applications to support work allocation and adopting startup approaches to support the rapid delivery of institutional services.

The talk which seems to generate the most interest and discussion was given by Ross Ferguson, Head of Digital at the University of Bath. His talk on “Using the start-up playbook to reboot a big university website” echoed the point made by Tracy Playle on the opening day on what she referred to as “benign violation“: as can be seen from Kevin Mears’ sketch note of the talk, Ross’s slides had not been approved by the marketing team, with his passion for use of startup methodologies in a university context being presented in a forthright fashion which violated conference norms!

Ross’s description of the approaches which are being taken by the Digital team at the University of Bath also reflect Paul Boag’s suggestions, including the name of the team: “Digital Marketing and Communications” and Ross’s job title of “head of digital”.

Looking To The Future

In addition to the first part of the institutional case studies the second day also provided two talks which provided data-driven insights into the web environment which may help to shape future developments.

Ranjit Sidhu opened the session on Looking To The Future in a talk on “You are ALL so weird!” University sector analysis and trends“. One comment Ranjit made which I found of particular interest was the apparent lack of interest in gathering data related to research. As Luca Macis commented:

Business values every single bit of publicity and data. Universities don’t do this. Especially with Research. We undervalue research

Christina McGuire's tweetPerhaps gathering usage data related to research activities tends to be of concern to library staff and research support units rather than institutional web teams. But Ranjit’s comment that we are seeing a decline in traffic to university home pages will be very relevant. This is a trend I first observed in 2011 and described in a post which asked Are University Web Sites in Decline? At the time I concluded:

the evidence is suggesting that we are seeing a slight decrease in the amount of traffic to institutional Web sites for Russell Group Universities

It will be interesting to see the trend over the past three years and invite discussions on the implications.

The final plenary talk I will comment on also described approaches in gathering data not only for use in national services, such as equipment.data.ac.uk, but also in providing answers to the question “What Does The Data Tell Us About UK University Web Sites?“. In his presentation Chris Gutteridge provided background details of the data.ac.uk service  and encouraged participants to create an institutional Organisational Profile Document (OPD).

Finding Out More

Lanyrd page for iwmw 2014A year ago, after the end of the IWMW 2013 event, I described how The Job’s Not Over Till The Paperwork’s Complete. This year is no different. Links are being added to the IWMW 2014 web site. But the most useful resource is the IWMW 2014 Lanyrd entry since this allows others to add links to relevant resources.

The Lanyrd page will provide links to resources which are directly associated with individual talks as well as to generic resources. For example the Lanyrd page for Martin Hawksey’s talk contains links to his slides, the accompanying blog post,  Kevin Mears’ sketch notes of his talk and a Storify summary of tweets made during the talk (and other talks held on the same day).

Generic resources which are linked to from the Lanyrd coverage page include Flickr photographs taken by the Netskills team, other Flickr photos with the IWMW14 tag, Storify Twitter archives for day 1, day 2 and day 3, the Eventifier Twitter archive, a location map of those who tweeted with the event hashtag and Martin Hawksey’s TAGS Twitter archive and the TAGSExplorer visualisation of Twitter conversations.

Additional resources, including blog posts about the event, will be added when I become aware of them.

IWMW 2015: Digital Transformation

I will shortly be reviewing the comments provided by IWMW 2014 delegates on the event evaluation form. However the feedback I received during the event was very positive and there seemed to be broad agreement that the event should continue.

The major challenge in planning for a similar event next year will be managing the financial outlay in, for example, paying deposits on room bookings and accommodation – and the associated risks if things go wrong. This year’s event was organised by myself, Netskills and Cetis, with Cetis providing support for outreach and marketing but the financial outgoings were made by myself and Netskills. I will be looking at new models for organising the event next year – to avoid the worries I had this year when the numbers of bookings were low a month before the event took place.

There will also be a need to reflect on the talks given at this year’s event and the discussions which they generated. In the final panel session at the event Stephen Emmott, Michael Nolan, Mike McConnell and Tracey Milnes led an open discussion on “What is our vision for the institutional web and can we implement that vision?” There seemed to be broad agreement on the need to recognise the diversity of approaches which are being taken across the sector. There also seemed to be agreement that the words ‘institutional’ and ‘web’  are now longer as relevant as they were in the past for the Institutional Web Management event.

In light of this feedback I wonder whether IWMW should not longer be regarded as an abbreviation, but is simple used as a term to describe the event. And perhaps for next year them theme should be “digital transformation”. What do you think?

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Update on Plans for #IWMW14

Posted by Brian Kelly on 27 June 2014

IWMW 2014: Update on the Programme

IWMW 2014, the 18th annual Institutional Web Management Workshop takes place in Newcastle on 16-18 July. The workshop fee is only £350, which includes 2 nights accommodation.The public announcement that the IWMW 2014 event would be held, under changed management, was made on this blog on 20 January 2014. The following month the IWMW 2014 Web site was launched and the call for proposals was made. On 14 April 2014 the IWMW 2014 programme was announced. This was followed by a series of guest blog posts on Planning work: How can technology help the Workload Allocation process?Wake Up and Face the Digital RealityBuilding Cost-effective, Flexible and Scalable Education Resources using Google Cloud PlatformI Do UX – Do You? and Rebooting MyEd – Making the Portal Relevant Again in which speakers at this year’s event have introduced their talks.

Since the event takes place in less than three weeks’ time, on 16-18 July, it is timely to provide a further update on plans for the event.

Beyond the Plenary Talks

Although the plenary talks will provide a shared context for all participants at the event, an important aspect of the event are the workshop sessions, in which all participants should have the opportunity to participate actively, share institutional and personal experiences and concerns and engage in discussions and, perhaps even disagreements and arguments.

In this respect the IWMW event has many parallels with the Cetis conference.  As described in Mark Johnson’s report on the recent Cetis 2014 conference:

The #cetis14 conference at the University of Bolton has been a great success. Although run on a self-funding basis for the first time (and consequently using the facilities of its home institution for the first time), it still attracted 100 delegates from the UK HE and FE sectors eager to talk about the impact of interoperability, cloud computing, e-books, systems integration and learning analytics. If anything, the conversation has been more eager, imaginative and focused than in previous year. [my emphasis]

Mark’s blog post was entitled #cetis14: Granting permission to ask questions about education. It may seem strange to talk about “granting permission to ask questions about education” in our context but as Mark explained we do seem to be moving to an environment in which important policy decisions about the future of education and the role of technology in supporting teaching and learning and research activities across the sector are being made in a top-down fashion with broader discussions being marginalised:

 I thought, the value of JISC projects was that they gave participants permission to think about education, in circumstances where this would otherwise have been impossible. It was this business of ‘asking questions about education’ which seemed curiously absent from the vision of the ‘new JISC’: it seemed that the new JISC vision is to think about keeping JISC going, not thinking about education. When explicitly asked about who in JISC was asking the ‘big questions’, the response given was “people above my pay grade”.

In contrast to the changes in the Jisc environment, the IWMW 2014 event will adopt similar approaches to those taken at the Cetis 2014 conference: we will encourage participants to ask “big questions” and engage in conversations about the role of the Web in supporting institutional activities.

Facilitating the Discussions, the Sharing and the Community-Building

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Is content king? Should events ensure that their main focus should be on hosting proven quality speakers and ensuring the the event organisation runs smoothly?

These are, of course, important. But at IWMW events we have felt that “communications, rather than content, is king“.We will be providing a number of workshop sessions which are designed to facilitate communications. But in addition to the formal sessions at the event we will also be providing a number of social events which provide opportunities for informal networking opportunities and discussions.

On the evening of the first day, Wednesday 16 July, the workshop dinner will be held in the Great Hall of the Sutherland Building at Northumbria University. The following day a drinks reception will be held at the Great North Museum (Hancock). As can be seen from the accompanying image (taken from the Wikipedia entry for the Great North Museum: Hancock)  we should be able to see the T Rex in the Dinosaur hall. Or perhaps participants will wish to visit the Elephant display.

While we are having nibbles and drinking wine at the reception we might wish to consider some of the big questions. These might include: “Are we a dinosaur in today’s dynamic web environment?” or “Are we a white elephant?” These are questions which might be worth reflecting on from time to time. But perhaps more pertinently are questions such as “What role does the web professional have in today’s web environment?” “How relevant are Cloud services for delivering mission-critical services?” (a question, incidentally, which was addressed at the Cetis 2014 conference)? and “How do we engage our user communities in the development of new services?

We will not grant participants permission to ask such questions: rather we expect participants to raise these and other challenging question!

In brief, we will aim to provide high quality content with high quality organisation. But we will also provide a high quality experience for participants which will be based on the opportunities to interact with one’s and engage in discussions and debate.

I hope to see you at Northumbria University in a few week’s time. But if you are intended to attend the event please book quickly as the official closing date is just a week away- Friday 4 July!

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Guest Post: Rebooting MyEd – Making the Portal Relevant Again

Posted by ukwebfocusguest on 17 June 2014

IWMW 2014, the 18th annual Institutional Web Management Workshop takes place in Newcastle on 16-18 July. The workshop fee is only £350, which includes 2 nights accommodation.The IWMW 2014 event is rapidly approaching- this year the annual event for university Web managers will take place at Northumbria University on 16-18 July. So if you haven’t book your place yet, do so quickly!

In the latest guest post from speakers at the event Martin Morrey, Web Integration Manager at the University of Edinburgh provides the background to his plenary talk on Rebooting MyEd – Making the Portal Relevant Again.

Martin’s talk will open the third and final day of the IWMW 2014 event.


Rebooting MyEd – Making the Portal Relevant Again

IWMW 2014 programme, with Martin Morrey's talk highlighted

IWMW 2014 programme, with Martin Morrey’s talk highlighted

Apologies to all for the late arrival of this blog post, but I’ve just spent three of the most intense weeks of my working life helping to upgrade the University of Edinburgh’s web portal, MyEd.

Reflecting on this experience has taken me back a masterclass delivered by the intranet usability guru Gerry McGovern, which I attended in 2008. At one point during the day, Gerry started talking about portals …

“For years, I’ve been going around asking people what a portal is, and I still don’t really know. The best definition I’ve come up with is: ‘A portal is like a website….except it takes five times longer to develop.‘”

Not for the first time that day, this was a cue for much hilarity.  For a long time afterwards, I was the smug website guy, pitying the lot of the poor, self-deluding, portal people in the office across the corridor.

Gradually though, I became more and more intrigued by the challenge of making a better portal.  Eventually I made the fatal mistake of commenting on the University’s portal here and there, and lo-and-behold in late 2011 I was put in charge of it.

Web portals were a concept that was born, and to a large extent abandoned again, in the mid-noughties.   However, in the education sector it seems to have hung around, presumably because it does actually deliver some value.

So what is a portal?  Is it just a list of useful links, or a personalised information hub, or a completely customisable experience?  In our case it is a bit of all of these things. What it should be though, is an experience centred on the needs and priorities of the end-user, which actually makes their life easier, as well as supporting the process needs of the institution.

The University of Edinburgh’s portal system was established in the noughties with great investment and fanfare, but later-on other IT priorities took over. So, ironically, a system that was meant to be dynamic, flexible and focussed,  ended up feeling static, out-of-date, and cluttered.

Improving our portal from there has been a slow process. Portal systems have integrations-with and dependencies-on a whole range of other information systems. When we upgrade our portal, updating and testing all these integrations is a real headache.   We are working on a better way of doing this, but in the meantime, we just have to live with it.

Just like a website, a portal needs really active monitoring and management, if it is to continue to meet everyone’s needs effectively.  Unlike a website however, tools like Google Analytics don’t give you the information you need to do this off-the-shelf. The first I thing I did with MyEd, was to find a way to get meaningful analytics on the usage of its content.

Our analytics revealed that mobile users seemed to prefer the clunky, desktop-optimised interface of our web portal, over the trendy native-app that had been rolled-out just the year before. We didn’t have the resources to get the best out of both, so since then we have focussed our mobile effort on developing a mobile-friendly skin for the portal.

My team has used its portal analytics, the results of user surveys, and student input, to inform the design of new layouts and interfaces for our portal.  I’ll be presenting the full story of this process, and some of the initial outcomes, at IWMW 2014 in my plenary Rebooting MyEd – Making the Portal Relevant Again.


About the author

Martin MorreyMartin Morrey is the manager of the Web Integration Team at the University of Edinburgh, with responsibility for portal, wiki, web hosting and web development services.  He has been working with the web for 18 years, and the mobile web for 14 years (remember WAP?).

He presented at EDUCAUSE last year on “Adding Analytics to the University Portal”.

Formerly an e-learning specialist and software entrepreneur, he won a SMART award in 2000 to develop a mobile-learning system and was co-founder of Intrallect Ltd.

 

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Guest Post: I Do UX – Do You?

Posted by ukwebfocusguest on 16 June 2014

IWMW 2014, the 18th annual Institutional Web Management Workshop takes place in Newcastle on 16-18 July. The workshop fee is only £350, which includes 2 nights accommodation.The IWMW 2014 event starts a month today – this year the annual event for university Web managers will take place at Northumbria University on 16-18 July.

In the latest guest post from speakers at the event Neil Allison tells us that he ‘does’ user experience (UX) but wonders if he is alone.

Neil is giving a plenary talk on “Marketing is dead, long live UX” from 11.00-11.45 on Thursday 17 July 2014. He will also facilitate with Bruce Darby a workshop session on “Making Personas Work” from 16.00-17.30 on Thursday 17 July 2014.


I Do UX – Do You?

IWMW 2014 programme, with Neil Allison's talk highlighted

Neil Allison will give a talk on user experience on the second day at IWMW 2014.

I love the IWMW conferences. Always come away with new ideas and food for thought. Always meet good people. But I’ve been thinking about what I don’t get from the IWMW. And it’s this thought that’s prompted me to speak at this year’s conference.

I’ve been working in public sector (and mainly UK HE) for 15 years and attending IWMW since 2006. In that time there has been a lot of change in terms of online content and service management in the sector.

And over this period there has been a huge growth generally in awareness of online usability and latterly the competitive advantage leveraged from improved user experience. But while user experience teams are cropping up in all sorts of commercial organisations, we’re not seeing it in higher education.

This brings me back to what I don’t get out of IWMW. I don’t get a sense of a UX community within the sector. I don’t tend to meet people who do the same kind of things as me. I do meet lots of people interested in usability and user experience but not much in the way of active practitioners.

At first I thought: “Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m not moving in the right circles or I’ve missed the year when UX was the hot topic.” But taking a look about online reassured me I’m not paranoid :)

Very little turns up on previous conference schedules around UX or usability. The last item was me in Edinburgh in 2012 doing a workshop on our experiences in user centred design. And the JISC usability mailing list is awfully quiet.

A couple of years ago, Dan Jackson at UCL asked the usability mailing list:

I’m wondering out loud how many HEI’s in the UK have positions directly responsible for improving the user experience, interaction design and information architecture of their institutional web sites and web applications? A quick scan of the last 12 months’ activity on this list, and a perusal of the web/digital jobs currently being advertised at jobs.ac.uk, shows the usual mix of adverts for web developers and web content editors, but nothing related to UX or IA. This is in stark contrast to private sector companies, who are recruiting UX consultants like there’s no tomorrow…

Chatting with Dan this week, it seems like he wasn’t overwhelmed with responses to his question. Which is a shame because it’s a very important question.

It’s basically the question I’m asking and attempting to answer in my plenary talk.

My talk at IWMW 2014: “Marketing is dead, long live UX!

I have my opinions, and those of a few people like Dan who think aloud from time to time.

UX survey for UK Higher Education web managers

But what about you? What do you think?

I’ve set up a short survey to gather some experiences from around our sector and feed them into my talk (and probably a blog post too).

Please spare me a couple of minutes to contribute your views and perhaps outline what is happening at your institution.

Take part in my survey – the state of UX in UK higher education.

I’m getting excited already about the conference as it’s not so far off now. Hopefully I’ll be able to prompt a bit of reflection, stir up a bit of controversy and continue the conversation with a few of you…


Neil Allison

About the author

Neil Allison is Head of User Experience for the University Website Programme at the University of Edinburgh.

He believes everyone has responsibility for user experience, and with a background in education and training, works to give colleagues the skills and confidence to conduct their own research and inform their work. He is an active member of the Scottish chapter of the UX Professionals Association.

Neil is currently playing the role of product owner in the agile development of a new University CMS and leading the evolution of the website’s information architecture.


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Higher Education Web Survey

Posted by Brian Kelly on 28 May 2014

TerminalFour’s Long-standing Support for IWMW

Terminal Four survey formFor several years TerminalFour has been a sponsor of IWMW, the annual Institutional Web Management Workshop. This year is no different. As described on TerminalFour’s Web site:

TERMINALFOUR is once again a sponsor of one of the UK’s premier events for institutional web management teams – IWMW. The event takes place at Northumbria University on the 16-18th of July 2014.

IWMW has grown into a unique forum to share best practice, hear about new developments and discuss their relevance with peers. The theme for this year’s conference is ‘Rebooting the Web’. The conference will explore what ‘reboot’ means for web teams. 

Higher Education Web Survey

In return for the financial support for the event I am happy to highlight TerminalFour’s current Higher Education Web Survey. As described by Laura Murphy, Head of Client Relations and Support:

If you work in a web, content, marketing, communications or senior management position in higher education I would be delighted if you could please take 5 minutes to complete our Higher Education Web Survey. You will be automatically entered into a draw to win €/$/£100 Amazon voucher for your troubles and will be among the first to receive a detailed report of the findings of this survey.  We’d also appreciate if you would share the survey – http://surveysandforms.com/e517uy93-67ufh69

If you are a customer of TerminalFour I am sure they would welcome the opportunity to chat with you at the IWMW 2014 event.


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

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Guest Post: Building Cost-effective, Flexible and Scalable Education Resources using Google Cloud Platform

Posted by Brian Kelly on 23 May 2014

IWMW 2014, the 18th annual Institutional Web Management Workshop takes place in Newcastle on 16-18 July. The workshop fee is only £350, which includes 2 nights accommodation.In a series of guest blog posts speakers at the forthcoming IWMW 2014 event have been providing an introduction to their talks in order to stimulate interest in their ideas and solicit feedback and comments prior to the event – an example of ‘flipped lectures‘ which can provide opportunities for more considered reflections on new ideas provided at a conference.

In today’s guest post Sharif Salah, Senior Systems Engineer at the University of Portsmouth introduces his talk on “Building cost-effective, flexible and scalable education resources using Google Cloud Platform”.

Sharif will give his plenary talk on the second day of the IWMW 2014 event, from 09.00-09.45 on Thursday 17 July 2014.


Building cost-effective, flexible and scalable education resources using Google Cloud Platform

This will be my first time attending the IWMW event, and I’m grateful to fellow speaker Martin Hawksey who highly recommended the event to me. I’m excited and fortunate to be both attending and speaking this year. I first met Martin in 2012 at the annual European Google Apps for Education user group meeting #GEUG12 where we were also both speaking. At that time I had been working with Google Apps for a little over three years and there was a sense that the Higher Education community was growing relatively comfortable with the principles and concepts behind Software as a Service (SaaS).

In fact my colleagues and I at the University of Portsmouth had begun to explore the use of other types of cloud technology to extend the capabilities offered by the Google Apps services. For example, we built a largely cloud-based student portal primarily using Google Sites and then used Google App Engine to provide bespoke functionality such as the delivery of assessment results, that was highly specific to an education context and wasn’t readily available as part of Google Apps. In 2012 Google App Engine was often described as a Platform as a Service (PaaS) that allowed developers to deploy application level code without having to worry about the burden of looking after the underlying infrastructure. Today Google App Engine is part of a growing collection of tightly integrated services that make us Google Cloud Platform and include additional services for storage, compute and data analysis.

I’ve continued to build on my knowledge of Google Cloud Platform and earlier this year it led to Google awarding me entry into the Google Developer Experts (GDE) program for 2014. A large part of our activities as GDEs relates to both community engagement and public speaking, and I spend a lot of my time volunteering help with colleagues from both the education and business communities make the most of their introduction to the cloud.

One big shift I’ve observed in recent months within the cloud community is that the model I describe above with clear demarcation between SaaS, PaaS and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) layers is hindering the way that we build and architect our IT services in HE and other large enterprise environments. All too often I find that developers try to shoehorn their requirements into one model or another. However it’s often the case that one layer of the cloud model doesn’t provide enough flexibility, at other times it comes at the cost of too high a management overhead. Google Cloud Platform is helping to define a new way of working across cloud boundaries and this in itself presents us with new challenges as we try to learn to use the new tools effectively. One big theme of my talk will be to share my experience of working across these layers in the process of building hybrid cloud solutions.

Perhaps more importantly for this audience I also look forward to the opportunity to share some of the work we have undertaken at the University of Portsmouth to build new services for our students that might not have previously been possible or practical prior to the availability of cloud services. Over the past year we’ve experimented with the use of Chromebooks for exams, Google Compute Engine to deliver Linux resources for teaching and research as well as the operational use of Cloud Storage for the delivery of content as part of student-facing services. Higher Education is a unique environment that brings with it challenges and opportunities that often don’t apply to the world of business and this is particularly true of cloud services.


Biographical details

Sharif SalahSharif Salah has worked with Google technologies since early 2009 when he began a role as a Google Apps technical lead in Higher Education. Along the way this has given him the good fortune to be involved in evangelising extensively and affecting change and progress on the adoption and integration of Google Apps, Cloud Storage and App Engine both internationally and locally. More recently he has become immersed in and advocate on Google Cloud Platform, open source software as well as mobile app development and strategy.

Sharif is a frequent public speaker and spends time working with both education and startups on making the most of their move to the cloud. He is a Google Developer Expert for 2014 and a Google Qualified Developer for Google Cloud Platform.

Contact details:


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Guest Post: Wake Up and Face the Digital Reality

Posted by ukwebfocusguest on 20 May 2014

IWMW 2014, the 18th annual Institutional Web Management Workshop takes place in Newcastle on 16-18 July. The workshop fee is only £350, which includes 2 nights accommodation.In the first guest post provided by a plenary speaker at the IWMW 2014 event Hiten Vaghmaria, Head of Digital Development at the University of Westminster, asked “Planning work: How can technology help the Workload Allocation process?“.

In today’s guest post Paul Boag, co-founder of the digital agency Headscape and regular speaker at IWMW events, urges those working in institutional Web management teams to “Wake Up and Face the Digital Reality“. Paul will give a plenary talk on “Digital Adaptation: Time to Untie Your Hands” on the opening day of the IWMW 2014 event, from 15.45-16.30 on Wednesday 16 July 2014.


Wake up and face the digital reality

IWMW 2014 programme

The opening day at IWMW 2014 provides talks from experienced speakers from the commercial sector including one from Paul Boag.

It’s time for us to face an uncomfortable reality — the way we are approaching digital is not working. I am not talking about how our institutions are approaching digital, although there are problems with that. I am talking about how we approach it as digital specialists. We are failing our organisations and feeling frustrated in our jobs.

We see so much potential. But if we continue to follow our present path, we will not fulfil our potential.

Our digital vision won’t succeed

We all share a similar vision for the future of digital and education. A day when students have a joined up, integrated digital experience. From their first encounter with a university until they are a well established alumni.

We talk of augmented reality apps to help freshers find their way around campus. E-learning environments that widen the reach of the university. Student portals that save users time and the institution money. Unfortunately, this vision is never going to happen if we continue working the way we are.

At the moment every step is a battle. We fight management, get resources, navigate committees, deal with politics and resist scope creep. By the time we succeed in putting one part of our vision in place it has become out of date. We complete one redesign just in time to start the next.

We need to adopt a different approach.

Our tactics have failed

Many of us have resigned ourselves to “the reality of university life”. We work the best we can within the system, making small incremental changes. We hope that one day, somebody with authority will realise how broken the system is.

We hope that maybe this will be the last redesign of the site, with management realising the need for ongoing evolution. That this time governance will be just as important as a new visual appearance.

We spend our days addressing symptoms. We struggle to stop yet another pointless mobile app or unnecessary microsite. We endeavour to set standards and bring order. But never do we address the fundamental problem. We never try and fix our organisations.

After all is beyond our pay grade. That has to come from the executive. But how are they going to know what needs doing? How are they going to even recognise the problem? They are not digital experts.

We fear moving beyond addressing symptoms because it means sticking our heads above the parapet. It means risking stepping on somebody else’s shoes. Most of all it means venturing into areas that we are not experts in.

But here is the thing — nobody is an expert in this kind of digital transformation. It’s new and scary but sooner or later things will have to change.

What it does offer is a unique opportunity that we must grasp.

The opportunity of digital transformation

Digital transformation has crept up the agenda of both public and private organisations. From the British Government to Starbucks, organisations are restructuring for the digital age. These high profile digital projects provides us with a unique opportunity to do more than treat the symptoms.

Now is the time to show management the barriers that prevent your institution adapting to digital. No more working within the constraints imposed on you. Challenge the operating procedures of the past and become agents for change.

Digital transformation projects in well known organisations gives us a precedent. But, we still need to present an attractive vision that gets the executive on board.

Forming an attractive vision for change

As digital professionals we are often bad at communicating the need for change. We talk about user requirements, frustration with organisational structures and the need for speed. But the truth is management don’t care about things like that. They don’t care because they cannot see the connections to things that matter to them.

If we want to see change happen in our institutions we need to speak in terms management care about. We need to help them make the connections. We can do this by focusing on three areas:

  1. Opportunities that will benefit the institution.
  2. Threats that could disrupt the status quo.
  3. Possible cost savings.

Let’s look at each in turn.

Highlight opportunities

Management are always looking for new opportunities. In the case of senior management that is opportunities that benefit the whole institution.

For example, don’t waste your breadth talking about the need to make your website mobile friendly. Instead talk about how a mobile friendly website will help attract overseas students from Asia. These students are valuable to the institution and rely on mobile devices. Use data to backup these claims and you have a compelling case.

Middle management are a bit trickier. They don’t care so much about the bigger picture. Instead they are more focused on their own position and influence.

Moaning about their blinkered vision does not help. Recognise they are in a vulnerable position and work hard to present arguments that make their lives easier.

Take for example forming a digital transformation team. This often involves consolidating staff from other departments. Soften the blow by suggesting secondment rather than a permanent move. You might even suggest this is only for a limited time. Anything to prevent managers feeling that you are stealing their staff. They will interpret this as an attempt to undermine their position.

Try suggesting to management that they want somebody on the digital transformation team. This will ensure they have somebody representing their ideas on the ‘inside’.

Use threats

Another powerful weapon in your arsenal is fear. Large institutions are reluctant to embrace new opportunities. They don’t see a need to change what has worked so well in the past. But if you can prove that past tactics will no longer work they will respond to this threat.

Spend time talking about the threats to the higher education sector. Competition from educational startups, shifts in student expectations, changes in student behaviour. The list could go on.

Reference sectors that have been decimated because they were too slow to act when change came. Talk about how the music industry had a clear sign that things were changing when Napster arrived, but how they failed to act. Apple stepped in with iTunes and HMV and Tower Records went out of business. Also reference stories like Kodak, Blockbusters and many newspapers. There are no shortage of stories that show the cost of failing to adapt.

The key here is demonstrating that not acting will lead to disaster. Change is coming anyway. Those who fail to adapt will become extinct.

Focus on cost savings

Finally, talk about cost savings. Money talks, even in a large institution like a university. At the moment most universities are inefficient in the way they manage digital assets. Each part of the organisation is doing its own thing. If you can show how a single approach to digital can save money it will get the executives attention.

I recently helped a higher education institution put together a case for digital transformation. As part of that I met with a member of senior management to explain why this needed to happen. We covered a lot of ground, but one simple argument won the day. We calculated that to redesign all school websites using the current approach would take seven years. If we implemented a transformation plan that figure would be closer to seven months. We could achieve this by restructuring how things worked. There were no extra costs. This simple argument of more results for the same money was enough to tip the balance.

Talking the language of management will get their attention. But, highlighting threats, opportunities and even cost savings is not enough. You must also present a clear plan for change.

Providing a clear vision

Let’s imagine for a moment that you have persuaded management that change needs to happen. That the way you currently work is failing and they give you free reign to change. What would you do?

Often we moan about the current state of affairs, but lack a clear vision of how we want things to be. We focus too much on fixing the immediate problems with our process, rather than looking at the bigger picture.

Lets take a moment to consider what our roadmap for change might look like. The first step is to form a digital transformation team.

Form a digital transformation team

Most public institutions have expertise scattered across the organisation. They have web developers, IT specialists, content creators, photographers. Often they have all the skills they need, but they are not working together.

Step one is to bring these people together into a digital transformation team. Notice the name I have chosen. There are two parts to it:

  1. Digital: The implication is that this is more than the web. You cannot consider social media, the web, email or mobile apps in isolation. They are apart of one whole.
  2. Transformation: This is not a service team. It doesn’t exist to serve other departments. Its mandate is to change working practices across the institution.

This team should not support the ongoing maintenance of existing digital assets. If things are going to change, updates and fixes cannot distract them. Too many web teams spend the majority of their time providing support for the existing site. Form a separate support team for that job and put new development projects on hold.

Once the digital transformation team is in place, start looking at customer requirements.

Map customer journeys

Any digital transformation project has to start with the user. For too long institutions approach to digital looked inwards. They focused on what it was they wanted to say. This led to a proliferation of content. Many institutional websites run into hundreds of thousands of pages.

One of the best ways to break this thinking is to focus on user needs. This provides an opportunity to rebuild digital assets from scratch. No more porting content from the old site to the new.

Mapping the customer journey identifies user goals when interacting with an institution. They outline the various touch points users use to achieve those goals.

Some argue that as an institution they already have a good idea how users behave. But, behaviour has changed since the arrival of digital. It is important to step back and understand exactly how things have changed.

Customer journeys help show that much of your website’s content is not required. They also help identify organisational problems. For example, they show how many departments prospective students have to deal with. Unfortunately these departments rarely present the same message. Customer journeys shows that to serve the needs of students you may have to make organisational changes.

With a clear idea of who your customers are and what they want to achieve it is time to move onto the prototype stage.

Build a prototype

When the Government Digital Service (GDS) began its digital transformation project it started small. It took a handful of people and built a prototype site. This site only encompassed the first few levels. It then deep linked into existing content on other government sites. This became known as alpha.gov.uk and we can learn much from this approach.

First, it allowed the government digital team to bypass the normal sign off process. Because they were only creating a prototype they didn’t need to get approval for every part. Some higher education institutions have adopted this approach with dramatic results. One institution even achieved design sign-off in less than two week!

Second, it allowed them to show other stakeholders what the future might look like in a much more tangible way than a written report. When people could see the possibilities in a working site they were much more inclined to listen.

Finally, building a prototype allowed the team to gather real data about user behaviour. This helped them to build a compelling case to support their new approach. It was no longer about opinion but rather hard numbers.

Form a digital framework

Digital transformation projects should lead to the creation of a digital framework.

This digital framework consists of guides, policies and processes needed to support the new way of working. They outline what needs doing and methods for achieving those goals.

Although this framework will vary between organisations, typical elements might include:

  • Key performance indicators.
  • User personas.
  • Top tasks.
  • Design pattern library.
  • Content style guide.
  • Accessibility policy.
  • Business objectives.
  • Content management policy.
  • Responsibility assignment matrix.
  • Analytics dashboards.
  • Working processes.
  • Service standards.

This framework is like the GDS service manual. It provides the institution with a pattern for working on digital projects. The digital transformation team should use this pattern. But other internal teams and even third parties should also work within this framework.

In short the digital framework helps educate colleagues about best practice.

Educate and disband

The primary role of the digital transformation team is to bring about organisational change. This will only happen through a programme of education.

What must not happen is for the digital transformation team to become yet another silo in the organisation. It needs to engage with colleagues across the organisation at every level. The aim should be to help them better understand the role of digital.

The best analogy for this role is that of Chief Electricity Officer in the 1900s. The arrival of electricity was changing business, but most organisations were unsure how to use it. Their solution was to appoint Chief Electricity Officers to help them make the transition.

Today the idea of a Chief Electricity Officer seems absurd. Electricity is ubiquitous and none of us would be able to do our jobs without it. Yet, at the time they needed somebody to show them the way. Somebody to help them make that transition. We don’t have Chief Electricity Officers today because they did their job in the 1900s.

In the same way, the job of a digital transformation team is to make the use of digital ubiquitous across the organisation. Their ultimate aim is to become redundant, with digital embedded in the DNA of their institution.

Maintaining this aim is essential. One day we will no longer need digital transformation teams. Transformation is a finite process.

This goal is important for two reasons. First it makes it clear that the aim is to empower others to use digital, not manage it in a single team. Second, it helps reduce the political backlash associated with the creation of a new team. Some middle management will feel threatened by having their team members and areas of authority taken away. Knowing it will not be forever maybe of some reassurance.

How long we will need digital transformation teams will depend. But, if one day they are not disbanded then they have failed. Failed to change their institution’s mindset from thinking of digital as a bolt on to digital being ubiquitous.


About the author

Paul BoagPaul Boag has been working with the web since 1994. He is now co-founder of the digital agency Headscape, where he works closely with clients to establish their web strategy.

Paul is a prolific writer having written Digital AdaptationWebsite Owners ManualClient Centric Web Design and numerous articles for publications such as .net magazineSmashing Magazine and theeconsultancy.com.

Paul also speaks extensively on various aspects of web design both atconferences across the world and on his award winning web design podcast boagworld.

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Guest Post: Planning work: How can technology help the Workload Allocation process?

Posted by ukwebfocusguest on 8 May 2014

This year’s Institutional Web Management Workshop, IWMW 2014, takes place at the University of Northumbria. In light of funding changes this year’s event is ore closely aligned with institutional challenges. In today’s guest blog post Hiten Vaghmaria, Head of Digital Development at the University of Westminster, summarises a problem which all heads of departments will face: how they will allocate teaching, research and administration work to their staff though use of a model known as the Workload Allocation Model (WAM). Hiten will describe the approaches being taken at the University of Westminster at the IWMW 2014 event and will welcome feedback on these approaches. To start the discussion he invites those with an interest in this area to share details of the approaches you use within your institution.


Planning work: How can technology help the Workload Allocation process?

Talk by Hiten Vaghmaria at IWMW 2014Each year, heads of academic departments at universities across the country plan how they will allocate teaching, research and administration work to their staff, following a model known as the Workload Allocation Model (WAM). This crucial planning and resource allocation exercise is at the heart of running a successful teaching programme, and ensures that the institution can meet its strategic objectives, yet many universities run the process from basic spreadsheets. In the age of readily available web-based productivity services, are we doing enough to help our institutions plan their work?

There are many different ways of running the WAM, with one institution’s model invariably being different (albeit similar) to the next. The National Academic Workload Management Conference was held on this very subject in December 2013, where leaders from several Universities met to discuss the differences between their models. Whilst the focus for this conference was the model itself, there was some discussion around the mechanisms for collecting the information, and it’s clear that this will soon be a pressing issue for IT departments – if it isn’t already.

At the University of Westminster we’ve moved, within an unexpectedly short timescale, from a variety of different spreadsheets designed separately by each department, to one combined spreadsheet, to a prototype web-based system which is fully supported by the in-house team. It hasn’t been the smoothest of journeys but it has been a fascinating and challenging learning experience which has uncovered a host of issues, related to both technology and people, and we’re confident that a support network for those going through this process (or about to) would be enormously helpful.

As a first step, I’ll be hosting a discussion session on Friday 18th July at this year’s Institutional Web Management Workshop, IWMW 2014, to discuss the ways in which institutions currently collect their WAM information, and ask how they might do so more efficiently. We’ll showcase some existing solutions and talk about how the process could be improved using the technology available to us as Web Managers and developers. In the meantime, what are your thoughts on the following questions:

  • How does your University run the WAM?
    • What tools are used in this process?
    • What support is offered by IT?
    • What are the main concerns raised by Heads of Departments?
    • How could this process be made more efficient?
  • What other processes does this link up with (e.g. Timetabling, Module Costs, Transparent Approach to Costing (TrAC))?
  • Does it allocate work based on real hours, or use some form of proxy unit?

About the Author

Hiten VaghmariaHiten Vaghmaria is Head of Digital Development at the University of Westminster, where he leads a team responsible for the operation and development of web-based services for students and staff. Previously, Hiten has worked as a Service and Product Manager for the University of Edinburgh and the BBC.


About IWMW 2014

IWMW 2014, the 18th Institutional Web Management Workshop, will be held at Northumbria University on 16-18 July 2014. Details of the event programme are available. The three-day event costs £350 which includes 2 nights’ accommodation. Use the online booking form to book your place.

 

 

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IWMW 2014: Programme Launch

Posted by Brian Kelly on 14 April 2014

IWMW 2014

IWMW 2014 home pageI am pleased to announce the launch of the IWMW 2014 Web site.

The year’s event takes place at Northumbria University on 16-18 July. As has been the case for the majority of the previous 17 IWMW events, this year’s event will last for 3 days.

The price for attendance at this year’s event is unchanged from recent years: £350 which includes two nights’ accommodation or £300 with no accommodation.

The event this year is being provided by myself, Jisc Netskills and Cetis.

IWMW 2.014: Rebooting the Web

The official title of this year’s event is “IWMW 2.014: Rebooting the Web“. The idea for the title came from a suggestion made during the feedback we received at IWMW 2013, when we asked participants for their thoughts on whether the event should continue in light of the cessation of Jisc core funding for UKOLN. The answer was unanimous: there should be a IWMW 2014 event but perhaps the event could benefit from a ‘reboot’.

Organisational changes, in particular the large-scale redundancies at UKOLN following from the cuts in funding, necessitated rethinking for how the event was to be organised.

Due to the Jisc financial support for the event in previous years we sought to ensure that the event provided an opportunity for Jisc services and development programmes were able to describe their activities. Although these sessions have been useful the funding changes provided an opportunity to ensure that the talks and the sessions were more directly aligned with the needs of those responsible for providing and managing large-scale institutional Web services.

A Summary of the IWMW 2014 Programme

Perspectives from Outside

We had been told that the event would benefit from talks by charismatic speakers with a proven track record of delivering talks at prestigious national and international events. Since it had also been suggested that we should look for insights from outside the higher educational sector the opening session, Perspectives from Outside, provides the opportunity to hear the opening talk from Tracy Playle, founder of HE Comms, an online social network for Higher Education communications and marketing professionals who regularly speaks at conferences and seminars in the UK, mainland Europe, North America, Asia and Australia. Tracy will share her reasons “Why you don’t need a social media plan and how to create one anyway”.

The other plenary talks on the opening day are provided by two regular speakers at IWMW who, based on the feedback we’re received, are always successful in stimulating discussion and debate.

Paul Boag has been working with the web since 1994. He is now co-founder of the digital agency Headscape, where he works closely with clients to establish their web strategy. Paul also speaks extensively on various aspects of web design both at conferences across the world and on his award winning web design podcast boagworld. Paul will give a plenary talk on “Digital Adaptation: Time to Untie Your Hands“.

Ranjit Sidhu (or Sid) is founder of statistics into Decisions (also known as SiD!).  Ranjit has worked at several Internet based companies, but has found his niche in analysis and helping clients understand what is going on in the internet ether and how to use that information to improve what they do. Ranjit, who is currently working with 15 UK universities, will give a plenary talk on “‘You are ALL so weird!’ University sector analysis and trends”.

I’m particularly pleased that IWMW 2014 will feature three speakers who not only have spoken at conferences around the world but also have a good knowledge of the higher education sector.

Institutional Case Studies

IWMW 2014 programmeHowever if high profile speakers form outside the sector are valuable in getting the event off to a good start, provide challenging insights and stimulating discussions, the main focus of the event is in providing an environment for sharing institutional practices. Therefore this year  there will be two plenary sessions on Institutional Case Studies which will feature presentations from institutional Web managers on “Building cost-effective, flexible and scalable education resources using Google Cloud Platform”, “Using the start-up playbook to reboot a big university website”, “Marketing is dead, long live UX”, “Adding Analytics to the University Portal” and “Allocating Work: Providing Tools for Academics”.

Technical Perspectives

No IWMW event would be complete, however, without sessions which explore the opportunities which technical developments can provide for the provision of institutional Web sites. This year the session on Looking To The Future features two plenary talks on  “Hyper-connectEd: Filling the vacuum by switching from blow to suck” and  “What Does The Data Tell Us About UK University Web Sites”.

Workshops and Birds-of-a-Feather Sessions

When the name “IWMW” was first used for the Institution Web Management Workshop series the final “W” was meant to signify the importance of participative sessions. Although the plenary talks provide a shared experience which enables all participants to hear about and learn from institutional case students and practices, technical developments and perspectives form outside the sector,  the parallel workshop sessions provide an opportunity for more active involvement and group discussions. This year’s workshop sessions cover a range of areas including the usability (“Making Personas Work”), content (“Reframing Content Strategy” and  “Learning to COPE – Create, Once, Publish Everywhere”), metrics (“Google Analytics For Beginners”) and technical sessions on “Rapid Development: Analytics reporting powered by Google Apps Scripts”, “Working with data.ac.uk: Creating your Institution’s OPD (Organisational Profile Document)”,  “WordPress as a CMS” and  “How to Buy Free Software”.

As well as these workshop sessions we will also be providing an opportunity for participants to organise their own birds-of-a-feather sessions.

Providing Value for Money

We are very aware of reductions in staff development budgets which institutions may now be facing. The feedback received at last year’s event showed that participants were very aware that the event did provide value-for-money, with a recognition that if the cessation of Jisc funding necessitated an increase in the cost of attendance this would be understandable.

However I am pleased to say that we have been able to keep the cost of attendance at the event down to the same price as last year. Indeed as shown in Table 1 we have kept that price at the same level over the past five years, with the exception of 2011 when the event was reduced to a 2-day event.

Table 1: Attendance costs at IWMW 2010-2014
Year 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010
Cost
(including accommodation)
£350 £350 £350 £250 £350
Length 3 days 3 days 3 days 2 days 3 days

We are able to keep the prices down to a very affordable level due to a combination of the support of the event sponsors  and the willingness of the event speakers and facilitators to provide their sessions for free, in order to support the community.

We do still have opportunities for additional sponsors who would like to be associated with a successful event which is now in its 18th year. For further information please get in touch.

I hope to see you in Newcastle in July.

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Call For Submissions for IWMW 2014

Posted by Brian Kelly on 17 February 2014

IWMW Continues!

IWMW 2014 Call for SubmissionsThe Institutional Web Management Workshop series (better known as IWMW) was launch in 1997. The event aimed to develop a sustainable community of practice for those with responsibilities for providing institutional web services.

The event has been running for 17 years and has attracted participants from the web management community from across the UK’s higher and further education sectors. The growth of important of the web to support a range of institutional activities has also seen the event attract participants from beyond web teams, including those with responsibilities in teaching and learning and research, in addition to those with interests in marketing, design, user interfaces, gathering user requirements, accessibility as well as the technical aspects of providing large-scale web services.

For the past 17 years the event was provided by UKOLN with funding to support the organisation and planning for the event being provided by the JISC. In light of the cessation of JISC funding for UKOLN at the IWMW 2013 event we explored ways in which the event could be sustained without Jisc funding and backing from UKOLN.

The feedback at the event made it clear that there was strong demand for the event to be continued.

I’m pleased to announced that the IWMW event will continue! The IWMW 2014 event will be held at the University of Northumbria on 16-18 July. The event will be supported by myself, Cetis (my host institution) and Jisc Netskills.

Call For Submissions

Although the event needs such institutional support in order to maintain its unique profile, the most important aspect of the event lies in the contributions made by the speakers and workshop facilitators. The event aims to provide a forum for sharing experiences and we wish to continue that tradition.  We therefore invite members of the community who stories to share and ideas to explore to submit a proposal for the IWMW 2014 event.

We will continue to provide a mixture of plenary talks (typically lasting for 45 minutes) and workshop sessions (lasting for 90 minutes). However we will also welcome suggestions for other ways of engaging the workshop participants. In the past, for example, we have held debates, panel sessions and bar camps. if you feel you like to make use of such approaches, or perhaps even make use of a novel approach, we would love to hear from you.

And although we particularly welcome submissions from practitioners in the sector, we also welcome submissions from outside the higher and further education sectors.

Details for the call for submissions are available from the IWMW Web site. Alternatively feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions, ideas or suggestions.


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Announcing IWMW 2014!

Posted by Brian Kelly on 20 January 2014

I am delighted to be able to formally announce the IWMW 2014 event will be held at Northumbria University on 16-18 July.

The IWMW event: a well-established national event for those working in university Web management teams.

The IWMW event: a well-established national event for those working in university Web management teams.

The Institutional Web Management Workshop series, better known as IWMW was launched in 1997 to enable those responsible for managing institutional Web services to share best practices, hear about new developments and discuss their relevance. The event has been held at locations across the UK in the 17 years since it was launched.

Last year’s event was slightly shadowed by the forthcoming cessation of Jisc funding for UKOLN. However, a post-event survey together with comments we received during the event indicated an overwhelming appetite for continuation.

Over the past few months I have been exploring new funding options to cover planning, organising and hosting the event in 2014. I have received positive feedback from commercial vendors who would be willing to sponsor the event and my new organisation, Cetis, has agreed to provide support for the event. In addition, Jisc Netskills have agreed to act as co-organisers for the event.

The call for submissions will be announced shortly. If you have any questions or queries, feel free to get in touch. This includes those who may be interested in speaking at the event, as well as potential sponsors for the event.

The IWMW 2014 will take place over 3 days, which, based on feedback from previous events, has proved an ideal length for attendees – enabling them to enhance their skills and expertise and develop their professional networks.

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