UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Reflections on #IWMW16: The Talks

Posted by Brian Kelly on 27 Sep 2016

About IWMW 2016

IWMW 2016 logoIWMW 2016, the annual Institutional Web Management Workshop, took place at Liverpool John Moores University on 21-23 June. This is the first of a number of posts which provides the event organiser’s perspective of the event.

For those who are unfamiliar with the event, the IWMW series was launched in 1997 to support members of institutional web management teams, to ensure that they are kept up-to-date with technological developments, could learn from the approaches to management of large-scale web services from others across the higher education community and develop and strengthen professional networks with others in the community.

As described in a post on Reflections on #IWMW14 the event has been undergoing a transformation in recent years: in 2014, after 17 years of JISC support for an event which was delivered by UKOLN, the event was run jointly by myself (Brian Kelly, the founder of the event) and JISC Netskills. However due to the closure of JISC Netskills it was not possible to continue the collaboration so last year I had responsibility for organising the event. Following the success of last year’s event, this year’s event was enlarged, with advice on the theme for the event and suggested specific topics and speakers being provided by the IWMW 2016 advisory group.

The theme of this year’s event was “Understanding Users; Managing Change; Delivering Services“: an idea which emerged during the Advisory Group discussions and which, I feel, nicely summarises the work of those with responsibilities for managing institutional web services and related digital channels. Several of the talks at the event directly addressed the event theme and these are highlighted in the following summary of the event, together with details of additional sessions which did not directly relate to the main theme.

The Plenary Sessions

Understanding Users

An Introduction to IWMW 2016

IWMW 2016: statisticsIn the opening talk in which I provided an Introduction to IWMW 2016, I outlined the theme for this year’s event and explained why it was appropriate to use the theme of “Understanding Users” for the introduction talk itself. (Note the slides used in the talk are available on Slideshare and embedded at the end of this blog post).

The final count for the numbers of participants at IWMW 2016 was 140. Over 50 (37%) of those who answered the question were attending their first IWMW event, with a further 32 (26%) having attended only 1 or 2 previous events and 21 (17%) having attended 3-5 previous events. Of the remaining 16%, 12 (10%) had attended 6-10 and 8 (6%) over 11 of the previous events.

It seems that the event has been successful in attracting a new audience of those who are involved in institutional web management activities, but what of the make-up of the speakers and workshop facilitators? There were 29 speakers in the initial programme, although this increased to 34 after including details of the panelists in the panel session held on the final day. Of this total 9 (29%) were female. The proportion of female speakers at this year’s event is slightly larger than the average over all 20 IWMW events (24%) – but it would be good to see this proportion increased further at future events.

Of the 140 delegates at this year’s event 114 (81%) worked at a higher educational institution and 4 (3%) at a related HE agency. There were 18 delegates (13%) who worked for commercial companies with 3 delegates (2%) involved in the organisation of the event.

Requirements Are Hypotheses: How Lean UX Can Help You Develop Better Products / Skin Deep: Using Cosmetic Improvement to Drive Real Change

The opening talk on “Requirements Are Hypotheses: How Lean UX Can Help You Develop Better Products” at IWMW 2016 was given by Neil Allison, University of Edinburgh. A summary of the talk has been published on the IWMW 2016 blog. Comments on the talk included:

Neil Allison’s talks are often very valuable, bringing a much needed UX perspective that is sometimes missing from HE web managers’ thinking. There was a danger that this talk would cover the same ground as some of his previous talks, but this was largely avoided.

  • I always enjoy Neil’s talks. He has a gentle, laid-back approach which I find soothing and enjoyable. Some useful insights, thank you.
  • How it should be done – memorable slides
  • This was really helpful in identifying very useful approaches to gathering requirements. I really like ‘requirements are assumptions’!
  • Plenty to go away and do – which I like

The second talk in the opening session entitled “Skin Deep: Using Cosmetic Improvement to Drive Real Change” was given by Gareth Edwards, University of Greenwich. A summary of the talk has been published on the IWMW 2016 blog. Comments on the talk included:

  • Really nice seeing these types of case study talks. Really liked that is focused on what didn’t work as well as well as what did.
  • Really an excellent talk.
  • One of the great things was Gareth’s honesty about the project

Managing Change

The session on “Managing Change” launched the second day of the event and featured three talks: Rob van Tol, Precedent opened the session with a talk on “Managing Change: Leading Horses to Water“, followed by Richard Prowse, University of Bath on “Building a New University Website – an Agile Content Case Study” and Gareth Saunders, University of St Andrews on “Establishing Digital at the Heart of the University“.

Rob van Tol gave the first of two sponsored talks at the event. Comments on this talk included:

  • Very interesting to hear about the way different universities have approached change. Rob’s a great speaker.
  • Took a while for me to get into this but as the talk developed I could really see how wide was the scope of different approaches for different Universities and different projects. Actually very interesting.
  • Good overview of the various approaches universities have taken toward the digital challenge, all delivered in Rob’s inimitable  

Richard Prowse has been a regular speaker and workshop facilitator at recent IWMW events. Comments on this talk included:

  • Always love listening to Rich and what’s going on at Bath. They seem to consistently be the ones that we look to for advancing our working practices. So it’s always a pleasure to learn more.
  • Another excellent presenter. It’s been great to follow Bath’s journey. I did find myself intrigued by some of the examples; what to Rich is ‘content work’ seems to me to fall into the category mentioned by Claire Gibbons of ‘just getting on with it’ albeit Bath approach with a rigour and skillset which is commendable.
  • Great story, great insight and honesty. Example of what’s great about IWMW. Always look forward to experiences from Bath staff.
  • Really great! Lots to think about. Definitely applicable to us.
  • Very interesting. Also a good honest presentation.
  • It is always fascinating to hear what is going on at the University of Bath. They are doing great work, and I appreciate the opportunity they give us in sharing their working methods
  • Lovely presentation that was practical, honest and very human. One of my favourite presentations of the conference.

Gareth Saunders has also been a regular participant at IWMW events. Comments on his talk included:

  • Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! Considering the pain and suffering that St Andrews have been through, it was wonderful hearing how well they were doing. A rival to Bath definitely in the making for leading the way I think.
  • The second time I’ve seen this talk and just as engaging. Lovely to see St Andrews making progress.
  • I enjoyed Gareth laying bare the madness of multiple priorities and how they are trying to escape that. Convinced me that processes are so important, and structures should support them.

Delivering Services

The theme of “Delivering Services” took place before lunch on the second day and featured three talks: Building a digital team (almost) from scratch by Duncan Stephen, SRUC; Prototyping the Digital University by Anja Hazebroek, University of Hull and Chris Scott, Headscape and 100 to 1(ish) – Unifying a Sprawling Web Estate by Richard West, Jisc.

Duncan Stephen, SRUC (Scotland’s Rural College) was a first-time speaker at an IWMW event. Comments on his talk included:

  • Useful insight and bounced nicely off Gareth’s preceding presentation.
  • Highlighted the difficulties faced by smaller web teams and situations where one person has many hats.
  • Interesting hearing how smaller institutions are fairing and the struggles they have. Rather funny as well.
  • Duncan won the best image with the ‘wtf’ and his talk was very well delivered and engaging. Would have liked a bit about what the new UX patterns they are coming up with are, but again that is my tactical bias coming up and there probably wasn’t time.

Anja Hazebroek, University of Hull and Chris Scott, Headscape gave a double-act. Comments on this talk included:

  • I think this was preaching to the choir in that most of us would want to prototype. What was useful was the codification of some of the aspects and techniques. The 4x mobile screenshot before and after image was incredibly powerful.
  • Really useful stuff. Exactly what we need to be thinking about over the next few months.
  • Some good stuff here about prototyping but also the experience of working with an agency.
  • Great session that emphasized the need for the universities to invest in understanding their customers/consumers better, and demonstrated the value that agencies can bring to the table, given the chance.

Richard West, Jisc was another first-time speaker at a IWMW event. Comments on his talk included:

  • I liked the mentioning of lots of specific tools and activities, and they managed to make the two speaker thing work well. Especially liked ‘shelter the team’
  • I think this is something we’re all struggling with, so it’s always worth hearing how others do it.
  • A great case study of some interesting work. I think the sort of project discussed here is very relevant to a lot of HE web managers, so I will take a careful look at my slides and notes and see if there are approaches worth adopting.

Web Analytics and Beyond

The session on “Web Analytics and Beyond” took place after lunch on the second day and featured a single speaker: Martin Hawksey, ALT, on “Google Analytics of Things“. Comments on this talk included:

  • Martin’s usual brain dump of ideas and possibilities. Sparked a number of lines of thought for me. Would be amazing to get Martin in touch with someone now ahead of next year’s event in order for someone who is less of a google ninja to be able to present a case-study based on Martin’s insight / support.
  • Wow, hadn’t known about half this stuff and the power. I think it could have benefited from giving more specific ideas of real life applications rather than just doing cool things.
  • Some excellent ideas here! More like this would be great.
  • Felt that tons of people found this a eye opening and thought provoking glimpse of analytics. Really enjoy talks that let us speculate and dream a little.

Beyond the Institution

The third day began with talks on the theme of “Beyond the Institution” featuring speakers who worked for organisations which were not higher educational institutions but worked closely with the HE sector: It’s Time to Get Personal by Piero Tintori, TERMINALFOUR; Working With External Partners by Mandy Phillips (Liverpool John Moores University) and Mark Simpson (Mando) and Right Here; Right Now: Providing the Information your Students Need and your Regulator Requires by Marieke Guy, QAA.

Piero Tintori gave the second sponsored talk. Comments on this talk included:

  • Thought Piero hit the right balance between promoting his product and being honest about personalisation. This was probably the most valuable presentation of the conference for me
  • Surprisingly good, and Piero managed to avoid turning it into too obvious a sales pitch. Personalisation and matters such as remarketing are areas I have not worked in much, so there were some valuable lessons here. We have been talking about remarketing here, so it is very pertinent. I will once again look carefully at the slides to see what practices I should adopt.
  • Great things to think about, but I can’t help thinking if Uni’s non personalised experiences need so much work that we may be trying to run before we can walk. Done badly we can make terrible experiences, personal. But enjoyed the talk.
  • I thought this talk was fantastic, very interesting, and not an ounce of sales. I was extremely impressed.

Mandy Phillips, Liverpool John Moores University and Mark Simpson, Mando provided a double act on “Working With External Partners“. Comments on this talk included:

  • Great insight into how we can work with external agencies and use analytics to identify what users do, rather than what they say they need. We want to get in touch with Mandy to talk about Sitecore, which is one of the CMS solutions we are considering for Kent.
  • Interesting ideas and approach.
  • Really interesting. Food for thought about the value that working with outside experts can have on the work we do.
  • Good and interesting. Not so relevant to me though personally.
  • Honest, no-nonsense talk about the value that agencies can bring, given the chance. Valuable and insightful.
  • This talk had an interesting dynamic. I was grateful again that this didn’t turn into a sales pitch. However I didn’t really find much relevance to my situation, although I am sure it will have been of use to others who work closely with an agency.
  • Good overview of the strides that can be made by working constructively with partners to fill gaps in provision

Marieke Guy gave a talk on Right Here; Right Now: Providing the Information your Students Need and your Regulator Requires. Comments on this talk included:

  • Interesting and a bit scary! Do we need to do more to cover ourselves as web publishing gatekeepers? I think the answer is yes!
  • Possibly the most informative and useful talk of the whole event. It is clear that there is a lot for us to be on top of, so I will be doing a lot of research to make sure we are up to scratch. I am very grateful for Marieke bringing these issues to our attention.
  • Fab and practical — one of the most practical talks so far.
  • Congratulations to the fair Marieke on making a very dry subject highly engaging and creating a sense of urgency
  • A must-have talk for anyone working in HE right now.
  • Fresh insight into what the CMA means for us.
  • Loved listening to Marieke. Lots of really useful information that is affecting us right now and some useful nuggets of things we can be doing and thinking about.

When Things Go Wrong!

Matt Jukes gave the final plenary talk on “When your website is a ‘national embarrassment’ the only way is up” – a talk which was the highest ranked plenary, with two-thirds of the respondents rating the talk as excellent and the remaining third ranking it as very good! Comments on the talk included:

  • Very good speaker.
  • Very funny talk, Matt was the best speaker of the bunch!
  • A nice final talk that showed everything can benefit from a bit of user focus.
  • Quite an eye-opener.
  • A fantastic final talk usually when people are already thinking of leaving!
  • Very entertaining but also some good learning points. Great way to wind up the presentations!
  • Fantastic, very engaging and a good insight at real issues.
  • Honest, funny, informative. Great perspective on things. Public beta is a great, and brave, idea.
  • My favourite talk, Matt was honest and engaging and his experiences were really useful to hear about.
  • It’s great to hear from a non-HE organisation. I was looking forward to this talk, and it delivered. A fascinating case study.

Learning … and Planning

As has been the case for the past three IWMW events, prior to the concluding reflections on the event a panel chaired by Mike McConnell were invited to address a number of issues. The following comments were made about the panel session:

  • One of the most valuable sessions of the conference. A great way to think about the future and ‘big picture’ issues. It might be nice to get some more interactivity, such as inviting delegates to comment on the topics (as opposed to asking questions to the experts on stage) and perhaps even incorporating some comments from remote viewers.
  • The panel done well!
  • I may have missed the opportunity to feed in questions before the panel session. The questions were useful, and the 6 P’s on the slide hit just the right note!
  • Highlight from the session, which I’ve already used in a meeting was Mandy’s worry that Uni’s treat CMA like Health and Safety and become too risk averse about selling courses.
  • This could have benefitted from the Twitter wall being back up to get audience reaction and participation. Mike is always excellent at this and the questions were good. Felt the panelists, although good, said much the same kind of thing. If I’m honest, I felt there was a bit of a push of agendas rather than true comment.
  • The panel session was well-chaired and the input from the panel was thoughtful and well-delivered. However, they were pretty much in violent agreement both with each other and the audience which does not make the most of this format.

The Parallel Sessions

In addition to the plenary talks and panel session there were also eight workshop sessions which lasted for 90 minutes (on Migrating People to a New CMS; Digital Fire Fighting; Leadership 101 – Top Tips for Steering the Ship Through the Seas of Change; 10 Years of a Web Team of One: the Lessons Learnt; Rich Media Content: How to Maximise User Impact; Real-world Natural Language Processing for Higher Education; Design a Content Strategy to Optimise Engagement With International Users and Debunking the Myths of WordPress & External Hosting) and eight master classes which lasted for 2 hours 45 minutes (on Agile Usability Testing; Future-proof Your Content Using an Adaptive Approach; IWMW In Miniature; Corporate Use of Social Media; Google Analytics Workout; Planning Digital Transformation for Old Skool Universities; Digital Governance: Tools and Practices for Managing the Content Chaos and Writing Well for the Web).


This is the first of a number of posts about IWMW 2016. This initial post has summarised the content of the event. Subsequent posts will describe participants’ thoughts on the event (what they liked and the areas they felt could be improved); the role of the sponsors in supporting the event; the technological infrastructure used to support the event and, perhaps most importantly, plans for IWMNW 2017.

As mentioned earlier the slides used in the opening talk are available on Slideshare and embedded below.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: