IWMW 2015, the 19th annual Institutional Web Management Workshop, took place recently at Edge Hill University. In this, the first guest blog post about the event Emma Cragg gives her thoughts from the perspective as a first-timer at the event.
At the end of July I attended my first Institutional Web Management Workshop. I was encouraged to see I wasn’t alone. When Brian profiled the audience during his introduction lots of first-timers raised their hands. I knew I was among friends when a large part of the introduction was dedicated to the best places in Ormskirk to get a pint of real ale.
The title of the conference, Beyond Digital, was addressed in all sessions through the focus on people, not systems. This came most directly through plenary talks given by Mandy Phillips and Mike McConnell. Both talked us through digital transformations happening at their institutions. While they involved new systems and front-end design the main drive was to change the culture of the institution.
The culture shift begins with the recognition that digital cuts across all activities of the institution:
- Facilities: spaces that support digital working
- Learning: initiatives to improve the digital literacy of staff and students
- Support: student services and business processes
- Marketing: channels to support communications throughout the student lifecycle
“You don’t need a digital strategy, you need a business strategy fit for the digital age” – PwC
Another theme threaded throughout the conference was agility. In this we got a masterclass from Rich Prowse and the University of Bath team. In his plenary talk, Rich walked us through the steps when applying agile to content creation. In planning, the use of analytics and user stories help to develop a culture that values data and user needs. Sprint teams involve members from beyond the digital team. This has helped to build trust with faculty and administrative teams.
Those of us lucky enough to attend the “Working in an Agile way” practical session got a view of what it might be like to work at the University of Bath. We developed a minimum viable product for a course search and wrote user stories to help the sprint team develop a solution.
“Agile is hard work. It requires practice and discipline” – Rich Prowse
The Q&A session sought to challenge our perceptions of what universities are for. Are they businesses? The panel was split with three in yes camp and two adamantly saying no. Should we refer to students as customers? This seems to be a given if you see universities as businesses and hard to argue against with the current price tag for a degree.
In his closing remarks, Brian encouraged us all to contact at least three people after we returned to work. I’m really pleased to see people taking up this call to action. I’ve sent and received two emails (one of which led to this post). I’ve also seen my online network grow, with new followers and conversations on Twitter, and connections on LinkedIn. This would be my key takeaway from the event – actually, any event – don’t let the conversation go quiet just because we’re no longer in the same place.
Whatever the future of IWMW, you can be sure I’ll be back.
Emma Cragg is a Web Content Officer at Newcastle University. In this role she plans, writes and edits content for the university’s central website. She supports the University’s community of web editors, delivers training in planning and writing web content, and is responsible for development of the web team’s blog. Emma is a productivity geek and is always on the lookout for solutions that can help the team work smarter.
If you’re interested in writing and editing, training, digital literacies, productivity or blogging, contact Emma using the details given below.
- Twitter: @ekcragg
- LinkedIn: Emma Cragg, Web Content Officer at Newcastle University
- Website: ekcragg.com
- Institutional blog: blogs.ncl.ac.uk/web
- Personal blog: www.digitalist.info
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