About IWMW 2015
IWMW 2015, the 19th annual Institutional Web Management Workshop, took place from 27-29th July at Edge Hill University, Ormskirk. As described last year in a post on Reflections on #IWMW14 the event is undergoing a transformation: after 17 years of JISC support for an event which was delivered by UKOLN in 2014 the event was run jointly by myself and JISC Netskills. However due to the closure of JISC Netskills it was not possible to continue the collaboration for a second year so this year I had responsibility for organising the event, supported by an advisory group which provided valuable advice on the theme for the event and suggested specific topics and speakers.
Earlier this week a post on “Reflections on #IWMW15” summarised the content presented at the event, including brief summaries of the comments received on the various plenary talks. The move towards greater involvement with the commercial sector was widely, although not universally, welcomed. Today’s post explores the comments received in more detail.
This year’s event attracted 110 delegates, which was down from previous events; whether this was due to the time of year (last week in July), the location, the content, lack of budget or other reasons is being explored.
The online evaluation form for the event has received 45 responses, which seems to be sufficient to gain a valid picture from the responses.
The participants were primarily from the HE sector (86%). A show of hands at the start of the event showed that a significant proportion were attending the event for the first time. The evaluation form confirmed this, with 33% newbies, 44% having attend between two and five previous events and 22% having attended over six previous events. Approximately 58% knew of this year’s event through attendance at previous events and no fewer than 27% though word of mouth, with only 4% hearing about the event on a Jiscmail list, 4% via Twitter and 7% through other means.
As can be seen from the accompanying graphs on a scale of 1 (very poor) to 5 (excellent) 49% of the respondents felt that the content was excellent and 51% felt it was very good with 40% rating the organisation as excellent, 51% as very good and 9% as good. The average rating the event content was 4.49 and the average for the event organisation was 4.31.
The evaluation form asked for general comments on the content at the event.
- Whilst it is hard to pin down a theme that captures the pulse of our sector a year in advance, once again you have done so. The content both indicated where we are in relation to the sector, challenged our position, and gave us thought for new directions. Nailed it again.
- It was my first IWMW, and I was very pleasantly surprised at the level of candour and honesty around the views shared during the sessions. The speakers were all excellent and the content highly relevant yet very different.
- Enjoyed the range of content, and the varying lenses through which things were examined – from macro/institutional level to micro/team or project-level. Although the ‘content’ content (esp. Rich Prowse/Bath digital team) was my favourite, and the most directly applicable, I did also enjoy the higher-level talks, with Mike McConnell being another stand-out.
- The content was relevant and of a high standard. As someone who is new to web management in HE it was very useful to hear people speaking who face the same challenges as me. The topics were very relevant to the issues we are currently experiencing. I felt there could have been a wider range of topics with some being relevant to content managers and editors like myself and other for more technical colleagues
- Themes were very current, eg digital transformation. Great speakers.
- There was a good mix of topics, and all presentations were delivered well. Speakers were knowledgeable, confident, and facilitated audience participation where appropriate. The event would benefit from a few inspirational, visionary talks that would look beyond the task at hand.
- Overall the content was good. Lots of institutions are running similar digital transformation programmes that we are but at varying points in the cycle, so it was good to get advice from those who are further along than we currently are. I would have liked to see a few more techie sessions.
- A good mix of: (a) front-end and back-end topics (b) in-house and external agency speakers (c) plenary and workshop sessions (d) background sector trends and specific digital service developments
- Some excellent ideas, ways of thinking and arguments were raised this year. I came with reasonably high expectations following previous years and was not disappointed.
- Fascinating and gave a lot of food for thought.
- All the plenary talks were first class.
- A really good range of sector and external speakers covering a broad selection of topics, all very much in-line where institutions and their web/digital teams are right now, or hope to be in the future. This mixture worked well and the external speakers did well not to sell their services but offer sound advice.
- A nice mix of speakers, I enjoyed the input from the private sector.
- The sessions (mostly) covered much of what is relevant to me in my role at the University, but also opened my eyes to the wider issues and also similarities between my institution and others.
- I loved the content. It provided further detail on areas of interest for me. I did hear a number of attendees observe however that they felt it was too high level / big i.e. they felt that whilst interesting, they were not in a position to action some of the bigger ideas / themes and they missed the more low-level, detail content of previous conferences.
- Good selection of talks – something for everyone: techies, managers, marketing and content people. People often suggest tracks, but I think it is helpful to get an overview of other folks’ disciplines. I think it is fine to have companies speaking, but maybe they should be corralled into a session or it should be noted that ‘this is a sponsored talk’ or something, like they do with adverts in papers!
- The overall programme of content was well structured and focused. All sessions could clearly be linked to the theme.
- Really great range of talks and workshops. It would be great if the conference was a little bit longer and had some more workshops, either from other universities or from sponsors i.e. maybe a workshop from LinkedIn on how to make most of their tools to engage alumni
- I thought that although the content was great, it did seem at times to almost be going over previous IWMW concepts. I enjoyed it, and it made me feel better to hear we are all in the same boat, but I would have preferred more ground breaking things that people are doing.
Participants were asked to give up to three examples of the key highlights of the event or ways in which it has been beneficial to you, Responses included:
- Networking events – thanks to these I got to meet some fantastic people and will shortly be organising trips to go see a couple of them and help with further collaborations between our institutions – Workshops – the talks are great and with the workshops we got to try out some of the new techniques and concepts other places were using. It really helped to see the benefits and talk with the workshop organisers as to how they brought it to their unis – sponsors – it might sound a bit odd but it was great to be able to chat with some of the sponsors about some of the tools they offer. Whilst those sponsors who did attend weren’t always able to answer specific questions they did help point me in the right direction for more info.
- Affirmation that we’re on the right track Learn from colleagues who are doing agile and content better than we are Networking; making new friends
- I very much enjoyed hearing the ‘war stories’ and talking to people who are experiencing the same pain points in their industry. Meeting Paul Boag very briefly was also a highlight – having followed him for years online, it was good to meet him and to potentially talk about how we might work together in the future. General networking and getting to talk about some of the other work that we’re doing with attendees.
- Building a network in a new field following a recent career change 2) Perspectives and practical examples from other institutions going through similar changes to our own
- 1. Understand developments within the sector 2. Listen to other peoples experience 3. Develop relationships with other university teams.
- Networking and finding out more about how web is done at other but similar places. Always useful for comparisons with our own ways! Future scanning. Both presenters and other attendees see other things coming! Reminding me of things I already should know but have forgotten to implement / follow through!
- 1) Getting advice on the pitfalls/lessons learnt of large digital transformation projects at other institutions. 2) Hack days, think we’ll be running some in the future. 3) Mike McConnell’s session has informative and amusing
- Networking with others in the HE and commercial sector. Seeing how we are doing compared to others. Learning more about UX, content and agile.
- Hearing other peoples experience and learning from it. Shared best practice. Networking.
- The size of the event made it easy to network. The quality of the presentations made it easy to digest the contents. The content was sufficiently relevant for the kind of work I do.
- Given me new ideas to use in my workplace Given me motivation to change things at work Gained new contacts
It’s fascinating to see how other teams are dealing with the same problems that we face. It’s also useful to have space to consider future problems and strategies.
- Networking – my number one reason for attending Diverse expertise/views including peers and 3rd parties – I particularly enjoyed the input from PwC/KPMG/Precedent Seeing Edge Hill for the first time having only ever really see it through Mike Nolan’s eyes.
- Networking opportunities were exceptional Open, honest, relaxed atmosphere Mike McConnell’s talk on digital transformation
Respondents were also asked to give up to three examples of ways in which the event could be improved. The responses to this questions will be carefully analysed to explore ways in which future events can be improved.
The comments addressed local organisational issues:
- The catering was very poor Location was a bit out of the way
- More central or accessible location. Edge Hill was a lovely campus but really limited for transport and things to do in the small amount of free time. The 30 minute walk to the nearest pub wasn’t ideal when the heavens opened. Coming from Aberdeen it was a pain to get to.
- 1) Better accommodation 2) Hosted somewhere easier to get to
- Coat hangers would have been nice in the rooms! Better weather. A more formalised approach to sponsorship for example, would be useful to us, to help us plan in how we might be able to help in the future in to our marketing budget. For example sponsoring the food or snacks, or drinks reception.
- I don’t think there are ways in which you could improve it. But it may be good to feed back to the university that the Hub’s food provision is pretty bad. If students are going to eat there for 3 years on a daily basis, I’m concerned about their health! And that includes what can be bought in the shop!
- Better food and better air conditioning in the lecture hall.
- Cooler rooms! – The first night event was a bit poor. It would be nice to try and have something that keeps people together and gets the community spirit moving, especially for any first timers that don’t have the connections of the more seasoned attendees. – Biscuits with your coffee?
Publicity for the event:
- Forward notice of dates – the more warning we as a community have of the dates, the greater the time to plan / assign budget / promote the event to others / etc.
- We do need to market it better, somehow, but I have no bright ideas in that regard. How about a pseudo-hack day where we agiley brainstorm around marketing ideas for the event and the community? Rich Prowse could coordinate. How about a link with the BCS or CILIP or CIM or similar?
The structure of the programme:
- Events should be broken into dev and content streams, helping to expand the number of learning opportunities and improving their relevance to the audience. – Plenaries should be cross over talks which are pitched for a non specialist audience and are relevant to both dev and content. These should be from thought-leaders and/or inspirational speakers. – Workshops/Master classes should be practical exercises and not just plenaries.
- I like the idea suggested in the panel session at the end of making this a community that has an event, rather than an event that has a community – Maybe use digital technologies to make the plenary sessions more interactive (live digital votes at the beginning/end of a session to see how opinions have changed) – Contrasting and challenging views are interesting and can create more interesting discussions. I would encourage more external views to challenge traditional thinking – but I might be biased 🙂
- Perhaps a later start each morning – 10am? We inevitably stay out a little later than intended and that extra hour could render everyone a little sharper and place less of an onus on the first speaker to wake us up. Keep using Whova or equivalent. Seemed like a great networking amplifier.
- Trying to get more but smaller workshops. One of the ones I went to (Bath Uni) was huge and it was tricky for the organisers to manage it successfully.
- Some break out time allocated to discussing problems areas. Attendees could submit subjects for discussion, then areas set up for group discussions, impromptu workshops with facilitators. One example might be finding out how teams manage reactive work with strategic work. Practical insights. Some regional networking – ways of grouping people from neighbouring institutions. Easier way to get to know local webfolk.
- Possibly more demos of what institutions have achieved with mobile/web (not just Powerpoints) Consider renaming the event to increase attendance – I’m sure that there are a lot of people in the sector who would find it useful but either aren’t aware of it or don’t know what the event is about.
- Change it into two days and not 3. Start about 11am on the first day and finish about 4.30 on the second day Have an activity on one of the evenings like a quiz as I felt all social activities were centred on the pub and as a non drinker I’m not interested in that and there was nothing else on offer.
- The community is rather self-contained and could benefit from outside perspective, for example Higher Ed web professionals from other countries could be invited to speak. Visionary talks, ‘broader picture’ presentations help to differentiate between urgent tasks and important goals, and challenge the status quo. Focus on fun is important on the last day, and particularly for the closing session. This could be something lighthearted like Town Hall at JBoye, or a hired stand-up comedian, etc. Breaks after every 45min session, to stretch legs and top up on tea/coffee would really help.
- subscription based setup with some regular updates / info / subsidising for events – either main IWMW or other regional events. Maybe a little outside of HE what is happening in the web to stir ideas.
- There does seem to be a big focus on the pub and ale for extra-curricular activities – not great if you’re not into that sort of thing. You may attract a more diverse crowd if you focus less on that.
- Having access to wine on the first night!
- Would be happy to pay a higher price for better food and drink at future events. Having some more technical talks / workshops would be good, but I guess that depends on who volunteers to speak. There weren’t so many technical things this year. Some of the workshop sessions seemed to be ‘sharing’ sessions, which then turn into group therapy rather than solving problems. Really no idea how to get away from that and make them more productive slots.
- I did notice at the first event I came to in Reading that there were many more sponsors and vendors around the venue, providing information and industrial networking beyond just the institutions themselves. It may not be relevant to everyone, but to some it may be very valuable. Suggestion was made that creating a group or institution that would meet once a year, rather than just an ad-hoc annual meeting of like minded but otherwise largely unconnected individuals, could be a way of increasing the strength of the group, and creating a better environment to share and connect all year round. Possibly a
- We seemed to queue a lot, that could be improved. The master class was too long and did not warrant 2 1/2 hours, it would perhaps be better to have two sessions. The session looking to the Future could have done with microphones to amplify the sound as some of the participants mumbled.
- Become more of a community of practice where the event is the highlight, but not the only contact we have. Subscription to a community so that it can underwrite the event.
- The two workshops I attended weren’t as useful as in previous years. Finding better workshop leaders is one way to improve this, but I appreciate this isn’t always easy, especially on a budget.
- Only downside I can think of was on the catering side where the venue were at times a bit difficult with my particular food allergies (gluten and lactose intolerance) and didn’t seem to know what these were or what foods they might be in, even when using examples. A ‘would be nice’ would be a copy of all the slides in one place (dropbox maybe?) which we could download and share with colleagues at our own institutions post-event
- Monday evening – maybe better to hire a place like the Tuesday evening, otherwise people separate across various pubs meaning it’s tricky to make sure that you speak to everyone that you’d like to.
- Central location for notes, tips, ideas. For pre and post conference discussion – More engagement with commercial sector, but not in a “sales” capacity
- We spent a long time talking about what students think and what academics think, why not invite some along to speak? We could get in touch with students unions and see if they could send a speaker.
- It was good to have perspective from the private sector, but it could be more interesting to get perspectives of our stakeholders within HE at a future event, eg faculty admin, academics, other central services
- The area of digital is now so wide and varied I think it would be beneficial to open up this a bit to other areas such as marketing/comms etc. I know it was mentioned on the final summary session but it would be good to see more events throughout the year. I think the vendors could potentially have more of a role to play in thought leadership and experiences within the sector.
- 1) Create more events for a specific audience (techy vs content for example), instead of having two optional talks (and 6 options in each one) would have been more useful to have for example 4 optional talks with 3 options each. 2) Have an organised networking session for example at lunch on Day 2
- Better catering (sorry!) – really needed a proper meal on day two before a whole afternoon of sessions and wasn’t a fan of the indoorr BBQ. I really like the more formal dinner aspect of the event. Event could be ‘tracked’ in terms of having themes running throughout, e.g. content, techie, management/transformation etc. Start a bit earlier to squeeze in one or two more sessions?
- Improved contact between attendees – some sort of forum/social media location for discussion before/around/after the event Possibly widen to FE – many of the same issues, some we in HE don’t (yet) see? Much of their audience is a year or two younger than ours!
Comments on the social events included:
- Event dinner was a bit of a disappointment compared to IWMW of old. But still a good chance to meet a few new people. The wine reception was fun and I met a couple of new people which was really useful. A shame it was in the conference space and not at an external event like previous IWMWs. And Piri Piri was great! My partner is Portuguese so I’m familiar with Portuguese cooking. Bacalau in Ormskirk. Who’d’ve thought it!!
- Not great catering at the Hub or what was served for lunches. Would’ve preferred a proper sit down dinner for the first night (as per 2013) and a nicer location for the drinks reception that’s not our breakout area between sessions. I know it rained heavily but the roof garden would’ve been fine that evening. so possibly changed a little too hastily. Food at lunch was poor, cold and greasy- a few sandwiches would’ve made the difference! Salt and Liquor was great, although a bit of a walk to get to.
- Really liked The Hop Inn on the Monday night. Great to get together with people and have a chat. Wine reception was a bit underwhelming – the wine was ok (!) but could have done with a change of scenery. Salt and Liquor was ace fun – great food and booze and really good to have that big venue upstairs. Great for mingling and networking.
- Poor quality food in the hub and only water to drink.
- I realise that budgets were tight this year and Brian was effectively underwriting the event, so please don’t take these comments as criticism. But I think it’s a pity we didn’t have an “outing” to a local attraction this year or wine at the event dinner.. perhaps next year!
Since the IWMW event is undergoing a significant period of transition it was pleasing to receive so many comments which will help to identify the successful aspects of the event and the areas in need of improvement.
Areas of success
During the welcome talk I summarised the main aims of the event: 1) to learn new skills; 2) engage with your peers and 3) identify new approaches for your institution. The secondary aims were to provide the time and opportunity to reflect on the implications of the changing technological, organisational, political and economic environment on the nature of the provision of institutional digital services. The final aim was to have fun!
I feel these goals were achieved. The feedback for the content of the event was exceptional, with the ratings of 49% Excellent and 51% Very good even exceeding last year’s ratings (47% Excellent, 44 Very good and 8% Good). The feedback also highlighted the value provided by the networking opportunities. Finally it was pleasing that the higher level of participation from the commercial sector was widely appreciated, as was the talks which addressed broader institutional issues.
Areas to improve
Despite the success of the event, there are a number of areas in which improvements can be made.
During the welcome talk I described how previous IWMW events had been held in capital cities (London, Edinburgh and Belfast), large cities (Aberdeen, Glasgow, Newcastle, Manchester and Reading) and historic cities (Canterbury, York, Bath and Chichester). IWMW 2015 was the first to be held in a small market town, which provided some challenges: including difficulties in getting to Ormskirk and the lack of suitable venues for social events beyond the university. Edge Hill University, the current Times Higher University of the Year, prides itself for its support for the student population. However it is not an institution which hosts conferences on a regular basis and its limitations in this area were noted in the evaluation forms.
But although I cannot accept responsibility for the limited public transport to Ormskirk or the lack of coat hangers in the bedrooms (!) I have some responsibilities in the late announcement of the event and the lower level of support for the social events at this year’s event. It is intended that next year’s event will be easier to get to (I have already ruled out Inverness!) and will provide a wider range of options for the social events, including wine at the conference dinner and options for those who do not want to visit pubs. In addition, unlike last year when I was working for Cetis for 4 days a week until 28 May, I now have no other significant work commitments and so will be able to dedicate my time to planning the IWMW 2016 event.
Planning for IWMW 2016
The evaluation form asked for suggestions for IWMW 2016. A summary of the responses is given below.
Ideas for areas to be addressed at IWMW 2016 include:
- More on ‘digital transformation’ – seems quite topical so follow-ups, how people are getting on with this would be interesting. Agile – how this approach is being used both on the technical and content side. How are other people – e.g. customers/users – being convinced of the value of this approach and buying in. Technical stuff – always interested in what people are developing; how they’re managing websites/CMSs; coping with main site and all the offshoots/micro-sites
- Practical stuff we can do on a shoestring and little resources!!!
- More for smaller institutions
- Broader range of content – would be great to have strands suitable for designers and developers. I also think the name puts people off and is increasingly out of alignment with people’s roles. The 20th in the series would be a good opportunity to co-brand with a new name as a mini relaunch. CASE costs loads more and attracts huge numbers
- I liked the content this year. Workshops were useful and a good way of meeting people too. It would be good if we could have a few more, with numbers a bit more limited for each. I realise the importance of the commercial sector. But maybe mixing them up a bit rather than leaving them all till last?
- More of the same – management, technical, content & marketing. Might it be useful to have a speaker from outside the sector? Eg, I just saw an engaging presentation from Edinburgh City Council on their user-focused digital transformation project.
- Digital strategy digital team structures
- Given the focus on digital cutting across the organisation I’d be interested to see content from or involvement from other areas of HE. Perhaps something on training, working across teams etc.
- As much content-related content as possible. More best practice, e.g. Bath. More excellent, engaging speakers who have some fire in the belly! Range of topics again – possibly a bit more marketing?
- It would be nice to see some more practical sessions that the bulk of people could use every day rather than the more abstract strategy material. Perhaps a session with lots of shorter talks to get some new people presenting as well?
- Would be good to hear from students and academics rather than just other people saying what they think and what they should be doing.
- More practical hands-on sessions which are tailored to developers and content professionals. Talks from: – Future Learn – EdX – GDS.
- Continue with a similar mix to this year e.g. experiences on web/mobile projects, Agile approaches etc.Ways of integrating and re-using content, what analytics mean, ITIL and service catalogues
- Plenaries Parallel sessions – possibly tracked/themes Pecha Kucha style sessions – 20 slides, 20 seconds Panel sessions – experts and HE sector again Hack day style event
- More technical sessions. Less group therapy / moaning sessions (if possible)
- Really hard to do as this was my first IWMW – I suppose being aware of global web/digital trends and working out how they might apply to HE? Any futurologists out there?
In addition it was suggested that the event continues to invite speakers beyond the HE sector:
- I would like to see much ideas from outside of the HE sector, so that we in the HE can start to look further afield for inspiration instead of cloning ourselves.
- Happy to see vendor presentations, perhaps a head to head 10 mins each, all in one session.
- More of the same, but obviously evolving as the digital world does too. I think commercial sector presentations are important. Even if we do not operate in this sector ourselves we need to know
In response to a question on the format of the event the majority were in favour of maintaining the existing format:
- Similar format to 2015.
- It was my first event so similar to this year seems fine.
- 3 day format works well. The master classes worked particularly well. Perhaps needs some element of stranding..
- Format worked fine, some of the workshops were a little lengthy but good IF you’ve got to get to grips with new techniques or ideas in detail.
- I liked the format as is, but think the afternoon sessions could be more focused with possible slightly smaller groups?
- Similar to 2015? Worked really well.
- Existing format works really well. I would replace the last session with something decidedly light-hearted.
- Good format. If attendees numbers were high enough would be good to have multiple streams (technical and content) but may not be possible.
- I love the 2 days over 3 days approach, please retain it. If it was at the end of the week (ie finishing on a Friday) it would perhaps give the delegates the opportunity to stay on, or fully unwind
- Current format worked well – having a morning to get there and an afternoon to get back meant limiting the disruption to your home life.
- I think the length of the conference was about right, the lunchtime to lunchtime format probably works well for people travelling longer distances (not an issue for me this time).
although a small number suggested hosting a shorter event, shortening the mast classes or holding short events during the year:
- Three days is a lot not to be at work. Could it just be two days?
- I am not sure the afternoon (3.5 hrs) sessions worked as well as they could do. Think it is slightly too long.
- More smaller events throughout the year. More streams for delegates to attend – technical, marketing, business
One potentially controversial area was the question of greater involvement by the commercial event at IWMW 2016. As can be seen greater involvement was welcomed by the majority of the respondents.
Responses given to the question “What concerns do you have regarding greater commercial involvement with the event?” included:
- I think that commercial involvement is an important part of making sure that IWMW remains financially viable.
- Overall, I think the balance was right this year. Perhaps presentations from two management consultants was one too many.
- Greater – none. If it were to start to dominate then that would be a worry.
- None; assuming that they aren’t selling too obviously 🙂 Seriously, no commercial attendee is going to expect anything silly like exclusive contact or anything of that sort.
- No concerns
Suggestions for the location of the IWMW 2016 event included:
- University of Kent! 😀 If that’s out of the question then I nominate Bath. They’ve done great talks 2 years running and it would be awesome to see them at home.
- Anywhere in the UK – preferably close to a mainline rail station.
- Anywhere as long as it’s easy to get to
- Liverpool suggestion sounded good. Would prefer UK as may have trouble funding excursions further afield. Bath?!
- If it’s someplace like EdgeHill with poor connections, then someplace in the North is best for those in Scotland. If it has good connections to airports then further south is fine.
- Another small university/location not too far north though!!!
- Anywhere at least reasonably well-connected by train.
- Not in a campus location, too limited. Should be in a city centre with good transport links and facilities.
- Somewhere more central so people can get there more easily eg Manchester, Birmingham
- Anywhere with good transport links. Wales? Not London. I think somewhere ‘in the middle’ is the fairest. I’m not so keen on it being in London because so many things are already there.
- Loughborough if things pan out.
- Anywhere in a major UK city with decent transport links!
- somewhere central – midlands
Next Steps in the Planning for IWMW 2016
Following the analysis of the evaluation forms and the publication of two blog posts based on the feedback my next steps are:
- Explore possible locations for IWMW 2016 including following up the suggestions I have received to date and inviting additional proposals to host the event.
- Solicit feedback from non-attendees at this year’s event in order to understand the reasons they did not attend.
- Invite feedback from members of the IWMW 2015 advisory group and establish a group to support the planning and delivery of the IWMW 2016 event.
- Develop a marketing strategy for the event.
- Review the comments on greater commercial involvement at the event and feedback received from event sponsors in order to develop plans for further sponsorship of next year’s event, which will help ensure the financial sustainability of the event.
- Publish a timescale for next year’s event including dates for the official announcement for the dates and location of IWMW 2016, dates for submission of proposals and dates on which bookings will open.
Note that in order to ensure that the views of those who did not attend the IWMW 2015 event can be addressed in the planning for next year’s event an evaluation form for non-attendees at IWMW 2015 is available.