On Tuesday 28 July 2015 Mike McConnell will give a plenary talk on “The Challenge Is Institutional: Merging Customer Needs With New Operating Realities” at the IWMW 2015 event. The talk will describe a case study of a consultation exercise at the University of Aberdeen to define a digital vision for the institution. In this guest post Mike summarises the key aspects of the consultation process.

iwmw 2015: mike mcconnellFollowing last year’s IWMW event I wrote a post for Brian’s UK Web Focus blog wherein I noted that “digital goes beyond web and marketing; it is about institutions, how they are structured and how they respond to change”.

As I write the University of Aberdeen is concluding a significant consultancy engagement with the consultants Precedent/KPMG, conducted over 16 weeks. This consultation was commissioned by the University in order to help it define its digital vision and any associated changes required to deliver that vision. My presentation at IWMW 2015 will discuss the project and give further detail on the outcomes.

The consultation was conducted in three phases – Discovery, Vision and Planning.

1. Discovery

This phase involved an audit of the University’s existing digital activity and strategic aims; a review of competitors (direct and aspirational), and a comprehensive engagement with key stakeholders throughout the University. Over 100 staff were interviewed. Outcomes included a map of the customer experience landscape and an articulation of the current state of business processes/sub-processes.

2. Vision

This phase involved the consultants working with the University to identify strategic opportunities and prioritise three key areas for transformation; research the viability of these with staff affected (over 80 staff were involved); identify customer needs and develop a digitally-enabled Target Operating Model1 for the institution.

3. Planning

This phase produced high level plans with options and recommendations: 9 outline business cases including identifiable risks, issues and dependences; costs and timelines; ROI and benefits realisation timescales, as well as detailed customer journey maps for the three key areas and an implementation plan.

The project board is currently considering the outcomes and recommendations in the final report, prior to wider dissemination. Many of the recommendations were anticipated but others were not, and some are extremely radical. Nearly all imply significant changes to the University’s systems, processes and staffing.

In my earlier post I noted that I hoped the exercise would ‘provide us with a digital vision that is broad in scope and world class in its ambition’. I believe that the exercise has delivered on these aims. It will be interesting to see how the University reacts to it.

About the Author

mike mcconnellMike McConnell is responsible for Web & Corporate Systems at the University of Aberdeen. He manages developers responsible for digital, web and corporate applications development.

Mike’s main duties are:

  • Institutional digital strategy
  • Web applications development
  • Supporting and developing the institutional corporate systems (MIS) environment including Finance, HR, Admissions and Student Record systems
  • Supporting and developing the institutional SharePoint and CRM environments

Prior to his current role, Mike worked in Educational Development and before that was a researcher in Information Management.

If you are interested in digital transformation, web usability, social media and user experience, especially in higher education, feel free to contact Mike using the contact details given below.

Contact details


1 A Target Operating Model, as defined by Precedent/KPMG, “describes the strategy & services provided based on clear design principles; describes the processes to follow and the responsibilities for process steps; describes how the service will be governed and managed; provides details on the number, capabilities & grouping of people required; provides details on the technology & data to be used in support of services, and describes the locations where people will be based“.

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