Further developing the Content Strategy

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It has been a fascinating process developing the councils first content strategy, the personal learning and development which I’ve had to do as well as helping others understand the benefits of what we are calling a content strategy has also been an interesting and rewarding challenge.

In an email conversation with Sarah Lay (my unofficial content strategy peer review person) we touched on the issue of whether the content strategy I am creating is actually what the content strategy community would recognise as one…we both agreed and concluded that it didn’t really matter, as long as it did the job!

We touched on the fact that in #localgov we are really getting to a point where a group of disciplines are coming together and depending on your organisation it is likely to approach it slightly differently.

The types of things the content strategy is informing, linking to and dependant on are (in no particular order):

  • Communications strategy
  • Engagement Strategy
  • ICT Strategy
  • Information Strategy
  • Access Strategy

It has replaced a traditional web strategy altogether in my mind as we recognise that the “web” as a platform is essentially how we will manage our ICT infrastructure.

So unpicking the old web strategy further, a new strategy which is the responsibility of my ICT colleagues is an Application Strategy – this is essentially the strategy that informs our delivery of online services.

In my informal consultation on the draft content strategy, it has become clear that:

a) everyone agreed with the spirit of the document but it relied on conversation and explanation to answer people’s questions as they weren’t found in the document < but this is what the process was intended to tease out.

b) I didn't clearly articulate the strategic direction and focused too much on the 2 year roadmap < people were actually more engaged in where we are going than I had anticipated.

c) people didn't understand some aspects of what it is being proposed and the full extent of how we would apply a global experience language < My view is that it will be a complete rule book covering our web domain and not just the visual design of it, it will also form a critical and core part of a future procurement and commissioning framework for web/digital stuff.

One of the benefits of developing a content strategy is that I don't feel we need a social media strategy now. If we get the content strategy correct then our use of social media platforms to increase the engagement and interaction with our content will naturally increase…this does not mean that our use of social media will simply go crazy…but more than we will focus on the needs of the content, where the audience is and how we connect our content with the audience…the logical conclusion is that it won't be on our website but in social spaces.

And it is this strategic direction which people are really supportive of and are really engaged with…I've got one more week of informal consultations then a period of refinement and amendments on my document (which I've already started) then the content strategy will be ready for formal sign off internally by our corporate leadership team (gulp).

The next few weeks are going to be interesting.

Beware the labels you apply to yourself

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Earlier today I went to a meeting in my capacity as a school governor and like you do in meetings where you’ve never met people before you often introduce yourself and explain a bit about your background and skills etc.

Well I broadly introduce myself as someone who is interested in Social Change but works (in a professional sense) in and around the areas of Web, Communications and ICT as well as social enterprise business models and I’d like to help my school and the wider learning community improve outcomes for children – nothing too complicated but saves me going on an on about what I believe in…wouldn’t want to bore people I’ve not really met yet, plus we were limited for time.

It was a very interesting meeting and had a very wide range of skills and interests in the room from Head Teachers (Primary and Secondary) to School Administrators to Solicitors to Architects to Procurement people and well me!!

The first thing that made me chuckle and got me thinking about the label I had given myself was that the projector didn’t work  – so one person commented “ask the IT guy!” Well obviously I got up and pushed some buttons and looked like I knew what I was doing but it was someone behind me who actually turned the plug off and then on again which actually resolved the problem – that old chestnut!

But what I found interesting about this was the assumption that I knew how to fix it, just because I said I was interested in ICT meant I knew how to fix projectors  to other people :)  ICT is a very big domain and most (not all) people think it is all pretty much the same…

The funny thing about this to me, is that I do not consider myself an IT guy, however that is informed by my interaction with far more technically gifted people than I, but sometimes (and generally too late to change anything) I forget that simply saying IT to most people means that you can fix the computer, as well as probably being able to build one, fix the projector and sort out the broadband or wi-fi problems as well….Lesson learned and note to self: change my introduction and be more specific when describing my interests.

However I will get my chance to contribute in an area I feel confident in as I was the obvious first choice for a sub group around communications and websites.

So not all bad….but I fear that I will become the “IT go to guy” from now on…

 

 

 

 

I think we are missing the point

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I have written quite a few posts recently about not focusing on the technology or the tools when speaking about social media and that is what I believe (I could be wrong), but we really have to take people on a journey in order that they can see the real impact of all of this stuff and that is the “behaviour change” and “expectation” this all creates in individuals (staff and citizens), mostly everyone recognises this but we rarely focus on this when speaking to folk.

Ok so twitter, Facebook, WordPress, Flickr, YouTube and many others are all the tools that people use to share stuff with friends, family and pretty much anyone interested in their stuff.  But the key point to focus on is the behaviour change all these tools are driving and the expectations they are creating in everyone we meet.

I’ve been to two events in the last week where this issue has popped up – last week I attended the Guardian ICT Leadership Forum in London and yesterday I attended a lecture at the Met Office (for Met Office staff primarily) by @AnnHolman on the impacts of social technology on business.

The thing that kept coming up was that people get fixated on the current tools and make comments like “I’m not in Facebook, or on twitter so I can’t see the value” or “surely Facebook and twitter will go away of be bought by someone and we’ll need to get on the next big thing”.  The answer to both of these comments is “your missing the point”….

The point is (for me anyway) and I made this at the Leadership forum as well as the Met Office meeting (although Ann had already said exactly the same thing at the beginning of her talk – it is about behaviour) is that these tools are not the things we should be primarily concerned about, it is the impact on people and the expectations and behaviour changes they foster in people…

  • the fact that friends and family can instantly communicate via any device to each other from anywhere in the world.
  • the fact that I can share precious moments with people via video or photo as soon as something happens or even broadcast it live over the internet
  • the fact that i can learn new topics and subjects and watch videos on how to play the guitar or learn how to use a software package by simply searching google
  • the fact that i can access a huge amount of information about what my friends like and what they are doing, thinking, watching, listening to, who they are with all from my mobile phone
  • the fact that email seems like it takes too long to get a response and I might as well instant message someone instead
  • the fact that i can touch a screen and it responds instantly to my gestures and I can explore information in new ways
  • the fact that when i work on something i expect friends and people I’ve never met to help and assist me with my tasks.
I’ve not mentioned any particular tool here, but I could…but what value would that add to the conversation?
These are simply some of the basic changes people expect to see, I’ve not mentioned or referred to location based services, mapping, workflow, task management, i could go on and when you take these expectations into a local government context you can see the challenge we are facing. Challenges we *must* overcome or we will become irrelevant to pretty much everyone.  The issue is we expect these kinds of solutions in an organisational experience.
The challenge/question for ICT leaders and managers is can consumer grade products provide 80% of the functionality to reduce costs across the sector…or do we spend lots of cash on enterprise grade products that can’t change as quickly and force uniformity on everyone – the web allows individuality?
The impact of social media isn’t whether or not you have a twitter account, Facebook profile, YouTube channel, Flickr stream – It is whether your organisation wants to be relevant and able to communicate with people how they communicate with each other.
This all means we need to rethink everything about our organisations and keep the stuff that is relevant and change the rest that isn’t…for some (if not most) that will mean everything.  We do need to face some potential obstacles though and we can not ignore them.
  • Security – we need to think about security in a pragmatic way that allows us to stay in touch and relevant whilst maintaining our legal duty.
  • Risk – we need to think about our approach to risk, we need to manage and mitigate, not avoid.
  • Thinking – we need to change our thinking, we *must* focus on opportunities presented to us by new thinking
  • People – we need to accept that all of this is about people and changing people’s behaviours.
  • Culture – we need to challenge existing cultures by empowering people to adopt new thinking, to take risks.
But saying all of this, sometimes it helps to start with twitter and work out very quickly to the wider issues, but we need to make sure we don’t stay focused on the tool, it is the behaviour change we need to champion.

 

 

 

It’s all just Business

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For those who don’t know me – I work as an Enterprise Architect in Corporate ICT for Devon County Council – The challenge for an Enterprise Architect is to focus on the whole Business and not just the IT function or service – we are employed to facilitate Transformational Change across the whole Business. Not an easy job as such but a very interesting and challenging one.

So for me what I do is ALL about the Business of the County Council.

I have recently posted (a collaborative effort with Martin Howitt) on our team blog about the wider implications of the changing landscape of corporate ICT and how that effected our ability to realise cost savings to the scale we hear about and need to deliver.

But we must first address some key issues and get organisational acceptance to some basic building blocks of Effective and Efficient organisations.

IT offers no value on its own. It really is ALL about the Business. The people outside of IT (Business People) are the people in control of the organisation and they specify the priorities and direction through strategy. So why don’t they control IT more effectively? Why isn’t there one Governance stream in an organisation – Business Governance?

IT governance is really business governance. In many organizations, IT has led the way in implementing governance over critical decisions related to strategy, business architecture, investments, change, programs, risk and sourcing. Over time, organizations have realized that decisions in these areas need to be coordinated across the enterprise and have elevated and consolidated these activities outside and above IT.

Via – HBR – What does the future hold for IT?

In the team post we talk about how core IT competencies need to be mainstreamed into the Business. What we really mean by this is that Business Leaders should have the skills and competencies to procure IT solutions, manage IT contracts and drive value from the investments they make – not just in IT.

Another issue which is critical is how will the current Heads of IT or CIO’s deal with the current financial situation.

I see two options in local government:

  1. Drive cost savings, innovation and transformation in the organisation through radical approaches to ICT delivery and infrastructure.
  2. Play safe and wait for someone in the Business to make the decision for them

If I were a CIO or head of IT, i know which one i would rather opt for as Option 2 pretty much spells “outsourcing” to me.

The following presentation covers the CIO dilemma well and is worth checking out.

What are people doing to save costs in ICT

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I suspect many authorities are looking at how they can cut back on the costs of delivering ICT and i suspect that solutions like Google Apps, Open Office and Alfresco are likely to be quite high up on some peoples lists as viable alternatives.

The challenge however is to actually demonstrate that over the lifetime of the solution the costs are lower than your existing solution or upgrade path.

It isn’t as straight forward as simply saying we can reduce our costs by moving from Microsoft and MS Office to Google Apps, and others as we still have legacy systems that require a Microsoft environment or an element of the wider Microsoft suite to operate.

In local government we have some critical business applications that would fit into this bucket and we could only really start to make an impact on the suppliers if along with other local authorities we started to approach them collectively about developing an integration module for Open Office or Google Apps or whatever was required to allow a greater freedom and increased flexibility within our wider infrastructure. Over time of course we need to start buying software that truly adheres to open standards and are compliant with eGIF. (eGovernment Interoperability Framework). But that is a journey and will not happen over night.

We perhaps need organisations like Socitm to starting taking a more proactive lead in facilitating Public Sector Agencies to explore and help cost out the transition from one environment to another. I suspect this is a Consulting Service from Socitm, but it almost needs to be more widely available and in partnership across regions or types of council to start to offer value.

So what are you and your organisation doing to reduce costs in ICT?  I am keen to hear about stories and case studies from other organisations (public sector would be great) who have made radical changes in their infrastructure and realised cost savings and had positive feedback from within the business.