A new view of Corporate Web Management or is it?

I’ve been currently working on the Strategic Development Plan for the County Councils Web Channel over the last 6-8 weeks and I’m amazed by how much my own thinking has changed since I started thinking about how we move forward our web channel and web presence in the context of Big Society, Channel Migration (encouraging users to use lower cost channels such as the web over face to face), engagement, participation etc – plus the likely move towards a strategic commissioning model.

I do have a tendency to over-think things sometimes and I always value people challenging, correcting and sometimes punching me to see difference viewpoints or the missing pieces of the puzzle :o) – This is one of those areas.

Most web managers  and web professional should know that Socitm are working on a project to define a professional skills framework for people who work on public sector websites that includes:

  • programmers and coders
  • web developers (with technical skills)
  • web designers
  • content managers/editors
  • social networking experts
  • measurement/monitoring specialists
  • web marketers
  • web managers
  • customer service or IT heads with web responsibilities
  • e-communications professionals

My particular concern is around the Web Manager role as my previous post was exactly that (hence the task of writing the strategic development plan).

So if the scenario is that most public sector organisations are moving towards (some are already there of course) a Strategic Commissioning model, which also in theory will contribute to the Big Society agenda, then we actually need two types of Web Manager moving forward in my opinion:

1) A “Strategic” Web Commissioner – This would in effect be the person who wrote the strategy, understood and documented the organisational needs and specified at a high level the requirements by which a commissioning exercise could take place – they would also be responsible for monitoring the value and ensuring it delivered the outputs specified. This role would also need to set and outline the standards as part of the requirements

2) An “Operational” Web Delivery Manager – This would essentially be the person(s)  responsible for the delivery of the platform. In the scenario above this could be an external organisation or a partners ICT department.

The other roles within the skills framework above don’t seem to be impacted in the same way as all in my view with the exception of the Strategic Web Manager could be “commissioned” or more bluntly put “outsourced” – yes even content authors, although less likely!

The model is, in a simplistic way, very similar to how Web Managers operate now, they are usually outside of the delivery unit (ICT) and are often located in the business (Communications or Customer Services) and essentially commission internally developments and projects which meet a set of outcomes – well we hope they do?

However the main difference is that we will see a new relationship emerging and a logical development of the role into a more strategic context, one which in my view has to understand the commissioning process and inform and influence the direction of the channel.

To put it more simply, you are either specifying what it does, where it goes and what it looks like OR you are part of the delivery of it! Some of us will need to decide what side of that fence we want to sit, some of us of course won’t get a choice…

When it comes to Social Media, I think this adds a different dimension and will inject a much-needed strategic context for social outputs which currently  Web Managers are just grappling with. In my view this shift will provide an opportunity to get “social” into the wider organisation. This simply adds layers to collaboration, knowledge sharing, learning, communication, engagement, participation as we all already know.

To come back to the present day for a minute, I don’t see an immediate transition to this model, but I do suspect that over the next year we will start to see the Strategic Web Commissioner type role emerging and starting to inform and influence the commissioning of web services at a more senior level in councils than has previously happened.

Some people may say that this isn’t really a significant change, but something tells me that this is a big step change from how we work now and we need to work out what it means before someone else does.

As I said at the start, I’d value challenge, comments and an occasional virtual punch to either get me back on track or to make some observations that I simply haven’t considered or acknowledged here.

What is the future for Public Sector Intranets

Public sector and in particular Local Government Intranets are in my view a bit of a strange thing really – they are supposed to support productivity, knowledge sharing, internal communications and staff engagement to name a few key areas, but most in my experience fail to do a single thing well.

I don’t think we need to ponder the reasons as i think they are pretty easy to point to: lack of dedicated funding – often diverted to the “priority” public website, lack of focus, lack of direction, lack of external review and benchmarking (no Better Connected report for inside the firewall), lack of interaction and a lack of culture around real collaboration (assumed not proven!).

So I asked myself what is the future for Public Sector Intranets?

I actually find this quite an interesting area to talk about – I know i need to get out more – but there is a convergence happening around corporate desktops and Intranets which has to be considered and recognised if organisations want to move forward. They aren’t the same but the capabilities of each do overlap, depending on how you define your intranet of course.

Then there is the IDeA’s Knowledge Hub Project which in my view offers huge opportunities – Any public sector body considering replacing or rebuilding there current intranet ought to at least find out more about this project as i believe it will transform the way the public sector collaborates and could in my view become a public sector intranet – It almost has to, if it wants to deliver some of the benefits it talks about. This model also becomes even more relevant considering the impending cuts across the sector and the drive to move shared services and a reduction in duplication. Intranets seem a likely if not obvious target in my opinion.

The future for intranets may in fact be that we no longer need them at all. If we are being driven to publish data online to service areas such as FOI, being encouraged to collaborate across the sector to reduce duplication and share best practice and learning, increase staff and employee productivity, work in partnership and across the public sector and ensure a skills transfer and knowledge base. Then how can any single public sector organisation justify or even consider developing there own – well at least until they can prove they need one on there own?

Whatever the future for Intranets, one thing I can say with certainty is that they can no longer continue being static, boring, un-engaging, repositories of out of date information.

Do you think there is a need for an organisation to have its own intranet?

Google Wave – are we “waving” goodbye to the old school

The much talked about Google Wave will be available later this year and the preview demonstrated at Google I/O event has got me thinking and after watching the video (below) there are a number of opportunities for the public sector, here are three areas where i feel we could gain real benefit, with this type of new functionality.

  • Emergency comms – with email, web publishing and IM all interconnected. Communicating to a wide audience goes beyond your “contacts” list and can essentially reach the world in an instant.
  • Community engagement – comments/conversations on blogs or other sites will be sent to me in my inbox and i can reply via my inbox. This would help those people who want to re-use content on various platforms and enable those people to capture all feedback and collate these and pass the conversations from one platform into another to facilitate wider community or network involvement (this coupled with the conversation playback facility will transform collaboration)
  • Integrated access to colleagues / people on mobile devices (mobile and flexible working) this changes the landscape of mobile and flexible working in my opinion.

I for one am really excited by the prospect of seeing how this can allow people to work, collaborate and communicate more effectively……

It won’t solve everything, but it can teach us a new way in sharing and collaborating together.

Well done Google.

The increasing impact of social media on the political landscape

I am not going to write formally about my views on politics in general but with Americans voting in Barack Obama for what is being hailed as a historic and landmark event in global politics, i feel i need to mention a few things and ask one of two questions.

It has been widely recognised that one of the key support tools Obama used during his campaign were the new and social media platforms that are available. These tools were simply not as widely supported before so their reach did not generate the same effect this time round. What is interesting about all of this, is i believe that politics and elections across the globe will never be the same again.  That for me is a good thing, because living in the UK i don’t think i have ever felt part of the US Elections as i have done this time round, due to the social networks that i belong too and the different means in which the media has been presented and shared across the world, for some reason, i felt i also wanted to vote, that is very powerful considering i am over 3000 miles away.

Jeremiah Owyang posted “Snapshot of Presidential Candidate Social Networking Stats” on the 3rd November which showed the following stats

Facebook

Obama: 2,379,102 supporters

McCain: 620,359 supporters

Obama has 380% more supporters than McCain

YouTube

Obama: 1792 videos uploaded since Nov 2006, Subscribers: 114,559 (uploads about 4 a day), Channel Views: 18,413,110

McCain: 329 videos uploaded since Feb 2007 (uploads about 2 a day), Subscribers: 28,419, Channel Views: 2,032,993

Obama has 403% more subscribers than McCain

Obama has 905% more viewers than McCain

Twitter

Obama: @barackobama has 112,474 followers

McCain: @JohnMcCain (is it real?) 4,603 followers

Obama has 240 times more followers in Twitter than McCain

But if you look today (5th November) there is already an incredible increase in followers and supported for Obama. The main questions i have though is will these media tools still be used as pro-actively now that he has been elected?

The thought occurred to me, as i am sure it has with many people recently, can this be replicated in the UK for our general elections, or even local elections?  well i doubt it, whilst we (general public) seem to be fed more and more information by the media about the personalities and celebrity of current MP’s, it doesn’t quite seem the same to me, we don’t really vote for individuals, although “the leader” does play a part. Tony Blair being a great example of this. But the reality is we still after all is said and done vote for a “party” and a “view”.

Chris Reed posted on this very subject and highlights 4 examples of how it could be utilised by UK politicians  – he writes:

1) Motivating the supporter base. Preaching to the converted remains important. They’re the ones who help get the votes out on the day

2) Fundraising. We haven’t seen the levels of individual donations that the US elections rely on, but given recent ship-based discussions I predict that the parties will have to tap more voters (i.e. not just party members) than ever before in the next election

3) Policy development and argument. The internet is basically a pub. It’s where people talk, and clever people listen. Sometimes it’s an early warning system. Sometimes it’s an echo-chamber. But it provides unrivalled access to what people are actually thinking. Political parties of all shades should take note, and tweak their policies accordingly

4) The personalisation of politics. Rather perversely – being friended by a politician can sometimes be akin to being “followed” by a celebrity on twitter (@stephenfry anyone?) All politicians are looking for that “personal” touch. Using social media wisely can help to make individual supporters feel special, and, when used appropriately, can also help answer critics’ questions in a sincere and honest way.

In relation to the impact of social media on the US Election, it is hard to demonstrate exactly what impact is has had, but if you understand how social media and social networks are used then it can start to demonstrate the potential for increased communications and dialogue with people. A recent news release in Science Daily highlights research that Dr. Paul Haridakis, associate professor of Communication Studies at Kent State University is doing where he states “Many people, will watch videos and use traditional media like TV to acquire political information about the candidates, but they also are going to the Internet and using social networking sites to see who people they know support. The information gleaned from their social networks may be the information they find most credible and persuasive”  This basic level of peer to peer confirmation was validated in our recent consultation with young people, where they said social networks are places they meet and hang out with their friends. We are in a society where consumer empowerment is becoming increasingly more accessible and this will only get more pervasive as time goes on.

The impact of your friends views and the fact that by there nature social media tools are global it does raise some interesting questions about external influence from peers around the world on an individuals choice Dahna M. Chandler’s blog – Getting Social Media Savvy recently posted Social Media and the U.S. Presidential Election: What if the World Could Vote for US President?, This website shows an amazing result in favour of Obama:

Barack Obama        87.3% (758,041 votes)
John McCain           12.7% (110,103 votes)

So why such interest in the US Election? Is it because we all do really care who is in charge of one of the most powerful countries in the world, or is it because the tools we now use on a daily basis, which connect us to the lives of people who actually do need to make a choice and that in itself inspires our interest. Or is it something bigger, something more social.

The US Election has done a great things for social media and social media has done great things for the US Election, but has it changed the world, have we all started to realise more and more that we are truly one community connected by our interests and that our geography is no longer a barrier to networking. Has it also made big business and future political leaders sit up and take notice of the power of consumer/citizen engagement. Martin Bowling guest posted back in October on searchenginepeople How The US Election Is Changing Social Media, Online Rep Management & The World where he tsalks about 3 keys things that have occurred.

  1. The partisanship/overtly political statements that people are so willing to put out there without regard to online reputation management issues
  2. The effect of partisan/overtly political comments on the relationships that people have worked hard to form online and finally
  3. The transformation of twitter from a simple conversation tool to a full blown memetracker

If you want to see how much social media “stuff” is out there just for the election then Jarrett Martineau has posted Social Media Mania and the US Election: the Best Links & Resources

I am still left with the question, “will it all continue?” after reading all the websites i have read in the last few days about the impact, it would be a shame to loose the momentum that it has now gained from this event.

Finally, we do seem to be entering a period of change, lets hold on and ride the wave.