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.


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.

a Concept for Devon Online – version 2

My previous post on this topic sparked a number of great conversations offline with colleagues as well as some pointers to other interesting posts, one by Dave Briggs.

I was also made aware of the following interesting websites:

So here is my current thinking around a new blueprint and vision.

A pan Devon web presence that virtually brings together the wealth of information about and services for residents and visitors, that enriches their experience and online journey.

  1. Increasing visibility and profile of Devon, our people and communities
    1. providing opportunities to showcase Devon, our communities and people
    2. supporting platforms for community collaboration and community planning activities
  2. Ensuring aggregation and facilitating reuse and re-purposing of content (mash-ups and content strategy)
    1. making best use of existing data and content to ensure that it is presented in the right place, at the right time and for the right audience
    2. supporting a content strategy approach to best understand and manage the flow of information
  3. Enabling, supporting and encouraging online participation, community collaboration and e-democracy opportunities
    1. supporting and encouraging online participation methods which demonstrate added value
    2. encouraging more involvement in local “communities of interest” and providing a framework for wider democratic engagement
  4. Facilitating and supporting information exchange – Person – Community – Devon – the World
    1. enabling connections and providing greater opportunities to share and collaborate with others
    2. encouraging and supporting participation in the digital world e.g. through new and social media tools
  5. Focusing on the needs of users and not being bound by political boundaries
    1. ensuring that political boundaries are not a barrier to delivering an excellent online customer journey
    2. encourage and develop partnerships for service and information provision
  6. Encouraging Trust – Brand recognition, validity and reliability of content
    1. providing a clear identity and accountability of service

Outline Architecture

(non technical viewpoint) The architecture needs to support the separation of the “backoffice” and the “presentation layer”. This enables the delivery of widgets/mash-ups etc from locations outside of the main council platform to be integrated more effectively and within the overall style and design of the main site.

The basic principle is that the site is a hybrid mix of mash-ups and standard text and services.

The following represents the broad tools that are shaping my thinking in terms of functionality and user interaction:

  • Blogs—each member can have their own blog, and blog entries can be aggregated into collective views (e.g., most recent posts, most active contributors, highest rated posts, etc.)
  • Microblogging—users will be able to share there thoughts and ideas, as well as receiving updates from others about important information linked via SMS
  • Discussions—create threaded discussion forums where members reply to posts from other members
  • Wikis—a post from one member can be edited by another member, maintaining version and author history
  • Videos—upload and share videos
  • Photos—upload photos, embed images in posts, create photo albums
  • Calendars—mark events and posts on a personal or group calendar
  • Content Tagging—members can “tag” content to allow other members to find that content via “tag clouds” or through content aggregation
  • Geospatial tagging – content will have GPS data attached for location based content
  • Mapping—apply “geo tags” to display content or member location on a map
  • RSS feeds—use RSS to incorporate content from external sources, or create RSS feeds to syndicate content to other sources and users
  • Podcasts—upload and syndicate podcasts
  • Bookmarks—mark and share URLS with other members
  • Voting & Rating—vote on content and aggregate the results
  • Status-members can update the community and their friends on what they are doing

All comments are welcome (except spam)

Are we ready to catch the social media train?

From what i can tell the people who understand social media, understand that it isn’t a community itself, although the people around it create a community of interest, but social media enables communities to connect, collaborate, communicate and empower action among other things as well.

So if that is the case, then from a public sector perspective the technology is irrelevant and only a means by which we engage. On that basis i can see why social media is placed at the back or to the side, because my perception is that public sector organisations don’t understand the communities who are using these tools yet (well not across the whole sector anyway).

So my challenge isn’t just getting my organisation on the social media train, it is in fact getting it to the station first?

Interesting, i have started getting parts of the organisation on the train, but i need to get the whole thing there so projects become easier….

I am working with our Youth Service, as previously mentioned on this blog, about youth participation via social networking sites, the easiest part of this was actually getting them to appreciate that this is where young people are, the hardest thing is to explain what our engagement in that environment looks like and how we will manage it.

We will be running a consultation event at a local youth service organised festival, where we aim to consult on 2 main areas, with the help of Tim Davies.

  1. Code of conduct (complaints, confidently & privacy)
  2. Engagement approach

The other area which i am working on, and for me this is far more significant from the organisational perspective is getting a corporate policy agreed at our corporate management board which allows all staff to formally access social networking sites in work time. This naturally presents many challenges to us in terms of managing risk, but not as risky as ignoring it and pretending it doesn’t exist.  I will keep you posted on the progress in this area as we move forward.

But back to the train in the station. One of the main challenges I face, is getting a greater understanding of all aspects of the business, so that I can then become a “Service Shepherd” who herds (i would prefer to say Lead here!) the service areas into the station and onto the train.

It will then be a challenge to co-ordinate the activities so that we ensure we benefit the communities we engage with or just simply listen to, as well as adding value and knowledge to the organisation in terms of understanding our many communities.