Institutional Web Management Workshop 2005: Workshop Conclusions and details of IWMW 2006

Brian Kelly is just summarizing the workshop.

Just highlighting the session on Warwick blogs – raising questions for our web publishing policies – questioning role of the ‘web managers’ as restricting what is published.

Also suggesting that a problem of a conference which has so much ‘media’ coverage (online chat, blogging, recording, etc.) that people may be guarded about what they say.

Finally thanks to sponsors, speakers, and poster sessions, support services, conference staff.

Should really finish by thanking Brian Kelly both for asking me to blog this, but also running the show. He is handing over to Marieke Guy to announce the next workshop in Bath:

CMS Websites

A few sites mentioned by the panel

CMS Watch: Content Management, Records Management, Enterprise Search Reports

Content Management (CMS) News, Reviews, Resources – CMSwire

Step Two Designs Home Page

Wikipedia entry on CMS

EDUCAUSE Community – Enterprise Electronic Content Management Constituent Group

A panel member mentioned a book by Mark White about CMS – but I can’t find the one he is referring to at the moment.

Another website referred to was ‘haakman’ – but unfortunately I’m not sure of the spelling (apparently it is spelt ‘in a crazy dutch way’)

cms-list also mentioned, but this seems to no longer be active.

Institutional Web Management Workshop 2005: Addressing The CMS Challenge

Institutional Web Management Workshop 2005: Addressing The CMS Challenge

This is a feedback session from the regional discussion groups that have happened over the last couple of days. Each group was looking at the challenges surround the implementation and use of a CMS.

Essentially what is coming out is:

  • Be clear about your objectives – remember CMS is a tool, so don’t confuse this with the problem or solution. You have to be clear about the problem you are trying to solve, and identify the best solution.
  • ‘Sell’ the solution. You need to get buy in across the board – from end-users/content creators, to top level management. Again, being clear about the problems and the benefits of your solution.
  • Be realistic about the resource needed. You have to be able to buy/develop and implement, and then also continue to support.

What is perhaps obvious, but has been stated and re-stated throughout this workshop is that you have to have clear objectives. The whole ‘content management’ area is huge (I’m now pretty convinced that most problems can be stated as ‘content management’ problems) and none of us are in a position to tackle everything.

Once you have identified what problems you are trying to solve, you can prioritise and start allocating resource to solving those problems. You can also be clear about what the benefits are.

Something that is interesting to me is that you can identify the problem, and the solution, but the consequences are often very different.

For example, if we start by saying the ‘problem’ is that we want to lower the barriers to becoming a content creator by having easy to use tools for content creation and maintenance.

After some discussion you decide what tool you are going to use for this, and it happens to have CMS type functionality.

When you actually implement it, you solve the problem that you wanted to solve – but the actual challenge of the implementation is redesigning the the workflows of the whole content creation process.

This is the challenge – solving one problem is exposing a whole load of other issues, which you then need to solve for the project to be a success.

At one session yesterday there was a straw poll which showed that most of the audience regarded marketing/communications as the key ‘users’ of a CMS, but that the IT staff most often led the projects. This makes real sense to me. As the person running the technology, I stand to save my teams time by having a CMS system. However, the issues that arise are all likely to be ones that the marketing/communications people have to solve – so we have a tension between the drivers and the outcomes.

Institutional Web Management Workshop 2005: Friday Morning

A quiet start to the morning. There are a few poster sessions going on, and some ‘impact analysis’ sessions to assess how effective these workshops are etc. I was meant to go to one of these, but I got engaged in an interesting conversation over breakfast, and missed the start.

Better go and have a wander around the poster sessions before the final session – “Responding to the CMS challenge”

Institutional Web Management Workshop 2005: From the Ridiculous to the Sublime? Lessons from implementing a corporate CMS at the University of Southampton

Institutional Web Management Workshop 2005: From the Ridiculous to the Sublime? Lessons from implementing a corporate CMS at the University of Southampton

Southampton have already gone through 2 CMS already! After a University restructuring they decided to pilot a CMS – from Summer 2003 to October 2004. They then went through a tender process for a corporate CMS – wanting to bring in document management – enterprise level CMS – and started implementing in Dec 2004.

This session is really about the issues in implementing the CMS – not about the software.

So – needed to have a clear migration methodology for existing web sites, provide advice to people building websites with the CMS, and sell the benefits to the user – i.e. content creators I guess.

They wanted to avoid being too prescriptive, as they have very wide practice across the university in terms of web design etc.

They run a series of workshops:
1 – Site definition – purpose and scope of site, deliverables, statement of web site goals, target audience list
2 – Content definition – defines the content that will be included – to come out with a first-pass at content structure – this session invariably needs revisiting later
3 – Page design – decide page components and design – to deliver home page and content page elements list and design brief
4 – Site structure and ownership – agree structure, ownership
5 – Content type definition – identify types of content and look at production and maintenance processes – content elements list and outline of workflows

So – at the end of this process they should be ready to hand over the site spec to the owners include user access groups list, security model, content types specification and workflow diagrams.

The presenter has said that this is a lot of work – I can believe it! I can see the value of this approach, but I’m not sure it would translate to our institution. It is clear that implementing a CMS (for Southampton at least) is basically uncovering some fundamental questions about what people are using their web site for.

The CMS has changed the role of the the team – who used to help build websites – which is often about writing code or fixing bugs. Now more in a consultancy role – more a partnership with departments etc.

Very generously Southampton have offered to share the workbooks they use to help people specify their websites:

It is reasonably clear that the workflow is not really CMS related – but that the CMS is a lever for it. However Southampton believe that you cannot run a CMS based site without a proper site defenition.

Now – we are going to divide into groups and try to define a website for this workshop – but each group is going to be looking at different possible audiences.

That was an interesting exercise – although I was a bit tired to fully take part. I need to look at this process a bit more, and think about how a process like this might help at RHUL.

Yet again (sorry) coming back to the question roles. Who should own this process – again I’m not sure that the IT dept is the right place for this site design process to live – once again this sounds like a communication role to me. What happens when we do a print publication? Is there a process here?

Institutional Web Management Workshop 2005: Panel Session 1: The Web Management Community: Present and Future

Institutional Web Management Workshop 2005: Panel Session 1: The Web Management Community: Present and Future

This starts with Andrew Cox outlining some issues and questions.

Why does email continue to dominate online communication?
Who are the Web Support community?
Interesting point about two ways of looking at web – ‘Information’ and ‘Content’. Information point of view is often about text, publication structures/systems and empahsis on technological innovation. Content is more about communciation and visual aspects.

Brian Kelly now talking about the community:
In the past web support community looking for an ‘answer’, trying to share information and learning from gurus.
But moved from xml, cms, open standards toward strategies etc.

Now the community more realistic that there isn’t an ‘answer’. No longer looking for a destination, but a ‘journey’ – this is where a community is a support mechanism.

Need to build on events and mailing lists.
We can invest in innovative technoliges, invest in regional activities, the ‘professional web manager’

I think we need to start thinking about the skills that have been seen as ‘web manager’ or ‘web support’ skills. Some of these need to be embedded in others – we cannot just take existing people and form the idea of a profession around it.

Duncan Ireland now speaking about the Scottish Regional Web Group. Currently got about 20 institutions in Scotland to participate. They meet approx 3 times a year with quite a relaxed agenda.

Now thrown out for discussion. Obviously the Scottish group has proved useful to at least some Scottish group.

Just to repeat what I’ve said in the discussion – we need to know what communities we are talking about. I think we need to build communities around groups of people with a common cause or purpose – not around a technology.

I can see the need for a web tech conference – but this could well be independent of the HE sector. The communications side seems to be more HE specific to me.

Interestingly HERA came up at the end of the discussion – obviously a lot of concern about the impact this will have. However, I’m not convinced this is going to have the immediate impact that people are worrying about. We are just starting this process at RHUL, so I guess we will know in about a year!

Institutional Web Management Workshop 2005: Publish And Be Damned: Re-purposing In The Real World

Institutional Web Management Workshop 2005: Publish And Be Damned: Re-purposing In The Real World

This session is going to describe a project at UCL about repurposing content.

Is this the ‘holy grail’? Seamless re-purposing. Looking at the ability to share a data source in real time. They are looking for consistency, accuracy and economy.

Started with a small pilot with a generic approach. The Study Abroad Guide – a booklet produced on a annual basis.

Looking for the print and web versions to use the same content without cutting and pasting etc.

Trying to define who owns the processes:
UCL – the institution
Committee for the Recruitment of Students
Departments (who autor their own entries)
Communications and Design – the look and ‘voice’
Web Services – the Web look and CMS
Information Systems
Management Systems

Their were both cultural and technical problems:
Resistance to changing long-standing proven processes
Lack of resource for training and implementation
Culture change – paper to electronic – particularly in academic departments

Multiplatform and multi-application process (Quark, Zope, MySQL, Oracle, Linux, Unix, Mac, Windows)
Mutl skill-base
Differing text needs for print and web (e.g. “see page 10” vs “follow this link”)
Many attempts in the past to pass data through to Quark from databases/Word – but no dynamism from Quark side – so it hasn’t been possible to edit it in Quark, then pass back those changes to the source data

What are the solutions?
Get workflow right – identify essential processes
Reskill staff – make sure they are given appropriate time for this.

I’m going through a bit of a post lunch dip – not sure I’m adding much to the slides here (available from the IWMW 2005 website).

The interesting thing to me is the integration with Quark – the speaker has said that he knew nothing about Quark – and I’m in the same position. Perhaps this is a fundamental failing (and a market opening?) – why is there no crossover here between the applications for paper and online publishing.

For integrating Quark there seem to be a number of options, but they ended up using something called ‘LinkUP! Enterprise’ (Xcatalog Pro is another – and cheaper – alternative – but US based without so much UK support)

They prototyped the data structure in MySQL but intended to use Oracle for live. This is interesting, and I wonder if we could use this as a model for rapid development in some areas?

Anyway, this caused problems because the technical issues of connecting MySQL to Quark turned out to be different to connecting Oracle to Quark – and so they are still running on MySQL!

Now a live demo – some slight teething problems with the network at the moment…

OK – now someone in the audience is updating the entry on Anatomy and Developmental Biology – changing the tutor details. This is immediate on the web site – and then a refresh of the document in Quark Express updates the file for print publication. Not only this – but then updating it in Quark, and the data flows the other way as well.

This is a really good example of making the content independent of the publication process – and also that the user doesn’t care where the content lives – they update it wherever they are working with it.

Really good to see a real life demonstration of how this stuff can work.

Having done this with a single publication – they now want to do their prospectuses, departmental booklets, cholarships information and accommodation information. However, not all publications are as structured as their initial pilot publication.

CMS Presentation Q&A

Just some interesting stuff coming out. Basically the vision is that we need structured ways of managing all content. But this may not (yet) be a solvable problem.

However, the speaker suggests that to implement a CMS to produce our ‘web site’ is not what we should be aiming for. The ‘web site’ should be a filtered view of content that the university is managing – so the CMS should be managing the content (not necessarily centrally) and then we should be able to delivered a filtered view of it – one version of which will be our web site.

This chimes really with the questions we are asking at RHUL. We have a vision of content management being harnessed for the benefit for the whole institution – we don’t just want a web content management system. However, while we tackle this larger problem, we still struggle with our web content.

Interestingly the speaker has just said that he worries that CMS tried to put structure on data which may be a false premise. Perhaps this is why the web stuff is where we start (that is the corporate web presence) – as this has a reasonable structure (or the institution feels control over the structure)

Institutional Web Management Workshop 2005: There Is No Such Thing As A Silver Bullet: CMS And Portals Will Not Solve Your Problems!

Institutional Web Management Workshop 2005: There Is No Such Thing As A Silver Bullet: CMS And Portals Will Not Solve Your Problems!

Sounds like an interesting session – let’s see.

If a portal or cms answers the question – you are probably asking the wrong question.

Who is a CMS for?
If you can’t answer this question, then you really aren’t off to a good start.
Is for people coming from outside? Is it to save/make money? Is if for your users? Is it for the librarians? (says something about libraries and agenda setting that this comes up?) Is it for the IT dept?

Who should be involved in the procurement of a CMS?
Just a straw poll shows that just about everyone in the room has or is going to implement a CMS – this is where it’s at!

Generally the audience seems to feel that the key users of the CMS are Communications, Staff and Students, but that mainly the IT service is leading the project. This is a problem…

However, what isn’t captured here is that IT stand to gain – reduced support costs etc. The whole point is to stop IT spending time on Content Management and web stuff – although they aren’t going to be the key user, they may be one of the key beneficiaries.

The speaker is pointing out that many CMS features are not aimed at the main users – and it is easy to become distracted by this – but this is often true of IT systems isn’t it?

What is the CMS for?
Storing, Locating information
But people actually want to ‘do stuff’ with information – not just store and locate. They want to publish/share/preserve information.

Where is the data that is going to go into the CMS?
Inside or outside the institution? Collaborative working etc.

Who can access the data?
People, Projects, Institution

You may solve one persons problem with a CMS, but you won’t solve everyones problem – because often people’s problems (or should I say the required solutions) are contradictory.

Are you going to have centralised or distributed CMS? At the moment you have a distributed CMS by default – everyones content is somewhere, and you’ve got a multitude of corporate and academic systems storing all kinds of content.

The user doesn’t want to be moving between multiple systems to access different content. In fact, the user doesn’t even want to think about where stuff is.

Some questions:
Who is it for?
How does it relate internal and external information?
How does it relate to research data?
How does it relate to Blogs?
Will it Wiki?
Who owns the content?
Who is responsible for the metatdata?

What about portals? – Lots of hype
Key issues (in speakers view) – Customization, Personalization, Adaptation
This seems to be 3 related things – basically about delivering an experience and environment which is tailored for you – the differentiation being that some is done by the user (personalisation), some done by the system (adaptation) and some done by the people providing the service (customisation)

Seems to be differentiating between ‘thick’ and ‘thin’ portals at the moment (lots of content in the portal versus the portal as a way of navigating to the relevant information seemlessly).

The starting point was that we may be asking the wrong question. I’m afraid that I’m left not knowing what the right question is…

In answer to a question the speaker has said that he believes there have been 3 major revolutions in the world:
Writing (separated learning from place – you no longer had to go to a guru)
Printing (brought democracy to writing)
Internet (more democracy, but brings us round to interaction again – you can ‘go’ to a guru independent of location)

Institutional Web Management Workshop 2005: Sky High or Free Fall – All Aboard the Web Rollercoaster

Institutional Web Management Workshop 2005: Sky High or Free Fall – All Aboard the Web Rollercoaster

Should own up to a vested interest here – this session is by David Sweeney – who used to be IT director at my place – and is now a Vice Principal there – so I guess I’d better be nice. It will be interesting to compare David’s talk and our experience on the ground at RHUL!

Starting point – David believes that IT should not just be ‘serving’ the institution, but also influencing and changing the institution – making it better.

Now getting a mention – apparently I trashed most of the talk on the way up on the train yesterday!

David is setting the RHUL Context (and taking an opportunity to trash Manchester – which seems a bit harsh). Anyway – basically Research led stuff. Still think we’ve got a long way to go here – although we have invested in academic research in terms of academic staff, all our support services are about supporting teaching (in the main), not about supporting research. Look at the website and consider the profile of research.

So – the web:
IT First / Marketing Last – this is the history of the web. We need to move on from this. Agreed – but we still struggle with this. I’m not sure we really have the right structures in place to acheive this. Interestingly the speaker from the LSE yesterday is moving from the IT section to PR/Marketing section – is this the way things are going to go? For the ‘central’ web presence – our online ‘publications’ like the ‘online prospectus’ this has to sit in the same place as the print publications.

Do we understand why web-sites really work? We are working with an audience with hugely varying skills, and very different styles of ‘information engagement’. Also – coming back to a conversation with the LSE speaker yesterday – LSE believe that they shouldn’t try to satisfy more than 3 customer groups with a single web site – this definitely rang bells, as I feel that RHUL main page (and many HE institutions front pages – especially the ‘research led’ ones) doesn’t have enough focus – because we don’t know who we are trying to communicate with.

Are we (IT people) distracted by the latest and greatest technology, and not spending enough time actually consolidating what we are delivering? I agree with this – but we need both aspects. Look at the Warwick blogs stuff – really trendy, techy stuff which has worked.

On the otherhand we need those who are delivering our professional publications to be working on stable and reliable platforms, and controlling and driving what is happening. This, once again, comes back to the ownership – marketing/PR/communications has to own this stuff – IT is just a service isn’t it? Both sides need to realise this and the institutional management needs to realise this – otherwise our web presence will not deliver what the institution needs.

However, I think we are talking about a specific area of our web presence. Marketing/Comms/PR need to control the institutional publication – but not necessarily everything else on the web. At the very least we need to prioritise where we start. At the same time we definitely need more of the marketing skills and awareness across the organisation. And the same with web skills.

Is there something specific about these areas which makes it difficult? Everyone thinks they can do communication, and a lot of people think they can do web stuff (publishing for everyone) – perhaps any situation where the professional skills are not correctly valued we get a similar problem? Do we need a reassessment of the actual skills here? What are the difficult bits? What is the ‘anyone can do this’ stuff?

David is covering a lot of stuff on the RHUL Brand – why we have changed our key messages, and how they way our publications look is part of that message.

The final part of the puzzle – communicating the brand – the key messages – of the institution to the members of that institution. I said to David yesterday that I still didn’t feel I knew the key messages of the institution – or that I didn’t believe them yet (back to ‘research led’ – are we really? what is the evidence?) – and I’m really involved in this stuff. I think that perhaps different areas of the institution might have different views still.

Finally – a challenge from David – ‘how can I, in my job, make my institution better?’