By Chris Pfeiffer, Information Service Consultant
Strategic Planning & Process Team
How many smart and talented people does it take to develop a holistic web strategy?
Apparently, twenty-five. At least that’s how many answered the call in September when Paula Millington assembled a task force to explore the issues and challenges of managing university web properties, and to help design a strategy that aligns efforts and strengthens the ecosystem that serves the U web community. I was recruited to help plan the overall process and facilitate the task force working sessions.
The assignment was driven in part by recommendations from the 2015 Deloitte assessment, which included creating a strategy to reduce the duplication of web services and establish a more holistic web presence across the University. The expected benefits outlined by Deloitte reinforced the values and strategic goals of both UIT and the University, including an improved overall user experience, collaboration across functional silos, and easier access to web services.
It was important to us that the strategy be created from the outside looking in, and not be driven from just one point of view. In her invitation to task force participants, Paula explained that she was looking for “… a good mix of thought leaders who understand the benefits and challenges of managing web properties; people who can think strategically and be influencers in the future.”
Paula’s task force approach was approved by executive sponsors Ken Pink and Bill Warren, and endorsed by the Strategic IT Committee (SITC) in August. Then the fun work began. We started with stakeholder interviews and a survey about the existing web ecosystem. For the working sessions, I designed a series of creative strategy activities to help the group describe the current state of the campus web and envision the improved future state.
The task force met for two half-days of highly focused work; initially building a shared understanding of the problems, challenges, strengths, and successes of web property management at the University. As themes emerged, we analyzed the various issues and arguments from multiple perspectives, and created a series of design canvases that helped us develop the strategic summary and plan. A smaller group gathered for a third session of spirited debate around some of the more challenging ideas.
The task force met again a few weeks later to review, comment, consider, praise, edit, criticize, tweak, cheer, denounce, refine, applaud, modify, and ultimately endorse the strategy. The document continues to evolve as several more rounds of stakeholder scrutiny are required before the strategy and plan can be considered finished. A permanent governance group is still to be convened, with a committee charter and 2017 agenda in the works.
Feedback about the strategy, and the process of putting it together, has been decidedly positive. For me, it was rewarding and gratifying to help Paula and the task force be successful and accomplish their goals. They all obviously cared deeply about tackling this challenge well.
And besides, it was a lot of fun. A lot of hard work, yes…but fun work.