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Different digital models

This is the third of a series of reflections on this year’s Institutional Web Management Workshop.

Read an introduction and the other posts.

On day three of IWMW we heard from Hiten Vaghmaria, head of digital development at the University of Westminster, and his colleague Suvi Streatfield. Hiten discussed the shape of his internet and educational technology team. The team encompasses communications, design, content, development, analysis, educational technology and multimedia.

In the space of two years, this team grew from 4 to 15. I found the size of the team interesting, and it is notable that the University of Bath – whose approach I find so inspirational – also has a large team, of 14. A larger team probably makes it easier to be radical.

At St Andrews, the web team had around four members for a few years. Over the past year, the web and digital teams have increased in size to eight.

Westminster and Bath do differ substantially in their models though. The University of Bath emphasise a devolved approach with an ultimate aim of disbanding the team. Westminster decided to centralise all content. However, now they are considering devolving some bits of it.

This was of interest to me because St Andrews has always had a heavily decentralised content management process, and that is often viewed as a risk. Time and again different departments of the university develop similar sets of content. Often they contradict each other. This leaves the user of the website and print publications confused. Knocking this siloed mentality on the head has recently been one of our major goals.

When we developed the Study at St Andrews website, the biggest and most important piece of work was in improving content management. We worked to ensure that all content was correct and consistent with print publications.

Our prospectus is gone over with a fine toothcomb every single year. Yet the website, with far more readers, was anarchic in the way content was handled.

But we cannot centralise the entire process, as that would risk the central team becoming a bottleneck.

Our compromise is for each department to have two or three designated content coordinators. This approach has worked well so far for the part of the website we have rolled it out to. We are currently considering whether this model could work more widely across the University.

Read more posts about IWMW 2014.

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