So the programme got underway in the Spring of 2015. The Executive Board at the University agreed to give some funding to a discovery phase.
We knew that our online estate had grown organically over the years, with no real strategic overview, but we needed to find out how big it was (so all of our websites and browser based software), what was in it, what services were we delivering and how we were delivering them, what was the user experience like and what did users think of it.
We worked with digital agency Zone for around six months, researching and understanding the scope of our online estate. High level things we found out included (but certainly not limited to):
- a proliferation of services that are duplicating effort, cost and not working in the best interests of our users or the University
- an acknowledgement that many of our services are not best in class
- a recognition that some services are not meeting core user needs or expectations of modern online services
- a clear need to develop standards and governance that enables future investment in our services to be targeted
Zone came up with a number of useful documents and presentations to help us convince the board that this needed to be a (minimum) three year programme and we needed to start as soon as possible!
The most useful document for me was the service index, where we captured most/all? of the services we deliver, how they are currently being delivered and by what systems, then what other people are doing well (inside and outside the sector) and recommendations on what we should do next.
This was a real labour of love for us and the agency and involved a plethora of post it notes and some very long afternoons fuelled with biscuits and tea.
However it has ended up being an incredibly useful tool both for prioritisation and for helping the programme team members understand the breadth and depth of the programme and giving them background to their specific projects when they join the organisation.
Where to begin …?
Then we had to prioritise what we wanted to tackle first. This was based on a number of factors, including getting feedback from over 400 staff, current students and prospective students as part of our discovery phase. We also reviewed:
- Business needs e.g. stemming a loss of income
- Reputation and reach e.g. delivering what is expected by a world class university
- Appetite and readiness to change processes and commit to being led by users (both team and project)
- User feedback and frustration with the services we are delivering
- High impact services that are perceived to be low difficulty
- Projects that are not dependent on other programmes throughout the organisation for their delivery.
Our current project list
Once this had taken place and agreed by the programme board we had identified the following projects:
- making it easier to enquire about and buy Short Courses
- making it easier to understand fees and apply for funding
- reviewing how prospective and current students use portfolio tools around the organisation and how we can improve and expand their use into collaborative areas for example, between students and alumni
- reviewing how we can get rid of word/pdf and excel ‘forms’ and improve our processes so that the service could be delivered in a better way, e.g. online form that is pre-populated with your details
- what services should be delivered via the My UAL student app (and how that fits in with MyArts – the Intranet)
- delivering virtual tours so prospective students can take tours through our buildings
And that is what we are working on right now – defining and delivering these projects.
More of that soon…