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Rationalism vs. Incrementalism: two opposing or complementary strategies for effecting change in HEI web development PowerPoint Presentation
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Rationalism vs. Incrementalism: two opposing or complementary strategies for effecting change in HEI web development

Rationalism vs. Incrementalism: two opposing or complementary strategies for effecting change in HEI web development

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Rationalism vs. Incrementalism: two opposing or complementary strategies for effecting change in HEI web development

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  1. Rationalism vs. Incrementalism: two opposing or complementary strategies for effecting change in HEI web development Mike McConnell Iain A. Middleton Online Information, 4th December 2001, London

  2. Overview • Definitions • Background: HEI web sites • Change • Rational and incremental approaches compared: • The Robert Gordon University (RGU) • University of Aberdeen (UoA) • Conclusions

  3. Definitions Rationalism - the project approach • Define the desired future state • Identify the activities and allocate the resources required to achieve it Incrementalism- the process approach • Can’t necessarily define ideal future state • Recognise limited resources • Acknowledge need for compromise

  4. Why do HEIs need web sites? Sell Services Courses, research, consultancy, etc. Facilitate relationships and communication Academic, student, research partners, peers, clients, communities local and national and thus Represent the whole institution

  5. Characteristics of HEI web sites • heterogeneous audience • not just one goal but many • multi-purpose site • many & diverse independent contributors, each with own agenda How do we build a coherent institutional web site from such diversity?

  6. Required elements

  7. Reality Historical reasons for having a web site • Because we can: • The technology is there • I suppose we ought to: • Everybody else has one • Amateurs/enthusiasts • I can do HTML! • I want to advertise my research • I have a hobby…

  8. Resultant problem

  9. Consequences • no overall editorial goal • is it any more than the sum of its parts? • competing priorities that become conflicts • patchwork of technologies and tools • uncoordinated/inconsistent/patchy • outdated/irrelevant/duplicated/incorrect information Result: poor reflection of the institution

  10. Evolution and realisation

  11. Conflict - green field vs continuity • Departmental freedom • What about all the work we’ve already done? • We’re used to doing it this way • We’re unique • No thanks • Exists for our own many individual purposes • Our web site Centralised control • Desire at senior level for “a better web site” • If we spend £x we could get one like theirs • We want consistency • Branding! • Exists to sell the institution • The university web site

  12. Revolution – or evolution? • Change from collection of pages to institutional communications asset essential • Continuity of existing information ecology is also vital • Need a path which satisfies both the need for change and continuity Examples of 2 different paths

  13. Rationalist Case Study - RGU • Where we were: • c 20,000 pages • 1 central & 5 independent servers • pockets of proactivity and enthusiasm: • Patchwork by outsourcers, individuals, enthusiasts • no supported authoring tool, minimal training • non-representation, non-participation of key areas • ownership and responsibility grey areas

  14. Rationalist Case Study - RGU • Decision to act • consensus on need for change • common ground with “web enablement” vision • representations to SMT from Web Editor & departments • insufficient resource, skills, tools and support under existing setup • Result: significant resources were made available

  15. Rationalist Case Study - RGU Project approach - objectives: • support and enhance student recruitment • site-wide consistency of appearance • implement non-technical publishing • web-enable specific business processes • be ‘recognised as leader’

  16. Rationalist Case Study - RGU Implementation: • management driven • project board and team established • key players identified • discussion/development groups established • deliverables defined • timescales and deadlines set

  17. Rationalist Case Study - RGU Positive Outcomes • delivered on time, within budget • attractive, accessible web site • all content areas represented • easy, browser based publication • technological infrastructure

  18. Rationalist Case Study - RGU Possible negative outcomes • did tight timescale give long-term answer? • focus on product – but procedure? • other work frozen for duration of project • content quality control • legacy site confusion • will new publication tools suit future needs?

  19. Where we were: c 100,000 pages 1 central and 8 major independent servers large, active devolved body of authors most parts represented - but variable quality Incrementalist Case Study - UoA

  20. Incrementalist Case Study - UoA Decision to act: • process approach/guided evolution - a framework for future development • non prescriptive • broad/flexible remit: “ensure an effective and professional presence… through design, maintenance & consultation” • focus on facilitating organic growth/participation

  21. Incrementalist Case Study - UoA Implementation: • web strategy group • web team • manager (information skills) • webmaster (technical skills) • developers • web co-ordinators ‘community’ • standard authoring tool + training • two way process

  22. Incrementalist Case Study - UoA Positive Outcomes • depts and SMT involved • policies and procedures established • tools, training and support • free editorial and advisory service • cost effective in-house resource for authoring • depts are willing to pay for professional service environment created for ongoing definition and delivery of solutions:

  23. Incrementalist Case Study - UoA Possible Negative outcomes • development is open ended – potentially endless • development has low visibility • compromise may dilute site impact Conclusions 

  24. Pros of rationalist approach at RGU • mandated change - stasis not an option • allowed radical thinking • broadened participation • forced issues to be addressed co-operatively • broke down barriers, forged new partnerships • high impact, high visibility • feelgood factor

  25. Cons of rationalist approach at RGU • The right objectives? • how many fingers in the pie? • is success defined appropriately? • does the imperative compromise the long-term? • does the ‘obvious’ compromise the underlying? (e.g. graphics, technology) • whatever can be produced in time available • committees – democracy vs progress • action does not follow agreement • perceived as imposition • quality of input & restricted timescale

  26. Pros of incrementalist approach at UoA • inclusive - truly representative of institution • cognoscenti involved in objective setting • focuses on sustaining ecology, not on deliverable • process is transparent • enhances communication • conserves resource • acknowledges objectives are not necessarily expressed in terms of “a set of web pages”

  27. Cons of incrementalist approach at UoA • change can be slow • charged resource favours wealthier departments • peaks and troughs in demand • popular opinion is not necessarily the best • dependent on key individuals • dependent on departmental ethos - participation not mandatory • no launch party

  28. Remember: • departments already provide content: • which satisfies their immediate needs • within the limits of their resources, skills and ambition • if you want more from them they will need : • tools, support, guidance & possibly additional resource • some point/objective/goal which benefits them • projects are finite; websites (must) keep growing

  29. Recommendations • web strategy– informed by information/ communication strategy and institutional objectives • information skills – for mapping objectives onto website structures, actions • buy-in – explain the benefits to key players • provide support - editorial, training, technologies and tools • set boundaries - structures, guidelines, policy • corporate information – keep a tight rein on it

  30. Further Information Iain Middleton iain@imiddleton.com Mike McConnell m.mcconnell@abdn.ac.uk The Robert Gordon University http://www.rgu.ac.uk University of Aberdeen http://www.abdn.ac.uk