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Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, 1998 1 of 34 Information Management & The Institutional Website Promoting & Supporting Organisational Change Jon.

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Presentation on theme: "Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, 1998 1 of 34 Information Management & The Institutional Website Promoting & Supporting Organisational Change Jon."— Presentation transcript:

1 Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, of 34 Information Management & The Institutional Website Promoting & Supporting Organisational Change Jon Wallis University of Wolverhampton

2 Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, of 34 Who am I? Wearing two hats: University Webmaster Responsible for “Corporate Pages” Co-ordination & day-to-day management Promotion/policing of design guidelines Senior Lecturer in Computing Teaching Networks, Communications & Distributed Information Systems Research Information Management aspects of WWW Search Engine Technology

3 Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, of 34 Where is this talk coming from? Based on Three years’ experience of running a large institutional website Past research into managing non-WWW information in a distributed systems environment” On-going research into Information Management aspects of Websites aim to survey HE and commercial organisations Currently work-in-progress Disclaimer! All views and opinions are mine wearing my ‘academic hat’ They don’t necessarily represent the official policy or views of the University

4 Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, of 34 “Experimental” webserver in School of Computing, April 1994 Main “corporate” webserver in Computer Centre since September 1994 both of these were effectively “uncontrolled” Controlled by Marketing dept from mid-1995 until end of 1997 Marketing “sub-contracted” the job to me Technical support from Computer Centre Marketing dept withdrew because the Website no longer ‘just’ marketing Current status of website management “in limbo”, pending re-organisation of University IT Services Now appears in job description of Asst. Director of IT Services (Standards & Developments) A brief history of the UoW Website

5 Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, of 34 Current Status of UoW Website Over 67,500 pages Multiple Servers limited at present, but very likely to increase Highly diverse School & Department pages in terms of Content Style Design Quality Usefulness (despite corporate rules and guidelines) Shipping over 700 Mb of data a day this may be a better indicator than mere “hits”

6 Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, of 34 The “Web Effect” A “paradigmatic” shift in the nature of information provision A massive rise in expectations - realistic and otherwise Towards the “single institutional image” Before the Web Multiple information sources producing multiple versions of the same information, aimed at different target “communities” prospective students, businesses, etc Information often only available on request e.g. staff phone numbers Many inadequacies in “strategic” information management were “hidden” because separate individuals deal with separate departments

7 Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, of 34 The “Web Effect” (2) Since the Web An information “explosion” Information initially provided without much planning for purpose or audience Information often direct conversion of existing “physical” version Prospectus Course literature Telephone/ listings The Institutional Website is a ‘single institutional image’ Potential for Web as primary information source Information transparency Everything is available to everyone, everywhere

8 Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, of 34 Problems with Websites Reflection of internal structure e.g., server hierarchy (and content) structured by School & Department “Internal-only” information may be visible Users aren’t interested in our internal structure What if the internal structure changes? changing URLs is possible but problematic dead-links both inside and outside technical system complexity e.g., symbolic links, server redirections but not changing them perpetuates model of old structure Function over structure?

9 Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, of 34 Problems with Websites (2) Poor mapping between internal structure and user groups e.g. entry to UoW site is currently aimed at specific user communities: For Prospective Students For Current Students For Staff For Alumni plus other necessary abstractions (“About the University”, “Contact Us”, etc)

10 Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, of 34 Problems with Websites (3) But we don’t have a “For Prospective Students Department” We do have A Media & Publicity Service (Prospectus) An Admissions Unit An International Relations Office A Students’ Union 10 Academic Schoolsetc….. The overall provision of information needs to be managed - but how? Hope for the best? (more chaos?) Create a new department to do it ? (more bureaucracy?) Co-ordinate autonomous departments? (more bureaucracy and chaos?)

11 Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, of 34 Problems with Websites (4) Web information is different... Conventional information provision is essentially linear and structured by the provider Written/Printed Spoken Web information is non-linear and (despite careful design) is effectively ‘re-structured’ by every user Multiple entry points Multiple pathways It therefore demands a different approach But how many web authors have studied hypertext “theory”... and can apply it?

12 Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, of 34 Problems with Websites (5) Currency of information If it isn’t managed, how do you know? Move from “Last Modified” to “Valid Until” dates Treats information like food (“Best Before”) Helps promote a more active culture of maintenance Checking can then be automated more easily especially if metadata is used (but that’s another talk in itself) Maintainer must be identifiable and contactable Preferably an actual person, not just a job title Someone must be actually “responsible” The “author” may not be the “maintainer” No good shooting the messenger How often is this sort of information ever checked and enforced?

13 Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, of 34 Problems with Websites (6) Search Engines and external links Dead links often exist for long periods First 100 or so Alta Vista “relevant” links were to our 1996 and 1997 prospectuses Our 1998 Prospectus isn’t even called that it’s an “Essential Guide”, but people don’t search for that Some search tools now contain historic “snapshots” of the web Out-of-date (and therefore invalid) information may be preserved for long-term access

14 Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, of 34 Problems with Websites (7) Websites actually cost money This can be a revelation to management How do you cost a website? How much does it cost to author a page/site? How do you perform a Cost Benefit Analysis for a website? What proportion of people’s jobs spent authoring? Should they be doing it anyway? What’s the most cost effective way of doing it? Do you know (a) how much your website cost to create? (b) how much it costs to run it? (c) if it is “economically viable”? But what is the cost of not doing it?

15 Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, of 34 Website Maturity Models Based on “maturity models” of IT systems May help to analyse, predict and plan development or at least identify where it all went wrong Different models from different perspectives Activity functional - what’s being done? Stakeholder people - who’s doing it? Technical systems and software - how’s it being done?

16 Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, of 34 ‘Activity’ Model Doing something - anything a means to an end - getting web experience almost anything is valid content Doing something useful e.g., conversion of existing literature, alternative channel for basic information (e.g., phonebook) Doing something professional e.g., contributing to marketing function, supporting traditional course delivery Doing something new and creative e.g., a self-contained channel for learning based on Tom Keen, MIT

17 Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, of 34 ‘Stakeholder’ Model Technical Most institutional webservers began in technical departments e.g., computer centres, schools of computing Publicity/Marketing Control ‘taken over’ by marketing or publicity departments Institutional prospectus and advertising Information Provision As many stakeholders as ‘channels of information’ Complexity of website structure tends to approaches complexity of organisational structure

18 Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, of 34 ‘Technical’ Model Single webserver usually in central Computing Services or IT department Multiple servers usually single platform (usually Unix) Wolves only has 4 servers - some Universities have dozens Multiple platforms Unix, NT, Mac - maybe others Extra technologies Plug-ins, SSI, PHP, JavaScript, Java, ActiveX Note: Technical “maturity” does not necessarily equal desirability or manageability

19 Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, of 34 The Need to Adopt a Consolidated Approach to Information Management Websites represent a massive growth in information provision in terms of both volume and users Web technology enables anyone to publish anything, leading to unmanageable complexity consistency and integrity problems accessibility problems non-interoperable systems A Website is a major information resource and must be managed

20 Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, of Recognise the Importance of Information Recognise that all users - both internal and external - can (potentially) access the information they require directly a process of disintermediation problem of one source but multiple needs Information previously thought merely internally "useful" is now externally visible e.g. internal phone directory updated annually, now on-line and “real-time” Information Audit what information and who controls it - and at what cost?

21 Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, of Distinguish between authenticated and unauthenticated data Information can be published at many levels and by many people Some will remain under direct internal control (and should) Much won't (and shouldn’t) the balance depends on other decisions e.g., the degree of decentralisation Who authenticates? The author? (may not have the authority) The provider? (may not have the expertise) Third party? (webmaster? someone else?)

22 Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, of 34 Example Information Categories Authenticated Central e.g. prospectus Authenticated Local (Departmental) e.g., H&S instructions, Course Regulations Authenticated Local (Individual, Staff) e.g., Module Resource pages Unauthenticated Local (Departmental) variant copies of “central” information Unauthenticated Local (Individual, Staff) e.g., staff home pages (which may be related to official role or may not) Unauthenticated Local (Individual, Student) e.g. student home pages (which may be connected with study or may not) All types of information on an "Associated Organisation" sub-site e.g,. HUBS, BCS branch

23 Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, of Establish Degree of Centralisation Locus: “Centralised” or “Decentralised” Control: “Autonomous” or “Restricted” Gives 4 main models: 1. Centralised Restricted 2. Centralised Autonomous 3. Decentralised Restricted 4. Decentralised Autonomous Ref: Samuel Hinton, “From Home Page to Home Site”, a paper presented at WWW7 - see: Information should be managed as close to its source as possible? Requires strong definition and co-ordination of information strategy Requires local web expertise

24 Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, of 34 Decentralisation Some sort of decentralised model is most likely fully centralised would be utterly impractical Raises issues of control how to enforce corporate policies academic institutions are notorious for autonomy integrity how to ensure consistent information e.g.,local copies of corporate data security who is authorised to edit documents technology system integration and accessibility

25 Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, of 34 Is it Internal or External? The temptation was (is?) to put everything on the web simply because you can (not a good reason) Not everything is fit for public consumption Some information is merely irrelevant use of fire extinguishers Some information may be confidential minutes of meetings Some information may be downright embarrassing internal reports about departmental inefficiency Need for split into “Internet” and “intranet” websites This requires you to know what information you have, who provides it and who wants it - need for an “audit”

26 Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, of 34 Development of Multiple Websites External-facing For Visitors General information For Prospective Students Prospectuses, local information Internal-facing For Existing Students Course materials, regulations, results For Staff Administrative information, procedures Technically possible to “filter” some users at point of access IP “masks” for known groups staff, students, etc

27 Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, of Assign Information Management Responsibilities Is there an existing system? e.g., ISO 9000 (BS5750) procedures Central co-ordination and control Planning overall information resources e.g., organisational data model formulating policies (security, access, etc) How much does it actually do (versus just co-ordinate) More autonomy at local level = more control at the centre Local management and enactment Defining, providing & maintaining information Ensuring compliance with central policies (e.g. security, style) Identifying changes in requirements and practices

28 Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, of Technical Infrastructure (TI) Issues The Web adds a layer on top of existing TI Unifying shell or wrapper over heterogeneous TI. Can help remove problems - but can add them too All requires additional resources and management Need to maintain underlying systems remains But use of Web may show need to consolidate them Danger of uncontrolled local technical developments The “weeds taking over the garden” (James Martin) e.g., browser-specific resources, plug-ins, etc Is the required client technology widespread? Core TP systems will remain (e.g.,finance, records), but the Web can simplify access to them Subsidiary system elements may still required to meet specific local needs

29 Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, of System Integration Issues Institutions will already have multiple systems Proprietary/commercial and bespoke in-house “Enterprise-wide” and local What are the available interfaces? ODBC, DCOM, ActiveX, Java-based... How mature and stable are the ‘standards’? Where does the integration occur? Before the server? some sort of middleware At the server? built-in/add-on interfaces or CGI At the client? Java or ActiveX... or something else Enforcement of standards?

30 Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, of 34 Who runs your website? Which department? Computer Centre/IT Services department? Because it’s technical Marketing, Publicity or Media department? Because it’s “public-facing” Registry (or equivalent) Because it’s a major data resource Staffing “Webmaster” - historically technically-based A dedicated multi-skilled team? High-level involvement Both corporately and departmentally Often little understanding of the issues Design and Technical Usually inadequate resource allocation and timescales

31 Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, of 34 Case Study 1 Media and Publicity Services A “traditional” marketing department Responsible for Prospectus and corporate advertising Press relationships Took over control of website at early stage Commissioned first web-based prospectus Relinquished control of website Because no extra funding available for the extra work But actively involved in developing content Aim of databased information sources - currently heavily reliant on manual intervention No specific web related posts but Web awareness now a short-listing criterion

32 Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, of 34 Case Study 1 Media and Publicity Services Web seen as a “central tool” but other channels remain key (e.g. hard copy) ironically, production of printed media likely to increase as result of web originated requests Web initially seen as marketing “dream” 24 hrs, global, always current, local production costs Cost of producing web material became a barrier Conventional media now points to web resources increased expectations of what is available direct from web pages “opens up” institution Not keen on “policing” content of entire site Many “rogue” pages not widely seen anyway

33 Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, of 34 Case Study 2 The Registry Intranet Began as a small “proof-of-concept” project A demonstrator to provide (limited) central information e.g. exam and teaching timetables An “administration server” accessed by simply typing “admin” into browser Once people saw what was possible….. Requests to provide information on others’ behalf Spawned other departmental intranet servers The information is all there Making it available is technically easy But it takes time, needs staff (and costs money) Very successful But not yet “strategic” - still a “local” initiative

34 Jon Wallis, University of Wolverhampton, of 34 Case Study 3 Student Information Project University-wide initiative Not Website specific But the Website highlights issues of provision Major questions What information do we provide to students? What information should we provide? How should we provide it? Student life-cycle perspective “Horizontal” rather than “vertical” division Integrates across internal boundaries (like the web?) Avoids imposition of internal structures on students Students still want hard-copy information


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