Actions | Words, you choose…

Digital culture in Universities (and other places)

To consider: Jealously competitive

Jealously — adverb: Feeling resentment because of another’s advantage

Competitive — adjective: Involving or determined by rivalry

Devolved digital in UK Higher Education

Devolved content marketing has enabled departments, research groups and faculties to develop and publish content within a presentation framework.

Devolved digital development however has led to disharmony, fractured user journeys, awful customer experiences and incoherent brand narratives via an array of presentation standards. The person that wouldn’t start something of their own initiative but wants a slice of your action. A bit like the individual that accelerates on a motorway because he wants some of the “good progress” you’re making.

Going-it alone with a *Web Master*

Decentralised management of digital projects has meant that managers with or without commercial accountabilities can decide, over a bowl of cornflakes, to spend some of their precious budget to set-up their own web development empires, well teams, well actually, for web, one just needs a nerdy-type right? One person should do it. #hmmpf

Prof X, Dean, VIP.

But then “some budget” becomes lots, because web development done well costs lots, (why?) and done badly costs even more. All thanks to the autonomous individual with a woeful level of digital understanding. The cocktail of whimsy decisions, zero accountability, ego and digital illiteracy leads to the kind of mess that frankly, if the VC were CEO and the institution, a commercial enterprise, there would be a whole load of blood on the carpet next board meeting.

Inter-personal competition in small doses can be healthy, it can drive useful performance gains. But when it comes in spades it’s damaging. Take the shiny new school off the main .ac.uk domain and you’ll start down the road of disharmony on many levels: brand, search, code repository, development standards, web-journeys and digital utility.

The list of negatives long, unforeseen costs many and unintended consequences something Colin Powell might euphemistically call; Collateral Damage. That said, if someone feels strongly that they should break-free and push ahead, they should be allowed to go-ahead in my view. Expenditure should be transparent and a timeframe for proving the validity of their decision agreed at executive level

University culture

Universities are hierarchical to the core. And this is often reflected in their thinking and behaviours. HiPPOs abound in universities (Highest Paid Persons Opinion):

  • I’m paid more than you…
  • I’ve published more that you…
  • My title is more elevated than yours…
  • My department’s bigger than yours…

And when experts speak on their subject — I like to pin back my ears, zippit and listen. Sometimes though, this expert persona leaks way beyond its “home turf,” and on into foreign territories: Digital frontiers. “I use the web. I’m smart/important/etc. Therefore, I know lots about it….”

I have sat through many discussions and listened to *informed* opinion about web from HiPPOs. Maybe in hierarchical structures, the need for invulnerability is high. Any chinks and one could be ejected from the top floor!

Dear web team

You need to be HiPPO killers. Not literally of course! But use real data skilfully to break-down outmoded opinions and to encourage your executive leaders to the happy place called “joined-up digital thinking.” A place where systems thinking trumps fiefdoms and where collaboration replaces jealous competition.