Becta one pager..

These are some notes from the presentation (no slides) I had to give as part of my interview at Becta; reading it now I’m a little disappointed with it – certainly not my best work but it does cover some of my thinking about what I’d like to do. That said it does amazingly skip all my ideas about using the social web alongside press, events etc which is a bit odd as thats what I usually bang on about🙂

“Becta is an Non Departmental Public Body, working in an environment influenced by political and economic circumstance. Taking these into account what would be the Digital Strategy you would recommend for the next two years.” 

The key to any digital strategy in the current economic and political climate is agility. The age of large investments in monolithic IT systems is passing and what is required now is a much more flexible approach embracing open source technologies, the social web and future proofing developments by using stable, mature, open standards.

Use of open source tools requires thought and the creation of an appropriate technical foundation but they give the ability to respond much more quickly to changing demands and to embrace other new technologies much more quickly than attempting to integrate new aspects into traditional content management systems etc. A fine example of this is the ‘Sandbox’ created by DIUS – before the merger! – (http://bit.ly/sandbox) that has allowed them to generate WordPress blogs for campaigns quickly and cheaply in-house, use Commentpress (I know DIUS were using Commentariat but I forgot at the time of writing) to release reports and consultation documents as genuinely digitally native, live websites with commenting enabled section by section.

The reality of the social web is that no one company or organisation controls their own message online anymore. People are talking about you on blogs, Facebook, Twitter and dozens of other websites. This requires a response. At a basic level understanding when and where to enter the conversation and the tone to take in responding is vital. The US Air Force produced an incredibly useful flow chart that should be the basis of any policy in this area (http://bit.ly/airforce). Tools like Radian6 enable monitoring and measurement of activity on the social web that adds a useful addition to traditional web analytics.

The traditional ‘corporate’ website gets little love these days and is often seen as a burden as much as a benefit by insiders. That said this is the most important element of any organisations digital portfolio and as such must be treated with care. As most of these sites are managed by large commercial CMSs they are often difficult to customize and require regular upgrading just to stay in site of current best practice let alone future proofing. Despite this it is vital that best efforts are taken to ensure that the corporate site is not left behind when focus is shifted to opportunities where a clean slate is possible. Elements like usable cool URLs, RSS, microformats and the ability to embed external media are just some of the things that your users (and likely staff) will expect to be available and a lack of these things will damage credibility.

Digital is not a silver bullet for communications activity though, it is best utilized as part of a blended offering, supporting and enhancing traditional channels like events and media relations. A common error with digital communications is to neglect traditional methods in the race to implement the shiny new tools. While increasingly important digital channels are not the best option for some audiences, even for a forward looking organisation like Becta and its community. Also the move to use of the ‘free’ tools of the social web and open source communities should not disguise the fact that these activities are often resource intensive as far as time and people.