In today’s guest post Hugh James, Manifesto, summarises digital transformation activities his company has been involved in, in particular with the University of Dundee. This work will be described in a workshop session on “The Methodology Behind a Digital Transformation Project” at the IWMW 2019 event.

By now it should be obvious that digital transformation doesn’t just mean upgrading your technology stack and adding new capabilities. It is as much about teams as it is about tech. We know from experience that it requires significant investment and willingness to change across people, process and technology. Given the near certainty that you’ll need to call in external help, how can you enact such drastic change while getting the right level of buy-in and support from an assemblage of partners with different specialisms and knowledge domains?

We’ve been investigating digital transformation in the higher education sector for many years now (we even commissioned a report on it in 2016). Most recently, through practical experience of working as a collaborative team with our partner Acquia and a large internal team at the University of Dundee, we feel like we can offer up some universally-applicable nuggets of advice for other institutions that have aspirations to digitally transform how they communicate with students, faculty, citizens, and corporate sponsors.

Choose the right technologies

Our work with the University of Dundee is centred around rebuilding their website to improve digital experiences and audience engagement, while providing a platform to support continuous incremental improvement. The second component is key – as we understand that it is difficult to get the level of investment necessary for this project approved, you must find a platform that meets your needs for years to come. One of the hallmarks of the digital era is that the changes keep coming. If your internal teams are to keep up with the changing expectations of your various audiences, you need to provide them with a platform that is sufficiently flexible and extensible.

By choosing to build their new website with Drupal, the University of Dundee did just that. Drupal has one of the largest open source communities in the world, with over 1,000,000 passionate developers, designers, trainers and strategists using it and working together on common problems. It gives Dundee a robust, easy to use, scalable platform on which to innovate, and deliver incredible experiences today while future proofing their strategy for years to come.

Choose the right partners

When it came to choosing infrastructure and implementation partners to work with them on their digital transformation project, Dundee did exactly the right thing: they engaged early and regularly with stakeholders throughout the organisation, taking the time to understand their individual goals and success metrics while also learning about the capabilities and capacities they had in-house and where they needed to bring in help.

In Acquia they have a Digital Experience Platform provider that allows them to deliver fast, high-quality, personalised experiences to users across the globe through a fast, secure and resilient cloud architecture. Manifesto helped them develop an implementation plan for the project, pulling together huge amounts of research to drill down to the core requirements of the project and put them in priority order. We also helped bring the internal development team up to speed on new technologies like Twig and BackstopJS, collaborating as a distributed team.

Choose the right approach

It’s amazing to me that we’re still seeing ‘big bang’ approaches to rolling out large IT projects. As recently as last year, the TSB online banking migration, which locked millions of customers out of their accounts, demonstrated the folly of trying to replace widely-used legacy software across your entire user base in one go.

Dundee wisely adopted a phased implementation of their new website. This not only allows them more time to migrate content over from the old site, but also allows two beta phases during which internal audiences can get used to the new content and structure, and a community of testers can be engaged to weed out bugs. The first release is due in summer 2019.

Attend IWMW 2019!

If you want to hear more about the key tools and processes, and the methodology used to promote a ‘one team approach’ between the three organisations collaborating on the new University of Dundee website, come to our joint workshop at IWMW 2019, The Methodology Behind a Digital Transformation Project. You can also catch me and Kjell Eldor-Evans, Manifesto’s Innovation Lead, in the panel session on Supporting Institutions in Changing Times.

In the meantime, you can read more about the project on the University of Dundee’s excellent Web Team Blog, including about the atomic design principles used to develop standard content components for the website that can change and react to individual contexts, allowing them to develop once and deploy everywhere.

Hugh James, author of this guest post, has been working with Manifesto for over four years, leading our New Business team while leading on the growth of our partner portfolio. This role often involves playing a key role in supporting our clients with partner interactions. Partners he manages include Contentful, Acquia, Oracle, WPEngine, Amazon, Adobe and Azure.