We recently hit a few important milestones so I thought I’d take this opportunity to do a quick roundup of what I’ve been up to.
Web & New Media Strategy
All the exciting work I’m doing has its foundations in the Web & New Media Strategy that was kicked off in early 2009 and involved a few months of research, analysis, and decision-making. The actual “strategy” ended up being a three-phase plan for building and enhancing the organization’s online presence over the next 2-3 years.
The first phase (basically, quick wins) took less than six months to do and involved plugging the holes in our existing online presence. This included numerous web tweaks, getting a better understanding of what worked or didn’t work on our site (via Google Analytics), and, generally, making better use of the website (e.g. more cross promotion on high traffic areas). We also bought a Google Mini search engine to remove one of site’s biggest pain points which was a crappy search engine.
The second phase (6-12 months) is finishing up now. This addressed a whole bunch of other web tweaks (like content rewrites and information architecture adjustments) and launched projects in five major areas:
- A complete site overhaul (redoing the site’s content, design, and information architecture and getting a new web content management system)
- More multimedia (specifically illustrations, photos, and videos)
- More and better online maps (the more useful and usable the better)
- More information provision via mobile phones (through SMS, mobile applications, and mobile web sites)
- Getting into social media (for information provision and stakeholder engagement)
The third phase (1-3 years) involves more complex projects that can’t be started till we have everything else in place (like a new organizational GIS and a web content management system). Phase three work includes the automation of customer-facing business activities, which means things like building online forms and applications, providing custom information via SMS, and so on.
What’s Exciting Now?
Right now, though, we’re nearing the end of the second phase and we’ve made great progress in all five of the areas mentioned above:
- We’ve kicked off a project to get a new web content management system and have started the website redesign and reorganization process.
- We’ve started to place photos on Flickr (including ‘Photos from the Field’ which are from Melbourne Water employees) and videos on YouTube (almost all of which were produced in-house).
- We’ve got some really basic maps on our site but have kicked off a project that will move all our old and clunky maps to a better platform over the next year or so. Meanwhile, we’ve developed an interactive map that explains in simple terms how Melbourne’s complicated water supply network works.
- We’ve launched an iPhone app (link to iTunes store) and will be launching a new mobile version of our website in the next few weeks.
- We’re quite active on Twitter and will get further into social media when appropriate.
All in all, we’re tracking quite well and the work we’re doing is lots of fun and really quite exciting.
Culture of Innovation & Effective Communication
What I love most of all, though, is how much on-board everyone at Melbourne Water is with these enhancements. This support and appreciation of innovation and effective communication starts right at the top, too. For example, it was our Board who originally suggested that we develop a simplified water supply network map for the website. They wanted a simple way of explaining a complex system and realized that the web would be a great place to do just that.
In my opinion, the foundation for this is laid in Melbourne Water’s Strategic Framework document which explicitly lists the support of “innovation, achievement, and good ideas” and the need to “understand, manage, and meet or exceed customer expectations” as success indicators for the organization. At Melbourne Water these aren’t just phrases on a company brochure but actual, practical goals that all of us aspire to every day. In fact, to give you an example of how this is implemented practically: Every project that’s proposed at Melbourne Water has to explain and justify which of these strategic goals it’s addressing before it’s allowed to start.
So the work that I’m doing there both matches the direction the world is moving in (i.e. information provision and customer engagement is moving online) and is brilliantly supported by the organization itself. That’s yet another reason why I love working there.