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Wayne State University

Aim Higher

May 15 / Nick DeNardis

The innovator’s dilemma – Isolating the wayne.edu Web team

innovators-dilemma

For the last year or so I have been talking about our “restructure of wayne.edu” homepage and website. We have made some progress but we are not nearly where we should be. This isn’t because we don’t think the project is important, but instead have assured our clients’ (university departments/schools/colleges) deadlines are being met instead. This week that all changed. We isolated four staff members and dedicated them to the restructure and re-imagination of wayne.edu and the top 1,000 pages to support enrollment and retention.

The Innovators Dilemma

One of my favorite books is The Innovator’s Dilemma. If you haven’t read it I suggest you pick it up, it’s a short read and totally applicable to any industry. It outlines the process of company growth and why innovation slows as firms get larger. There are various reasons for this but the largest is that it is easier to up-sell existing customers instead of going after new untested markets with new products. Because these untested new products or markets don’t show value they often do not get the attention of resources they deserve until it is too late.

“What this suggests is that the management best practices are only situationally appropriate. There are times when it is right not to listen to customers, invest in lower performing products that promise lower margins, and pursue small rather than larger markets.”

This is the exact situation we find ourselves in. Because we’re focusing all our time on ensuring we have “internal client” work we haven’t had the time to focus on our true customers, prospective students.

Dedicated resources

The book goes on to explain how companies have been able to overcome this dilemma and innovate around or with disruptive technologies (even if they cannibalize parts of their existing company). One of these successful methods is to create an isolated team in both a workload and also a physical environment without any constraints of normal business practices. This allows a team to innovate in ways that are simply not possible in the day-to-day of company operations.

Starting this week we have done just that. Four staff members, Rolaine Dang, Tom Krupka, Rob Vrabel and Alex Bienkowski have been isolated and given an ambitious project. Take a step back and look at the macro view across all of the enrollment sites that now work well individually and stich them together to work well as a single user experience.

waynedotedu-webteam

All of their current projects/tasks have been re-assigned to other staff members and they have physically been moved to a single office (above) where they are isolated from the normal client work we do here in Web Communications.

Re-imagining wayne.edu

I won’t go too much into the project scope at this point other than the large and long term goals. The team is charged with launching a “re-imaged” wayne.edu by the end of 2013. This will include restructuring those top 1,000 pages that are focused on enrollment and retention.

At the moment the websites within wayne.edu work really well individually, they  have their own navigation, information and design. This works well for visitors that know exactly what they need and what department “owns” that information. But this does not work for those prospective students or on-boarding students who were recently accepted and now need to orient themselves with the university. Browsing through theses websites is not only confusing as they bounce from department to department but it also gives the impression that the university is disjointed. The first goal is to fix this by taking all the departments in these 1,000 pages and bring them all under a single look, functionality and domain. This will result in a single user experience, voice and impression of the institution.

The second charge is to create a revolutionary Web experience for our visitors. To use as much data to tailor the experience for an individual visitor and bring the power of the Web to that experience. This charge is still vague because we won’t know exactly how this will impact visitors until the discovery phase is complete. In the end, though, the final product will not be a set of static pages, but instead an experience that will resonate with the visitor. We’ll just have to wait and see how it shakes out.

Follow the progress

The wayne.edu Web team will be blogging about their status each week on the wayne.edu blog. Over the next few months they will be keeping track of scope, options, decisions and progress in both public and private posts. After the relaunch of wayne.edu we plan to make all the private posts public and allow everyone to see all the work/decisions that went into building what we hope is the most successful website for the university.

Follow the blog: http://blogs.wayne.edu/waynedotedu/

4 Comments

  1. Carol Baldwin / May 15 2013

    Wow! What a fantastic plan to cut people loose to really Just. Do. One. Thing. Totally awesome. Although I do fear that Tom Krupka will no longer answer my IMs.

  2. Eric Olsen / May 15 2013

    Love it, Nick. Great strategy, and I can not WAIT to see the finished product.

  3. Kevin Sherman / May 15 2013

    Really cool! Like Eric, I’m looking forward to seeing how you guys pull everything together. We’re working through similar struggles and even some folks wanting to hold onto their “individual identity” at the expense of working together. I’d love to hear how you navigate (pun intended?) the politics in this process.

  4. Jake Scheiterlein / May 15 2013

    Hey, Rob Vrabel, I know him!!!

Comments are closed.