2017 November Inside OR

This month, Dr Bill Gerrard looks at the impact of analytics in sport; we examine what universities and employers can expect from new post-16 pathways, particularly the new A-levels in Maths and further Maths; Louise Maynard-Atem unpacks how new players can unseat dominant marketplace competition with better products and services.

Inside this issue


Is it just a website – or a key window on the world?


This is my first leader article as I took on the role of Chair of the Publicity, Membership and Website committee at the start of this year. Before I arrived on the committee, The OR Society had started the process of redeveloping its website and it got me thinking about the role of a website for an organisation.

In the days of the first dot.com boom around 2000, I was working in the consulting field. I used to hear my colleagues talking about great projects they were doing with their clients around e-business strategy which sounded very leading edge and exciting. However, when you delved a bit deeper the projects primarily involved helping their client install their first website. An e-business strategy certainly sounds more exotic than saying you are building a website. 

Nowadays, (almost) all organisations be they commercial, government, charity or even the local community have a website. It is often the first place a customer, supplier or member goes to interact with an organisation. For example, I remember when I first started undertaking recruitment, it involved sifting through covering letters and CVs which had been posted to the office where I was working. For most organisations it is now almost impossible to make a paper job application, as only website applications will be accepted and trying to find a postal address for many organisations is often extremely difficult. Similarly, having just applied for new road tax for my car at DVLA (a very customer friendly experience, I would add) and completed my tax return it is clear that that is how government wishes to interact with the citizen.

So for a body such as The OR Society the website is extremely important as a key way we interact with our members but just as importantly it allows people who are not members or familiar with OR a quick and easy way to find out more. These are the people who wish to become more involved and ideally become members. As a result the society’s marketing team is a vital stakeholder in its development.

The society started planning for a new website in 2016, as part of that planning some key principles have been clear from the beginning. First, it must be accessible via a computer, tablet or smartphone. Secondly, it must allow non-technical people to update material and make changes to the site, which in the past has been a bottle neck for publishing new materials. Thirdly, we need to manage carefully our existing content as well as all new material generated.

The society does not have the capability to develop such a project in house so, following a competition, an external supplier was chosen. The project started with a discovery phase which involved the production of a detailed scoping document. Work  to build the site is now underway using an agile development approach involving a series of sprints which allows us to work closely with the supplier. Given the importance of this investment to the society, a Project Board has been created with members drawn from the society’s staff and the Publicity, Membership and Website committee. This meets on a regular basis to provide an appropriate governance of reviewing progress, debating important issues and taking decisions on key matters. At a recent meeting, the work developed in the most recent sprints was demonstrated which prompted debate and generated useful feedback for our supplier, the project plan was reviewed and consideration was given to what content should be on the site.

Our supplier is developing the structure and functionality but naturally it is for the society to populate the new website. This raises questions of what should be put on the site and what shouldn’t. To handle this we have created a small Web Content Group whose role will be to manage the guidelines and the process of transferring existing materials and the creation of new. Careful consideration needs to be given to what is archived (remaining available, if required but not part of the new website) and what is transferred across from the existing website. If you would like to play a role in helping to manage the content please do get in touch with the society.

Our plans have the new website coming available in 2018. It is clear that this project is vitally important for the society and that it is not just a website but our window on the world.

Front cover of Inside OR magazine November 2017

2017 November Inside OR

Sports Analytics and the 'Moneyball'; New A-levels in Maths and Further Maths; The OR Society at New Scientist Live; Y2OR: OR in the Age of Disruption and Innovation.

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