Imagine you are a global business and your web presence is a bit outdated. You want a fresh redesign that will enable you to get closer to your customer base, and a finished product that is aimed at not only giving more information to more people, but also driving greater interactivity and dialogue. But you have 260 offices in countries around the world, and 235 different websites in 44 different languages. This is going to be a big challenge for any business.
In the past the FCO's website have focused on one-way delivery of information and services. It decided to implement a radical overhaul, bringing all its website together on a single platform and creating dialogue with key target audiences. Now, the FCO, is using its new platform to deliver collaborative new technologies such as blogs, wikis and interactive maps, as well as engaging in new spaces on the web such as Flickr, Twitter and YouTube, reaching out to where the audience already is.
As Tracy Green, Head of Online Services for the UK Parliament, explains "Traditionally diplomats have gone out and had face to face interactions with people, but now we recognise the ways to influence governments overseas is to talk directly to their citizens through the internet, and collaborate with other people in the policy-making process."
Such an overhaul involved three significant challenges. First the need to convince internal stakeholders of the need for change. Second, the redevelopment of the site, which would involve the merger of multiple sites onto a single platform. The technologies needed to be "user friendly" and modular to empower the business and allow them to take business control of the platform without constant reliance on the IT departments.
Three years later, the brand new site went live - so how did the FCO overcome challenges? As Tracy Green said, "It was a much broader vision that just replacing some IT kit. It was more about what we could really do with this platform as a communication and engagement channel - we wanted to be agile enough in five to seven years to quickly take advantage of new technologies that came along". The project itself was implemented by a strong team including PA.
Already the redesign is having an impact: previously the FCO sites had 25 million visitors a year, this has increased to 50 million a year. However the project won't stop there. The plan now is to extend the numbers of channels the FCO is using. The project is ultimately not just about redesigning the web platform but creating a cultural shift in the way the FCO interacts with the public.
Paul Bute, Head of Digital Engagement, Foreign & Commonwealth Office concludes “We now have a web platform that is the envy of other government departments and other countries. We are looking forward to making the most of its potential over the next couple of years as we realise our ambitious strategy of enhancing digital campaigning throughout the office”.
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