ICAS transforms digital delivery
Carolyn Spencer, ICAS Director of Digital Transformation, explains the 'mobile first' approach behind the new ICAS website.
The ICAS website has changed, and changed dramatically. Yes, it looks different and we have a new domain name: www.icas.com. But it's not just about a new look, it's also about making the website more user friendly and fit for purpose.
All this is part of a much bigger move towards a 'Virtual ICAS', driven by the desire to improve the level and accessibility of service that we provide to our customers. With half of our members now based outside Scotland and CAs working in more than 100 countries around the world, it is ever more critical that ICAS makes more of an impression on the global profession of accountancy.
'Mobile first' approach
One of the important criteria we followed was a 'mobile first' approach. Membership surveys indicate that ICAS members - just like the wider population - are increasingly using smartphones and tablets to access digital content.
The feedback we received confirmed something else we already knew - that many members found searching for content on the old website frustrating. This was partly because the search engine was less than ideal and partly because some of the older content had not been written with searching in mind.
The new site is significantly different. It has been designed to work just as well whether users are accessing it via a mobile device or a desktop computer. It has been built around the idea that users will primarily be using the site to search for something specific, so we have a new and greatly improved search engine and content that is designed to be found much more easily, created using the latest search and website technology. It is also now easier to browse through all the latest news and services from ICAS.
Users can use their own keywords to search the site or, if they prefer, there is a list of topics that will evolve as content changes. For those who prefer to combine specific searches with browsing the site, that has been made easier too.
Writing for digital
Running parallel to the development of the website has been a new approach to "writing for digital" across ICAS. It's about providing content with "substance" that gets the message across efficiently and succinctly. As the French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal remarked in one of his letters: "I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter."
We're going to take the time, to save you time. Building a 'Virtual ICAS' is about a lot more than improving the website, however. It's about looking at all the ways that ICAS connects with its members, across all channels. As one digital adviser put it to me recently: "Digital transformation is about closing the gap between what your customers expect and what you are offering."
My role, and that of my team, is to enable all of our members, stakeholders and staff to be digital in everything they do, from the news updates on the website to the members' annual return.
Building our global communities
The CA is a passport to success globally, and it's important that we are serving our members, no matter where they are on the planet.
That's partly about accessibility, and partly about content. We'll also be focusing on our use of social media, primarily Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. We will be much more active in this space, going forward. And we won't just be "broadcasting" our messages on social media - we'll be actively taking part in the online conversation, and we encourage you to do the same.
The networks within ICAS and its membership are already very strong, so if we can make that work on social media our potential reach is huge. We'll be enabling communities that already exist to operate in a much more digital way.
'World-class' customer service
Underlying all of this is our Customer Service Charter, which ICAS launched in April. The aim is nothing less than the provision of "world-class customer service" and the emphasis on getting our digital offering right is a key part of that. We're taking a good, hard look at all of our services to see how they can be made to work better for you.
The launch of the new website is only the start of the journey - there are months of improvements to come, including making the content as relevant and high-quality as possible. One of the great strengths of a digital approach is that it works so well for two-way communication, and that enables feedback. Some organisations might fear that, but we see feedback from our members as the only way to get it right, so please, do let us know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carolyn Spencer is ICAS Director of Digital Transformation. This article first appeared in the May 2015 issue of The CA magazine.