CASE STUDY: Design & build | Digital Strategy

Digital transformation for this global business school

Steering a digital transformation to revolutionise Ashridge's online presence

The brief

Ashridge is consistently ranked among the best business schools in the world. It is in the top 1% of providers globally to be accredited by all three major executive education bodies: AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA.

Ashridge Business School

Ashridge's existing website platform lacked the flexibility to adjust content, and failed to meet the expectations of their digitally savvy audience. Moreover, the online experience did not match that of the stunning 200-year-old Ashridge House in which the school is based.

Over 60 microsites had been created on a mixture of platforms, with little governance to maintain consistency. A huge amount of content had been created, much of which was never viewed or was replicated elsewhere.

Labour intensive manual processes were used extensively, many of which could be replaced with effective digital automation.

The solution

Digital strategy

Over a three-month period, Distinction led a discovery phase to define a cohesive digital strategy for the entire Ashridge brand, seeking to consolidate assets and realise the opportunities available to them.

In addition to quantitative techniques including the review of onsite analytics and website performance, qualitative research was undertaken to provide a more rounded picture. This included interviews with internal and external stakeholders and competitor benchmarking to provide a rounded report.

Following the acceptance of our recommendations, we were re-commissioned to implement the strategy put forward. This involved a number of other key deliverables:

Content strategy and governance

Ashridge Business School

We agreed to consolidate Ashridge's digital offering into two core websites: Ashridge Business School and Ashridge House. Using the findings from the discovery phase, we optimised the information architecture of the website, removing superfluous content and updating the rest.

Content governance and workflow was introduced, which will ensure content is maintained to a high standard going forward.

Web design and build

Following an iterative design process - involving wireframing, prototyping, and collaborative design techniques - we integrated the design into Kentico EMS. Kentico is a powerful all-in-one content management system, online marketing system, and ecommerce platform - making it the perfect choice for this project.

The new websites are, of course, fully mobile and tablet friendly using a blend of responsive and adaptive design.

Ecommerce - Online Course Bookings

Enabling visitors to purchase open and custom courses online was a key requirement of the project. We therefore built a bespoke course registration and booking system within Kentico EMS, which integrates directly with Ashridge's CRM system and payment gateway.

CRM Integration

Online bookings weren't the only thing we integrated either. All events, courses, faculty profiles, research, and publications are linked through to external systems to ensure accurate information is displayed on all Ashridge properties, wherever they may be.

High Availability in the Cloud

Both websites needed to cope with prolonged periods of high traffic to the sites, so we used a high-availability infrastructure in the Microsoft Azure cloud.

Digital transformation

The project enabled many offline processes to be automated, through better integration with 3rd party systems, bespoke scheduled tasks, and the adoption of marketing automation.

The cultural shift towards 'digital' within the Ashridge community has been nothing short of remarkable.

In summary

Distinction helped Ashridge execute a total digital transformation, including a platform migration to Kentico, digitisation of many offline processes, and initiation of an internal cultural shift.

The project has reduced the costs of ongoing maintenance, increased online sales, and given Ashridge a platform to use online channels more effectively. Feedback from Ashridge’s current and potential clients has also been extremely positive.

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