How the IMechE’s digital operations are being revamped to offer a better service


Back when the Institution was founded, the technology of the time was the steamboat, the railway and the telegram. 

Today, we’ve mastered engineering to the point that we’re asking ChatGPT (an artificial intelligence chatbot that can compose reports, poems, offer advice and more) for support in our everyday work. As engineers, we continue to invent and improve the world around us with increasingly digital techniques. Now, as an Institution, we must tame the technology of the day to improve how we operate.

In a noisy room deep within Birdcage Walk is a complex set-up of cables and servers that run significant parts of the Institution. Much of the IMechE’s website operates from this room, as do many of the applications that enable the IMechE’s staff and volunteers to provide our core capabilities as a membership organisation. In the past, this was how most organisations ran their technology.

As managing director for technology advisory at real estate services company JLL, I’ve seen how the digital world and our expectations of what organisations offer us have been supercharged in the past three years. The pandemic allowed many to do a decade’s worth of transformation in a condensed timeframe. 

These rising standards, coupled with our ability to become accustomed to new technologies quickly, means that we now expect more relevant content, immediate and any-time service requests, and for almost everything to be faster. 

Many of the systems that our members use are now more than 10 years old, and the capabilities of these systems reflect the era of their implementation. This creates a gap between the digital capabilities we have and the expectations of our valued members. The challenge of closing this gap will be one of the most prominent issues the Institution faces over the coming years. 

Since being appointed as chief technology officer of the Institution, Jake Fraser and his team of specialists have listened carefully to feedback from members and volunteers. They heard reports of issues with system stability and difficulty in accessing relevant information from the Institution’s broad range of services. These issues have been responded to, and the IMechE website has been tirelessly tweaked, tuned and sellotaped to make it more robust, accessible and available around the clock. With additional improvements to the search function, it’s now easier to find what you’re looking for.

We will be taking advantage of these improvements this year by making our communications to you digital-first, and increasingly relevant. Ensure your information is up-to-date within My Account on the IMechE website, and you’ll soon be able to tell us your communication preferences. These preferences mean that you’ll receive communications that are of most interest to you.  

There’s more to come. The Digital Working Group has benefited from the advice of external digital leaders to roadmap the steps needed to deliver a range of member-centric, digital-first capabilities that will take us to being a leader in our field. The ambition of the developing strategy is huge. To achieve our vision of being a world-leading Institution, it is critical that everything we do is designed and operated digital-first.

Eur Ing Dr Matthew Marson is chair of the IMechE Digital Strategy Working Group and a member of the Strategy Committee and was recognised by the Royal Academy of Engineering as the Young Engineer of the Year in 2022.