Web strategy workshop

Paul Boag with members of the Lean, web, digital communications and project management teams.

Paul Boag with members of the Lean, web, digital communications and project management teams.

A few weeks ago I mentioned that we had the go-ahead from the University’s ICT strategy group to work on a new web strategy. Yesterday we had our first meeting to begin to plan this in more detail.

Round the enormous, post-it note strewn table at Lean Central the web team met with Mark and Fin from the University Lean team, Duncan from the digital communications team, Rob (a business analyst), and external consultant Paul Boag of Headscape.

It was a good day, full of energy and enthusiasm, hope and possibility. There is still much to discuss and to work out but it was a good start.

A change in role

Chocolate chip cookies

This month, I have begun a secondment to Admissions. I will still be working on web projects. But my focus for the next 18 months will be on webpages for Admissions and Corporate Communications.

From my point of view, there are a few different motivations behind the move.

  1. After over three great years working as part of the web team, I felt like it was time to try something new.
  2. The Admissions project will give me the chance to sink my teeth into an important project, which is quite exciting. Being seconded to Admissions will give me the space required to push on without being diverted.
  3. The coffee at St Katharine’s West is nicer.

Progress so far

For the past few months, I have been participating in Lean sessions with a group of staff from Admissions and the wider University community. We were only able to meet for a total of five days spread across roughly as many weeks. Despite the stop-start nature of our meetings, I think the results of them have been very good. Together, we have come up with the foundations of a strong information architecture, and some great ideas on functionality.

Over the years I have been involved in a few different sessions looking at information architecture with different departments. Often, such sessions run into problems. Many people become fixated on their own small sections of the website, at the expense of the bigger picture. Worse still, some try to structure a website based on the structure of the organisation, even if this would be confusing to the user.

Thankfully, the Admissions Lean group has (for the most part) avoided these pitfalls. There is strong agreement within the group that webpages should be user-centred, and that we should avoid imposing University structures or jargon on anyone that doesn’t need to know it.

I have really enjoyed participating in these Lean sessions. They avoid the need to get too bogged down in rigid processes. They also provide the scope and freedom to come up with creative solutions, without too many cheesy appeals for blue sky thinking.

For these reasons, I am excited to be working on the Admissions web project, and optimistic about what we can achieve.

Web team support calls from 2010-2011

Graph of support calls over two semesters

(Click the graph to see a larger version.)

This morning I’ve been gathering data for a meeting with have with the University Lean team tomorrow, including this graph of support calls (above). I thought I’d share something of what I’ve discovered.

The project with Lean is to help us design a more efficient way to manage projects and to explore how to better balance moving projects forward with our on-going, and unpredictable, support calls.

In the academic year 2010-2011 the Web team recorded how many calls we received each week. This included:

  • Emails to our IT Helpdesk call management system
  • Support-related emails to our personal inboxes
  • Telephone calls
  • Personal visits to the Web team offices

Basically, if it wasn’t related to an on-going project then we recorded, grouped into calls that took up to

  1. 10 minutes
  2. 60 minutes
  3. 120 minutes or more

And we further categorised them as

  • Advice—e.g. could you tell us what template to use for this website? Do we support IE6 now?, etc.
  • Fix—e.g. this page is broken please fix it, please remove this document from the server, etc.
  • Request—e.g. could we have a meeting with you about x? Could you create a generic page template for this web application, etc.
Support calls (2010-2011)
Advice Fix Request
Semester 1 434 722 509
Semester 2 328 547 382
Total 762 1,269 891

That’s a grand total of 2,922 calls over the course of 35 weeks. Or approximately 83 calls per week.

What it shows us immediately is what we’d long suspected: that the start of each semester is the busiest time of year for us. This should help us to plan projects and which parts of the year to keep clear to make room for more support requests.

Something that this has highlighted too is to look into how to reduce the number of calls asking us to make fixes to existing content, structure or CMS elements.

No doubt we’ll report back as we progress through this project with Lean.