Thursday, June 25, 2009

Pilots for feedback

Yup - as has been the habit I have dropped off the face of the blogging earth after the round of conferences. Being in the weeds on a major project had a lot to do with it.

The university is in the middle of completely revamping their web site. The primary goals are to provide consistent navigation across ALL pages across the site (which may prove to be a minor miracle in and of itself) and to provide tools to the content owners that allow them to edit their site with a minimum amount of coding.

We are using Vignette as the back end for our site. For this first round, the web team has worked with each of the content owners to create customized templates and content types. Once these are established, my job is to show them how to use them in the least painful way possible.

As in most implementation projects, critical process decisions are still being made. How much control do they want the content owners to have? Do they want them to be able to create their own templates? Will there be separate creation and publication teams? Who will serve as first, second and third line help?

Since most of us are reasonably new with this tool (of course, I am the newest person), we are also slowly figuring out tips and tricks to share with the content owners. And, of course, there have been regular build upgrades that add new features and functions to be accounted for. So one of my tasks is to help figure out ways to communicate these changes even after the new site goes "live".

What has made this project such a pleasure to work on is that the SMEs have been incredibly forthcoming with both information and with time. You have no IDEA how rare that is. Their thought, as so eloquently put by one of the technical leads:

I spend time with you now, I won't have to spend time with you later.

And though the training design will be very fluid for the next few months, we all figure that if we can manage to get the shell right for the upcoming groups, everybody ultimately does less work in the long-run.

I am piloting 2 classes this afternoon. With a large audience that includes the web team (employees AND contractors) and the help desk. A number of these folks have not had a chance to touch the system at all. One of them (the Help Desk manager) has never even seen it before.

From the pilot, I hope to glean the following information:

- Does the order of the training make sense?

- Did I provide the right model? Can the end user encounter another template or content type and still be able to function?

- Am I giving them too much information or too little?

The team knows that I am trying to keep each training between 60 and 90 minutes long. We have decided to allow for 4 hours per session during training delivery so that the content owners can begin entering content directly after the training session with in-person help at hand. Again, 2 birds, 1 stone. They get training and practice + they get real work done in a "safe" environment.

Wish me luck!

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