Changes coming to the 2013 Web maintenance agreements

Along the lines of my last post, we are going to be making a few changes to the Web maintenance agreements that many units around campus have with the Web department. These agreements create the best of both worlds for the unit and the Web department. They allow a unit to send us a number of updates per month via email, phone, fax (yes, we still get some) and we handle the work. The cost we incur by hiring the content staff is spread out across the campus units which makes it cheap for everyone. The units don’t need to train or have a “Web expert” on hand; for a small fee the units can call on us for expert advice when they need it.

Insights

Over the past year we took a deep look at how units were using their maintenance and discovered a few things:

  1. Some units were not using it at all for content, but requesting slight visual or programming changes
  2. Some units only updated at specific times of the year, and typically went over their limit in those months
  3. Some units used their updates regularly throughout the year

More flexibility

This got us thinking, so we are making the following changes starting in January 2013:

  • Instead of 5, 10, or 15 updates per month we are moving to a bucket of hours for the entire year. This will allow units to use the time when they need it without fear of going over in a given month or leaving updates unused.
  • The hours allotted will no longer be limited to just content updates. Time can be used for training, small template programming changes, formy assistance, and digital signage assistance if the unit has signage.
  • Because the new agreements span beyond content the cost will be going up slightly, but not by much. Agreements will be $50 more than the 2012 prices.

The new agreement structure

  • 36 hours of service for $500/year
  • 48 hours of service for $750/year
  • 60 hours of service for $900/year

By spreading the agreements out across all units we are able to keep the cost very low. We believe this new structure will allow the units to be flexible and get the best Web services available to them.

If your unit doesn’t already have a maintenance agreement and you would like to get one set up, simply email web@wayne.edu.

How we handle dozens of web requests per day without a ticket system

Because we oversee 350+ Web sites and get a large number of new requests, questions and maintenance requests each day it’s important we have an efficient way to manage them all while still getting other work done. I cannot be at my computer all day so most of the requests have to be read and assigned by the team itself.

How we do it

We have a central email address. web [at] wayne [dot] edu. That email goes into a central inbox. Inside that inbox everyone has a folder and there is an archive folder where every project we work on has it’s own box.

This inbox is mapped to everyone’s computer. Throughout the day different people check the box and scan to determine who is the most appropriate to take each request. They put the email in the person’s folder and move on. The inbox then syncs across everyone’s computer.

We use a plugin called TruePreview for OS X Mail that keeps email’s unread until they are double clicked or force marked. This makes it possible for each of us is scanning the folders to see how many new emails are waiting.

This process allows everyone to have a list of items to read and respond to. If it was assigned by accident they can just move it into someone else’s folder and move on.

Completed Tasks

Once an email or task is done the whole conversation get moved into the z_Archive folder. Every project has their own folder to things are kept nice and neat. The beauty of it is the folders automatically update and everyone has the same content on their computers. No conversations or files are lost.

Why not use a ticket system?

Over the past 6 years we have played with the idea of a true ticket system, and have even tested a few. The problem is a separate system brings a level of unnecessary overhead. We don’t really need to pull stats from all the tickets and our staff really isn’t that large. Everyone already knows how to use email and having a central single interface makes processing hundreds of emails quite easy. There are downsides to our system though, like if someone deletes something it will probably be overlooked or if someone is sick and no one looks in their folder to pick up tasks. But this is a risk we are willing to take and is inherit to any task based system.

Simple solutions

The solution to this tough problem doesn’t have to be a complex system. Our department strives to use existing tool and centralize and streamline as much as possible to get the most bang for the buck. We are use to working with limited resources and we apply this philosophy to everything we do. In this case a zero cost crowd sourced analyze and assign system was the best approach. I cannot be at my computer all day and I don’t want to be the one to have to  look at all the requests and assigning them. Everyone knows their capabilities and has the authority and position to act on them as they see necessary. It’s a beautiful system that just works.

Added: I’m in no way saying this system is going to work for everyone but it works great for us.