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.

Web site request bookmarklet

All Web site requests come in through our wcs[at]wayne.edu email account. Recently we’ve been testing a ticket system called Tender to keep track of all these emails. It has worked well but still has not solved the true issue we are facing so we are not going to continue using it.

The issue comes down to lack of information in service request emails. We get on average 40 emails per day that range from changing a few words to a complete list of changes for a site. Sometimes tracking down what site, what page, what content needs to be updated and when it needs to be updated by can take more time than the update itself.

So we are trying something new, a bookmarklet that has some pre-defined fields which gives us the basic information for a request in a standard format. Below you can see what the base email looks like:

email-template

Filling out the email

Here is a filled out request, basically replacing the pre-defined labels with your site information.

email-filled

Installing the Bookmarklet

  1. Make sure the “Bookmarks Toolbar” is visible. If it is not, go to menu View > Toolbars.
  2. Drag one of the links below into your Bookmarks Toolbar based on how you send email
    1. Using MS Outlook or OS X Mail: Send Web Update
    2. Using Wayne Connect Web site: Send Web Update

bookmarklet

Customizing the Bookmarklet

If you only oversee one or two sites and would like to automatically have your site name in the subject of the email just let us know and we can send you a specific bookmarklet just for you.