Updating websites – a case study between two different groups

In a recent web update project I worked with lots of different groups to update various sections of the organisation’s website. Two of those subsites were quite large and therefore a lot more complex than the other smaller, and mostly easier to update, subsites.

The two groups were quite similar in a few ways:

  • they weren’t located near me
  • there were quite a few people working in the groups which meant I had to consult with a number of staff to get the content I needed
  • their content was quite outdated.

I started off by doing a content audit and then setup meetings with relevant staff.

Both websites should have taken about the same time to complete as they were similar in size but one took much longer to complete because the group had ‘other priorities’. They were described as hostile to me later on, and yes, they mostly were.

However, I completed both group’s updates and despite the difference in attitude from them the methods I employed worked for both groups.

Co-location

Remember that I wasn’t co-located with either group and had large numbers of staff to deal with.

It became obvious that emailing and phoning people wasn’t going to work and I suggested to my manager that I go and join them to really focus on the work.

Finally I went and started working with the first group. I was lucky that I was in an office with a couple of people who were really cooperative and had lots of visitors. I started introducing myself to everyone who came into the office and if their name was familiar as someone I needed to consult I asked if they had a minute or if I could setup a meeting to discuss web updates.

Even though I was located with this group there were still people who made my work really difficult. I’d see one man in the hallway who kept putting me off and he’d laugh every time he saw me because he knew I was going to ask him for something. I knew that these people were busy but I still had to get my work done and project deadlines to meet.

I’m nothing if not persistent and when I finally went over this particular man’s head his boss walked him to my office and we spent two productive hours together going over web content.

This is what I was up against. But I couldn’t have done it if I wasn’t situated with them. There’s something to be said for popping into someone’s office to ask them how they’re going with my requests. It helped that the project was backed by senior management.

When I eventually finished this particular website I pumped my fists into the air and went home and collapsed. I felt ill so couldn’t even celebrate with a well-deserved drink.

Short meetings

When I finished with that group I was immediately placed with the other large group who were a lot more receptive to having me update the website. That made a lot of difference. The culture was completely different to the first group which really helped.

I’d already done quite a bit of work prior to my move – with the help of their communications people.

I was at the stage where I needed approvals from two very busy managers. From my experience with the previous group I knew that making meetings was the way to go. Emails get ignored if people are busy with other work, but if you make a meeting and sit with a person then they can’t ignore you.

I setup weekly meetings with the two managers at half an hour a time. You can get through a lot in half an hour.

I was always prepared with a list of questions I needed answering or draft content I needed approval for. We’d sit there together while they read through the content and update it on the spot. I’d write down answers to my questions and that would be enough to keep me going until the next time unless I had a quick question I could ask inbetween meetings.

Both managers said that this method suited them really well. Half an hour out of a busy day doing something a bit different for them is a good distraction and we always achieved things.

I updated the websites in record time and even stayed on for a couple of weeks to do some other out-of-scope work for them.

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