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Web person at the Imperial War Museum, just completed PhD about digital sustainability in museums (the original motivation for this blog was as my research diary). Posting occasionally, and usually museum tech stuff but prone to stray. I welcome comments if you want to take anything further. These are my opinions and should not be attributed to my employer or anyone else (unless they thought of them too). Twitter: @jottevanger

Friday, March 14, 2008

Shock discovery: poor communication wastes resources

Yesterday I found out about some work that's being done on our behalf by the company that advertises our jobs. At the request of our HR people, they've almost finished building some custom pages to mimic the look of our group portal pages. Trouble is, the web techs (in this case, me) were never part of the discussions and I can't help but feel that we'd probably have got things done very differently if we had been. Certainly I have some concerns about what we'll get and I would have liked to explore other options. What are my concerns? They can mostly be expressed adequately with the word "sustainability":
  • Content maintenance. It mimics the look of our CMS pages, but the content isn't integrated with our CMS. Changes to site structure won't be reflected in the menus, nor would updated content.
  • Visual maintenance. The look of this site will change (we dearly hope) and I can't change their pages
  • Google. I don't know how they look upon sites that look like copies of existing sites and point at their pages. I suspect it might look like spamming and I wouldn't want to be blacklisted.
  • Site stats. We can't (readily) integrate the job site's stats with ours (if we get them at all). Not a huge deal to me but a factor.
  • Cost. I don't know what this will have cost, but five minutes after getting hold of an RSS feed from their site I had integrated it into our own, replicating the most important part of what they'd done. I suspect we could have done it cheaper, in short!
I don't know if, had we talked about this properly, we would have ended up doing something different. It depends upon what the important parts of the "site" are, and on what the job site can offer beyond a pretty sparse RSS feed, but I think we could have negated the need for at least some of what they did. There's meant to be a process we follow for every single new media project, so that it passes by the right eyes to let us make any recommendations. This time that broke. HR did speak to people on our team but the plans didn't reach me (at least, not that I recall), and I think this has something to do with a communication failure about just what the plans involved. I may not have made it clear the sort of things we are able to do in terms of integrating third party sites (or at least what we'd be up for trying), or perhaps the scope of HR's plans weren't really clear to start with. Or perhaps I just need to make it clear that every single piece of third party work, no matter how small it seems, must go through me. One way or another, our communications have been lacking and it looks like we've ended up doing things the wrong way.

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