February 20, 2014

IT Projects – how does the University decide?

Cartoon people holding jigsaw pieces https://www.google.ca/search?hl=en&site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1251&bih=687&q=project+managment&oq=project+managment&gs_l=img.3..0i10l10.3444.10120.0.14050.27.16.8.3.4.0.111.863.14j2.16.0....0...1ac.1.35.img..0.27.894.GBMmu68k1k4#facrc=_&imgdii=_&imgrc=PZJoJycWJ2xUzM%253A%3B1r9YRcbd4nyrWM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.globalnpsolutions.com%252Fwp-content%252Fuploads%252F2012%252F04%252Fcartoon-of-mgmt.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.globalnpsolutions.com%252Fservices%252Fnpd-resources%252Fwhite-papers%252Fproduct-vs-project-management%252F%3B1210%3B1104From the University’s three-year-long Enterprise Recruitment and Retention Program, which includes the Student Portal project, the Business Intelligence project, and Strategic Roadmap project, to the three-month-long Canada Wide Science Fair wireless project, Information Technology Services is constantly juggling the number, length, complexity, importance and costs of IT-related projects for the U of L.

In order to determine which projects provide the best value to the University, an IT Projects Committee has been struck to tackle these large and critical decisions. “This is huge – it’s a very big step for IT,” says Chris Roberts, Manager for IT Services’ Project Management Office. “Prior to this, we had to use a ‘best effort’ approach to deciding which projects we had the capacity for, but this is obviously not ideal.”

Purchasing AtTask, a project portfolio management tool, provided a concrete solution to corralling and tracking all IT project requests into one central location. The next logical step was to form a committee to evaluate and prioritize all requests coming to ITS. “Leveraging this tool will help us report and sustain all projects by balancing resources with demand,” Roberts adds.

The IT Projects Committee, which will meet monthly, comprises representatives from across campus: Chris Horbachewski (VP Advancement), Chris Nicol (University Librarian), Charles Jorgenson (Acting Registrar), David Hinger (Director, Teaching Centre), Ken McInnes (Executive Director, HR), Carrie Takeyasu (Executive Director, Financial Services), TJ Hanson (Executive Director, Facilities), Jim Booth (Executive Director, Ancillary Services), along with IT Services reps: Mark Humphries (CIO), Darren Schell (Manager, Transformation), and Chris Roberts.

Roberts says the Committee is hoping to start its intake process later this spring, but further communication and details will follow.

 

 

UX – a better Web experience

UX Atrium picDeveloping traditional websites involves multiple stages from design to development. Often this process leads to an end product that is built more for a technical audience than for its end users. Recognizing the gap in the traditional process, the web team at the University of Lethbridge has adopted user experience methods to move from a functional build, to making them a more pleasant experience.

UX, an acronym for User Experience, is a practice that uses research to understand user needs, and to align those needs to current products and services. “It has more to do with an improved online experience for students, faculty and staff,” says Michael Warf, Web Manager.

The Web team recently employed UX to determine how students, faculty and staff use the Notice Board. “We know that people are having trouble finding things because, to the eye, it’s a very busy site with competing information and visuals. It’s been a dumping ground of unorganized information. In order to understand how people use it, we set up monitors in the U Hall Atrium and invited passers-by to search for specific things on the Notice Board. This provided us with a fairly clear realization around how they went about using that site. This information will help us build something that will align to both the information the University needs to share, and the ability for users to find what they’re looking for quickly and easily,” Warf says.

UX continues to be used to assist in the design of the University’s student portal. With the ultimate goal of satisfying the needs of both the University and the students, the questions are many and complex. “For example, we know that more students have smart phones than laptops, and that they access their calendars on their phones. Yet, what they can see on their phones was built for desktop and laptop computers. That poses a problem with providing them information in a format they can use.

“Continuing to collaborate with end users in the early design stages of a website helps us to better define the required features and functions that provide a balance between the needs of the University and providing a website that is enjoyable and easy to use.”

Watch for future UX events on campus so you can get involved and help us make your user experience better!