Project: Web redesign project in Sierra Leone in which ATiT worked with the Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SLIEPA) and the World Bank to create a content driven website and intranet as well as providing the necessary training to internally op
Organisation: ATiT, Roosbeek - B.
Moderator: Andrea Wilkinson, Priscilla Machils
Tucked away in a farmhouse on the Leuvensesteenweg between between Tienen and Leuven, is the audio-visual and information technologies company, ATiT. Working with both regional and international clients, their focus is to mediate the application and marriage of technology and education; with the technical and expertise to manage, research, develop, and support these initiatives. For more information, see: http://www.atit.be.
The mapping session with Peter Andries of ATiT centred around a web redesign project in Sierra Leone in which they worked with the Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SLIEPA) and the World Bank to create a content driven web site and intranet as well as providing the necessary training to internally operate and maintain the website in the future.
This project was well suited for UseWell mapping due to its direct contact with end-users throughout the project. Since the term user can be defined in a myriad of ways, one of our first exercises was to define whom ATiT saw as their users. Users, in the mind of ATiT vary from project to project, from students in a classroom to trainers in a company to those using a service. In this particular project, there were several layers of user. Besides needing a website that was easily to access information for readers and visitors, it was also imperative that the CMS system was designed in a way that made the website manageable for editors to modify as well as well as add to it in scale.
The phases of the project were defined as such: Request for Proposal, Proposal Submission, Preparations for Visit, Building CMS/Writing Tutorials and Deployment.
Looking for particular methods ATiT uses internally, in response to project proposals of this nature, ATiT has a defined plan of action that they regularly customise for each potential client.
- identify and divide the tasks, separate them out;
- present the findings back to each other (meet together);
- process is iterative (one or two times).
Once they had secured the contract, they prepared for a trip to Sierra Leone and proposed that the trip would consist of a planning interview and the development of a project road map, with emphasis on talking with and hearing from the staff who would be using the website. Although this preparation planning was crucial, they were aware that they had to be flexible in their planning. While in Sierra Leone, their list of tasks/actions grew to include: formal interviews, on-the-job observations, listing of technical requirements, looking at relevant issues with the local ICT infrastructure, the development of mockups to show an overview of how the content management system would work, ascertaining the level of IT familiarisation within the organisation and looking at the relationships of the people within the organisation to find out who needs approval from whom. Reflecting on this time, Andries remarked how actual experience is such a relevant and important tool, that without it they would not have been able to prepare, expect, manage or achieved the results that they did.
As to our keen interest in how an organisation documents these various tasks and translates the gathered information into something tangible, able to be taken into the next phase, Andries remarked that they often returned to the tasks/questions in order to narrow what is gathered down into something concrete. An important achievement through this phase (including the preparation for the trip and the trip itself) was that real relationships were formed and it was then evident not only who they were building the system for, but also how it could be evaluated and tested later on.
In the fourth phase of the project, a web-based content management system (CMS) was created. Throughout this phase, the people involved within ATiT assumed different roles. People such as Andries who, in previous phases had acted as researcher, now took on a greater role in developing the website. Based on the experience in Sierra Leone, they had a clear plan on what tutorials needed to be created. An additional colleague was brought on to undertake managing and writing clear tutorials for how to use not only the CMS, but how to manage crucial elements of the website such as the quality and quantity of the photos that would exist on the site.
In order for the site to be a useful tool for the organisation in Sierra Leone (something that could expand as the organisation expanded) roles were determined for who could contribute to the website (ie. writers, editors, users, etc).
As the project neared completion, the final phase of deploying the site and training the users was mapped. Deploying the site included multiple processes; it had to be agreed that the site was approved for publishing, a final chance for any changes to be made had to be offered and a three-day training session for the contributors had to be held in which the participants received a certificate for completing the training. Due to information gathered in the initial planning trip, they were aware of the nature of the IT infrustruture in Sierra Leone, thus the training was undertaken on a local copy (unpublished) version of the CMS. As per the initial submission, once live, support for the system was provided in the form of a helpdesk to further support the growth and use of the project.
Mapping a project allows for those involved to 'lock' two elements of projects. 'Locking' a portion means that this is a process deemed beneficial/successful. For ATiT, Andries 'locked' the experience of going to Sierra Leone and meeting the users (those who would use the website). For him this experience really changed the way he developed the project and was invaluable. The second 'locked' portion of the project was providing training to the users. This allowed for the developers to see how people reacted and allowed for real user-feedback instead of limited email or video. Additionally, it allowed the opportunity to see and teach them how to use the programme, and to test assumptions. Consequently, if Andries had had the opportunity to 'lock' another part of the project, he said he would 'lock' the ‘mockup made there’ that was developed ‘on the fly’ in the immediate surroundings. He found generating mockups in direct response to users/environment not only rewarding but also extremely relevant.
In contrast to 'locking' elements, mapping participants are also able to 'bomb' portions of the workflow. This does not mean that these should be avoided altogether, but rather they should be looked at in further detail and in the case of this particular project might have been problematic. Although nothing was 'bombed' in particular, for ATiT it would have been better if there had been more flexibility in the proposal phase, with a bit more clarity around what was really required on the side of the organisation in Sierra Leone with stricter deadlines set in place. Additionally, the use of video conferencing was problematic; it was difficult to arrange this due to time difference and technology.
Comments on Mapping This was Andries' first experience of mapping. Although he had a folder which documented the entire project, mapping the project, in his opinion, allowed him to share more. It allowed him to think about the project in a different way and the experience of those documenting the project (the Usewell team) would have gathered different information if he would have presented only what was presented in the folder.
Text by Andrea Wilkinson. See: http://www.usewell.be and http://www.usewell.be/content/atit/mapping-atit-a-cms-for-sliepa/)