Redesign With Transparency

Memoirs of an Invisible Man
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Undertaking a major redesign project can be a difficult initiative in any large organization, especially in higher education or other large institutions where there are many internal stakeholders with a vested interest.

There are many factors that determine the success of a redesign project, but the most critical one is transparency.  Being transparent with the internal stakeholders (faculty, managers, executives, etc.) is probably most often the cause of the failure or perceived failure of a redesign project.  Even though this is such an important piece, its qute often overlooked or not given the attention it requires.

We are about to embark on a significantly large web realignment (find out why I don’t call it redesign) project.  A metric that is going to be used to determine how successful the project will be our transparency – how much open and 2-way communication do we provide.

Before I continue, let me make it clear that I do not support the idea of ‘design by committee’read this post to see why.  I do believe that throughout the project a clear direction needs to be shown and milestones reported on – not just to senior leadership, but to all the campus community.

I’m not sure how new initiatives are approved at other institutions, but where I work there is a thorough process in which new initiatives are reviewed and approved based on their impacts on the strategic goals of the college.  So as I realized the the web realignment project received a considerable amount of one-time money to move forward with, I tried to put myself in the shoes of other areas on campus that didn’t receive the funding they requested.  I’m sure that everyone would agree the web is an extremely important investment to make, but disappointment still fills the air.  For me, this reinforces the importance of being very transparent and open.  There will many people both internally and externally that will want to know how the funding for this project is used.

Benefits of Being Transparent

  • Campus Buy-in: No matter how well the analytics look or how much positive feedback is received through surveys and focus groups, a redesign project will appear as a failure if there is no campus buy-in.  On top of that, without campus buy-in, executing the project could prove difficult.  Its not the marketing or IT department’s project, its the institution’s project and we are just the facilitators.
  • Credibility: Communiting through the project and every milestone and decision point will increase your area’s credibility within the institution.  The air of mystery will fade and people will trust your area and the decisions you make.
  • Accountability: I’m not sure if this a benefit or not, but needless to say with a large redesign project, there needs to be a certain level of accountability.  Being transparent and open throughout the process will help your team to establish that accountability.

As we embark on our web realignment project, we are developing a communications plan that will outline how to communicate, what to communicate and how often.  This will set the stage for the coming year.  A blog is a great idea for being open and also for solicting feedback.  Here are a few examples that I’ve seen online:

I’m sure I haven’t covered all the benefits or points about being transparent in a web redesign or realignment project.  If you have some other points that you feel are critical, please share them.

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  • Susan T. Evans

    Amen, brother. Transparent communication was the hallmark of the William & Mary web redesign project (re.web). We chronicled our efforts on the project website and project blog:

    The benefits of being transparent that you summarized were indeed part of our experience. Additionally, our transparent communication plan relied on the web and ended up serving as a great orientation about the power of Web 2.0 for our campus. Because we used web communication to inform and engage campus stakeholders about re.web, we are now able to translate that to communication plans for external constituencies. The transparent model worked and we are now using it for the William & Mary Mascot Search –

    Best of luck!