Introducing the Digital Projects Dashboard

This is not the Digital Projects Dashboard. This is just a dashboard (Image: Pixnio)

After a relaxing end-of-year break, the digital team is back in Heidelberg and raring to get started on our many projects. This week we built a dashboard to help us to keep track of the scope, status and dependencies of our nearly two-dozen projects.

All of the things

Mark kicked off the year with an “All of the things” meeting in which we tried to call to mind, write down and categorize all of the various projects – no matter how small – that we have been working on.

Our list, on post-its on the office wall, ranged from straightforward items such as “newsletter redesign” or “write documentation” to massive, multi-year projects such as the “Enterprise Data Repository” or “fix the intranet”. We categorized the projects by status, too: Alpha, Beta, or Live (more about these categories here) – and added each project’s dependencies. And then, because we’re the digital team, we built a digital version of it.

The dashboard

Check it out here. Our projects are listed by the stages they are at (Not started, Consultation, In progress, On hold, Delivered, To be Retired), and tagged by status (Alpha, Beta, Live). We also listed Dependencies – projects that fall under the remit of other teams such as Heidelberg IT, or that need EMBL-wide buy-in, such as retiring the Fiona CMS which runs our public sites and intranet.

(Screenshot of the new Digital Projects Dashboard – a work in progress)

You’ll notice the dashboard is clad in a handsome design provided through the EMBL Visual framework. It even boasts a (non-working, prototype) EMBL toolbar!

We’d like to encourage anyone interested in our work to peruse the dashboard, and keep checking in for changes and progress. There will be plenty of changes to track: to make new digital tools and sites we have to work fast, build and break prototypes, and iterate quickly. Hopefully this dashboard will help make some sense of this process, which can admittedly feel a little messy sometimes. We’re happy to show off our new dashboard and how to make one; Tabea from Stratcomm’s Digital team has already expressed interest in something similar for her workflows. Watch this space!

Dependencies

Finally, a note on dependencies. Digital projects are complex, and have many moving parts. Apart from the design and content, there is a codebase as well as underlying back-end technologies to think about, including diverse Content Management Systems and databases interacting through APIs.

There have been many points in our projects where we realise that to fix one thing, we first have to fix another underlying issue, which itself may have dependencies and underlying fixes needed. But instead of embarking on an Inception-like quest for the underlying fix, we have to start somewhere.

So we’ve started building tools and services on existing technologies, and for some, we may need to swap the less efficient parts later. It’s the price of working quickly – but worth the benefits of rapid iteration and prototyping, as we dash towards better websites.

Faster scientific websites through reusability

Growing an EMBL-EBI solution into a Visual Framework for the life sciences

Building a website is easy. Building a good website is trickier. Building that good site quickly is hard. And if you want a beyond-hard challenge, also match your organisation’s look, feel and brand requirements. Continue reading “Faster scientific websites through reusability”

Modern user research: What is it? How is it done? And why?

Digital products are designed for use. Even simple, text-based websites are consumed by users with a task in mind. Mostly they want to find something specific. Sometimes they might want to get in touch with a real person to ask a specific question. Or apply for a job. ‘Just surfing around’, even ‘reading’ requires a user to navigate.

Modern digital design practice has user research at its core. By understanding the needs, motivations and behaviour of our users means that we can design and deliver the best experience to them. However, sometimes, those needs may be in conflict with organisation goals, product roadmaps, or as I indicated just now, perceived wisdom and stereotypes. It’s our business to challenge those falsehoods with insight and evidence from real people to place the user first in our priorities. Continue reading “Modern user research: What is it? How is it done? And why?”

Digital communications update: July/August 2018

Every month, for a few months, we’ve been sending an update to our department an update in a simple format: what we did last month, and what we’re planning to do next month. Of course, as the team grows, this makes for a longer update but we think the detail is important. It helps us paint a picture of the status of projects and how they may connect to others. And often, the detail in our work is where we find common points of pain, or opportunities to collaborate, with our colleagues. Continue reading “Digital communications update: July/August 2018”

Building your blog

A little while ago now I ran a blogging workshop in Rome for writers on their “On brains & beer” blog. But while we tailored the work there to the people in Rome, a lot of the things we discussed are more universal. So in the spirit of openness, this is some of what we covered. If you are at EMBL and would like a similar workshop, please let me know. Continue reading “Building your blog”

On taxonomy

Indulge me, if you will, with a lengthy zoological introduction. 

In the 1700s, the Swedish zoologist Carl Linnaeus devised a system for classifying all the organisms of the Earth. Each species received a unique name comprising two parts, following Latin grammatical construction.

The mice in the EMBL labs? Mus musculus (Latin for “muscular mouse”). The frogs? Xenopus laevis (meaning “strange foot not-heavy”). My personal favourite at EMBL: Ambystoma mexicanum (“Mexican blunt mouth”), the axolotl. Continue reading “On taxonomy”

Digital comms update: May 2018

We’re trying a new thing.

Every month, I will be letting you know what we’ve done during that month, and what we’re planning next. We’ll also send out an email – let me know if you want to be added to the list.

Why are we doing this? To keep you all up to date! It’s really important that you know what we’re doing and what we’re planning so that we can act on any opportunities. Continue reading “Digital comms update: May 2018”