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.

Landing pages: Sprinting towards embl.org

Recently we did a two-week sprint with Jon, Peter, Maged and Liang of the EBI web team. They helped us set up the technical infrastructure to prepare the first landing pages for the new embl.org.

What are the landing pages again?

Landing pages are the beginnings of the new EMBL website, embl.org. They will serve as a single place for users to find a mix of aggregated and editorially curated content on a particular topic.

For example, the top search terms on Google analytics for EMBL over the past year include the words “jobs”, “press”, “pepcore” and “cancer”. Some of these have pages on the current website, others do not. The aim of the landing pages is to provide: a place for these searches to land, a better experience for the user searching for a particular topic, and a starting point for a deeper journey through embl.org.

Aggregated content will be pulled into the page with the help of the Enterprise Data system that the Heidelberg IT team is working on. Enterprise Data means data relating to people (name, job title, photo, email address, phone number, etc), Jobs (title, location, application deadline etc) and Publications (list of scientific publications from the Converis system, related to a named person). Such information is stored in various systems around EMBL, but currently the ability to share and re-use this data in different places is limited technically. (Don’t worry – we have a comprehensive privacy policy to ensure that no private data is shared without consent.)

The Content team in Stratcomm in Heidelberg will be responsible for curated content – news and other articles, written on various sites and pulled automatically into a central “Content Hub”, where tags and other metadata can be added to ensure the content is then displayed in relevant locations across sites and feeds.

So what did we achieve on this sprint?

This.
http://dev.beta.embl.org/cancer/

It’s a demo version – a beta release – of what the landing page might look like for the future embl.org/cancer. You’ll notice it looks and feels like an unfinished product: the final design is not implemented, the font is large, etc. This is deliberate – we would like people to recognise this as a “work in progress”. Mark will be blogging his ideas about what constitutes an “alpha”, “beta” or “live” release over the coming weeks. Here’s a quick primer.

On this sprint the joint teams in Heidelberg and at the EBI ensured that real data and real content was made available for the Content Hub to suck in and display on this page. The text and articles at the top are real content from the Content Hub. Articles in the EMBL and Cancer section are written and published on news.embl.de (well, a test version for now) and automatically appear on the landing page when they are properly tagged “cancer.” The jobs feed is live data from the jobs API, for jobs relevant to the “cancer” topic.

Take a look at our demo of the sprint
And the slides from the presentation

We’re preparing another sprint on landing pages for next week, to dig deeper into various technical issues, and to create more content for the beginnings of the new embl.org.