Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A new website for BIDMC

As part of our 2008 strategic plan, BIDMC has completely replaced its external website. This project was a collaboration of Corporate Communications and Information Systems, along with a number of vendor partners.

The success of the project depended upon several factors, given the complexity of the task and the need for coordination among all the stakeholders. Here are some lessons learned:

1. Gather requirements using a formal process - Corporate Communications created a vision of a useful, consumer-friendly, highly interactive web site, then retained a vendor, BigBad, to help implement the vision. They ran focus groups of all the intended users, interviewed departments throughout the hospital to understand complex and varied goals, and engaged with information systems to understand infrastructure/security/integration issues. The end result was a comprehensive requirements document with broad support from all stakeholders.

2. Create wireframes based on requirements - Before a single line of code is written, having a 'graphical storyboard' of how the site will be organized and how all the requirements will be addressed functionally is key. A wireframe diagram is a kind of roadmap that lays out the site so that everyone can assess its usability, features, and scope.

3. Establish clear roles and responsibilities - The division of labor for the project was that Corporate Communications managed the project and was responsible for all content, including multimedia, and workflow for the project. Information Systems provided hosting/security/databases including multiple environments for staging/testing/production. BigBad ran the requirements definition process, created the wireframes, and assisted with selection of the content management system (SiteCore, backed by a Google Appliance for search)

4. Create single points of project management and communication - Each of our teams (Corp Comm, IS, BigBad) appointed a single point of contact for communication. We did not expect Corp Comm to contact the network team about DNS issues or the server team about performance issues. The single point of contact in each group was responsible for broadly communicating all issues and resolving all problems by engaging all necessary staff within each group.

5. Embrace new technologies - The site includes a limited amount of Flash, a significant amount of streaming video (hosted by Brightcove external to the BIDMC network), blogs, chat, interactive maps, ecommerce, cascading style sheets to enforce a common look/feel/navigation paradigm throughout the site, and a medical encyclopedia. We've used these new technologies appropriately, realizing that our users have different needs - some may want to find out the basics of navigating BIDMC, while others may want to use social networking features.

6. Make it work in all browsers and operating systems - We support Firefox, IE, Chrome, Opera, Safari, etc. running anywhere on anything.

7. Test it thoroughly - we went live in staging and then went live to the public at a new URL to enable testing internal and external to our network before redirecting our old site to the new site.

8. Formulate a migration strategy - we mapped the main features of the old site to the new site to minimize error 404's i.e. folks using bookmarks or searching Google would still be able to get to their information because of 250 different directory level redirects built into an ISAPI filter running on the old site. This makes the transition easier for all stakeholders.

9. Engage the Community - To keep the content of the website fresh, Corp Communications trained over 120 delegated content managers who serve as the editors/publishers for each department and division of the hospital. Delegated content management ensures local departmental content needs are met, but an enterprise content management system and governance ensures total site consistency.

10. Overcommunicate � there were weekly standing meetings, constant communication via our project managers, and conference calls to rapidly resolve issues. We ensured that hospital leadership was informed of the status every step of the way and explained the transition in numerous newsletters, blogs, posters, emails, and presentations to the entire community.

The external website project at BIDMC has been a great collaboration that required unique governance, trust among multiple project participants, and boundless energy by all.
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