Jackie worked as Softmart's webmaster for several years. While she learned a great deal about programming, database development and server administration during this time, the most significant expertise developed during her employment was in project management. The technical details of the web change rapidly, but the necessity to gather requirements, gain consensus, produce proposals, educate users and manage projects is ongoing.
When Jackie was hired, Softmart had a web site consisting of about 3-4 pages and looking rather like it had been designed by a kindergarten class. This is not intended as a criticism of the previous developer, the web was new and lots of sites were designed by geeks with little graphical experience.
She was no artist either, so one of her first priorities was working with the Creative Services staff to assist them in figuring out how to develop graphics for the web. They were quite expert at producing catalogs and brochures, working primarily in Photoshop and Quark on Macintosh computers, but had no experience optimizing file size, cutting images up into pieces for web layout or building frames for animations. Jackie began working closely with them to figure out how they worked and how they could most easily produce images for her. They very rapidly "got it" and our working relationship was extremely efficient for the years Jackie remained at Softmart.
Jackie worked in the IT Department, but had to work closely with the Marketing Department to work out what content should be included in order to layout the site. This was a tad tricky since there were personalities involved that didn't like each other much! But eventually, decisions were reached and she began development.
The site she developed used frames, but even then she was cognizant of browser-compatibility issues and provided a non-frame menu to access the site.
The Quality Assurance staff had no experience testing web sites, so Jackie developed a manual explaining browser-compatibility and ADA-compliance, teaching them how to test the site properly before it went live. She worked out a weekly schedule for QA to review changes before they went live.
Softmart's new site was unleashed upon the world!
Softmart had recently begun an International Department and required much of their new site to be translated into several languages.
For a period of time, there was a web developer working in the International Department who developed both for his department and a some things for the main web site as well. Shortly, he moved on to another opportunity and Jackie took over his duties, making the discovery that figuring out where to put HTML tags within Japanese text can be a challenge!
The next project management task was getting the Marketing Department organized to sell advertisements on the site. They sold both full-page ads and banner ads on the Specialspage.
Other site updates were necessary as well, listings of job openings, new catalogs, etc. Jackie worked with many departments to coordinate the work so that the site was updated in a timely manner with appropriate time for QA before changes went live.
During the time this project was being developed, Jackie was the primary driving force to get the web site developed. She mediated meetings, developed processes, produced documentation and trained the staff involved across the company.
It was an in-depth immersion learning experience in project management! And the experience stood her in good stead when the intranet project began...
The primary challenge Jackie faced once the new web site was completed and work on the intranet was to begin was that the idea was unfamiliar. Not being aware of how useful an intranet could be, there was a shortage of enthusiasm throughout the company with regards to producing content.
Luckily, the Human Resources Department was motivated to use the intranet to reduce their workload. Even this small amount of content being provided illustrated the usefulness of the intranet concept and departments company-wide began to see it's potential.
When it was fully built, departments had the ability to update common documents, such as the company phone list and commonly-used forms, thus assuring that everyone had the most up-to-date information on their desktop. The employee newsletter was published on the intranet, saving printing costs. Vendor trainings were sold on the intranet, often with associated contests for the sales reps who participated. The newly-formed Hardware Department and Volume Licensing Department provided streamlined information to sales reps to simplify placing orders.
Again, Jackie was the primary driving force to get Softmart's intranet up-and-running, setting up processes and procedures. Once the intranet became more important to the company, Jackie began an intranet committee to meet regularly and make decisions about ongoing development.
The intranet saved staff time and energy, kept everyone up-to-date with the latest information needed to fulfill their duties, reduced costs, and even generated revenue. It was a huge success!
The development of a new web site involved much less project management than previous projects as the entire Softmart organization now had good processes for web development. The webmistress had whipped them into shape!
The new site had a streamlined layout and updated design.
Technically, the new site discarded frames and incorporated much more ASP and a browser-detection component to feed browser-compatible code to the web visitor. In addition, it included an application Jackie wrote to publish from the development server to the QA server and from there to the live server to simplify updates.
It has been many years since Jackie was involved with Softmart's web site which is very different now. She still has fond memories of her time there and counts some Softmartians amongst her friends today.
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