Building from the Ground Up

By: @tarbym

Share your story of why a new project or initiative is important as often as you can in an informal setting. This is where it will begin to resonate with people because they’ll have the chance to ask you questions and begin to think about how it can help them.

field of dreamsThis epiphany coincides with the 25th anniversary of Field of Dreams with that classic line “People will come, Ray”. In the movie, they were trying to convince Ray Kinsella that building a baseball field in the middle of his farm was a good idea. OK, I’m not trying to pull off anything that majestic, but I am seeing a new groundswell of people buying in to why our portal is important and sharing that message with their colleagues.

A groundswell won’t happen if it’s mandated from the top.  When this project began, I spent a lot of time doing formal presentations on the goals of the portal, why it mattered, what platform it was being built on… That was a good first step, but it didn’t spark the interest of the people who were ultimately going to be maintaining their department’s sites.  What sparked their interest was actually having the chance to ask questions.  What sparked their interest was the ability for people to sit in a setting like our open labs an see what another office was working on for inspiration.  What sparked interest was the opportunity for them to talk to their peers.

I am a resource - I can build, train, enable, but ultimately the individual office needs to make It personally relevant  and important to how they work.   My last open lab was full of people working on different things when we were joined by a representative from one of our campus offices resisting the need to build anything in the portal. I gave my standard elevator pitch – the improved self-service tools, the renewed marketing focus on the website, etc. but it wasn’t making a difference.  The individual wasn’t yet seeing why it mattered – at this point it was just a time sucking mandate.  But a little while later, as I was working with an office to think through workflows, I heard a few people who were working on their sites begin chiming in:  “Take a look at how we’re organizing our content.”  “We’ve been able to use the new web tools to streamline what we’re trying to say.” “Look at how easy it is to manage your page.” Item after item explaining why and how they’ve made this effort relevant and personal to their office’s success.

Suddenly it was no longer a Web Services mandate, it was a campus partnership. And that is a great thing no matter how big or small a shop you’re working in.


Don’t Be Defeated By The Post-Conference Blues


By @ronbronson

Conferences are great opportunities for learning. It’s the best chance to find others who might relate to your specific challenges and those who work alone, it’s an opportunity to find others who make you feel less by yourself. Still, inevitably we return home to our normal lives and the euphoria of just a few days ago dissipates quickly. While you’re happy to settle back into your own routines, it’s easy to miss those moments that inspired us during keynotes and sessions.

If you’re like me and can’t read your own handwriting half the time, you’ll go back to those scribbled notes sometime later in the year because you get distracted with all of the normal duties of work and home life that keep us all more than busy.

Don’t let those tweets go by the wayside until next year. Think of a conference as a new year’s resolution for work, but one you actually pursue. After a great conference, I feel inspired to pursue things that I only thought about. I’ve been known to leave a conference and immediately get working on things and I issue this charge to each of you to do the same. If you haven’t been to a conference this year, make your own whether it’s reaching out through twitter,or listening to podcasts and blogging about it via Tumblr or some other platform.

You have a unique opportunity to grow, expand your horizons and increase your confidence professionally. Conferences are just one method that we can do it and when you get home, it’s time to get back to work.

Don’t be defeated.


I Don’t Have All the Answers

By: @tarbym
Higher Ed Solo

As I’ve said before, one of the great things about being a solo is the ability not to get locked into one particular area of specialization. But this week, I’ve been reminded that what I typically love can pose some challenges.

One of the systems I’m bringing online is a new SharePoint portal to replace our existing home-grown system that is at the end of its life. As I’ve been running with this, I’ve been thinking about all the positive things it will bring to our campus: we’ll be able to pull out all of our internally-focused content off our public web site, we’ll be able to pull campus working groups and committees out of our learning management system, we’ll be able to get rid of the reams of paper forms that fill our campus.

But SharePoint? What do I know about SharePoint? Well my solo friends, when you don’t know about a new system, it becomes your responsibility to learn it if it’s important to your school. And I don’t know about you, but it’s a challenge that can be pretty frustrating. Because I want to be able to help people. I want to be able to answer their questions as easily as I can rattle off things I’m comfortable with such as solutions in our content management framework. But I can’t right now.

And that’s all right. Why? Because, as we’ve added new features and functionality, I’ve been honest with myself and with my campus about my limitations. I will find the answer, but it will take time (sometimes a trivial amount of time, others a bit more labor-intensive). In this process, I’ve been building a network of resources – people to follow on Twitter, bloggers to monitor, support sites to rely on and sites to avoid. As is usually the case, as this network grows larger and stronger, the better the advice I receive.

Part of being honest is communicating. Today, I solved an issue with a form one of our offices was trying to build. It has taken a few weeks to figure out what the problem was but throughout the process, I’ve been constantly communicating where I was at, what was working, what didn’t apply. They may not have cared about the technical detail, but they did take away the fact I was working hard for them and balancing the other responsibilities in my day.

I don’t have all the answers, but I will happily accept the challenge of learning.