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Communicating to your users

Communicating to your users

Hi All,
I would very much like to hear from other institutions if they have found an effective way to disperse information relating to the use and development of EMu.  In some ways, I guess this relates to Marion’s question on ‘In-house helpdesk’, as I’m looking for an effective mechanism for 360 degrees communication:

    effective dispersal of information from EMu administration to the user base,
    effective response mechanism to help requests from user-base,
    mechanism for sharing ideas for improving efficiency in documentation from amongst all user-base.

For example, with each upgrade comes new functionality.  How do you let your user-base know about ‘templates’, ‘resources’ and other such developments which, whilst they may not have the competence to create themselves, it would be valuable for users to know about to come up with the ideas to streamline workflow?

Have institutions other than Museum of Victoria set up internal websites posting this information? Do they have a central repository of FAQ’s and ‘How to..’ documents for all users to browse?  How effective is this in reducing repeat queries?

Has anybody tried using social media technology, other than Manchester Museum, to aid knowledge transfer and to utilise the skill base of the ‘masses’ to aid in answering queries?  Our problem with this is that not everybody is familiar or comfortable with the ‘style’ of information exchange of these forums.  They are also not too happy about being emailed every time someone makes a comment and so de-activate the ‘alert’ mechanism, thus missing out on the useful information. 
Each department has its own administrator (not centralised) to act as focus for dealing with problems and we are finding that there is much duplication of effort and even, when it comes to procedures, there can be differences in opinion on the best approach.

I understand that regular seminars on a specific Module or collections management process have proved useful at the Museum of Victoria.  Does anybody else find this useful?

Perhaps emailing all users is the best approach to ensure that all staff get the same message?

With regards to keeping the user-base informed, I was wondering whether the ability to have a notification popup or RSS-type feed activate whenever anybody opens EMu would be useful.  Messages about forthcoming activity or tips ‘n’ tricks could appear in a separate window,
e.g. “EMu will be down on Friday pm for essential memory upgrade”;
“Remember – Upgrade testing commences next Tuesday”;
“Want to automatically have you name attached when you create a new record? --> Insert Defaults!! Here’s how – [link to EMu help].”

Each message could be independently removed from their notification box by the user. So, having made a note that EMu will be down on Friday, the user can then discard that message leaving a saved list of valuable ‘tricks’ from previous messages to refer to.

This doesn’t resolve our problem of duplicating effort in responding to common queries from different departments.  Perhaps this is as simple as setting up a group email account specifically for EMu support?!

I would be interesting in hearing about the trials and tribulation of anything anybody has tried.
Looking forward to hearing from you.

cheers

Dave

Dave Smith
Earth Sciences Data Manager
Natural History Museum, London

David Smith
Earth Sciences Data Manager
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Re: Communicating to your users

Hi Dave,

When Penn Museum launched, we had a lot of the same discussions. I set up a WordPress site for them to manage and make available most of the help-desk related content. FAQ items, how to documents, data standards, and KE training guides are all linked or presented on page as "blog" posts. By going with a well-known content management system, we ensure that site maintenance and updates will be simple to implement (even long after my contract ends). WP also has a large selection of plugins available that make it simple to add new features or to change the site. Perhaps best of all, the clean look and single search field (that covers every category) make finding information less daunting than sending an e-mail to the admin.

As part of ongoing training efforts, I re-purposed some basic mailing list code I had written for another project to create a very simple EMuTips mailer. Similar to what you mentioned, these are short notifications about features available in EMu. Their primary intention is to provide ongoing training and to further user satisfaction by communicating shortcuts and other helpful basic procedures on a weekly basis. Many of the items included were also covered at training sessions, but are likely to have been forgotten in the adjustment process. Copies of each tip are included in their own category of the WordPress site as well to make them searchable alongside other documentation. A similar offering could be handled rather easily by simply using e-mail of course. I set it in a database to provide some automation and simple tracking of what items have been sent and when. Tips do get sent more than once, intentionally, if nothing new has been added and if the specified amount of time has passed since the last mailing.

We looked at Help Desk systems for tracking requests, and may do so again in the future. I have used SysAid by Ilient for tracking help desk requests for my consulting work. I like their system, but it can be a bit much to set up and to maintain. It does offer full e-mail integration. Many of the simpler systems do not capture incoming e-mails or replies (they have to be copied in). SysAid is designed more for IT support than software support but works nicely for help desk request tracking. The options that we researched seemed like they would either require more work than they were worth or did not offer enough in terms of features to make them more useful than a Google Spreadsheet. We only have a few people who handle these requests, however, and we meet regularly. If you have a large number of staff responding to various requests, it might make good sense (assuming that they all search for an existing answer in the system prior to writing a new one). Even with that, however, I much prefer good core documentation that can be sent as a link in an e-mail to re-sending e-mail communication with another user.

For now, if I receive a question and think the answer may be useful to others in the future, I create a general  (and, ideally, comprehensive) reply that gets posted to the WordPress site either as a Procedure/How-To or a FAQ item. That can then be linked or copied in any future request for similar information.
All of my best wishes,

Will

Will Scott
Museum & Database Consulting
Philadelphia, PA / New York, NY

Will Scott
Museum & Database Consulting
www.willscottconsulting.com

Will Scott (Museum & Database Consultant)
Museum & Database Consultant
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