By Leah Scampoli
On 26 January, I volunteered at the TC Camp, a technical communication “unconference” put on by friend of the chapter Liz Fraley. After manning the welcome desk during the morning, I attended the workshop “A Step-by-Step Guide to Preparing for a Legacy Conversion Project” presented by Linda Morone and Rhonda Wainwright of Data Conversion Laboratory (DCL).
I wanted to learn more about this topic because my company is in the process of choosing a content management system and moving away from the current network folder system. Anytime you make a major process change in the department, it can feel intimidating and daunting. But, by the end of the workshop, Linda and Rhonda gave me the confidence to tackle the challenges of switching to the new system with gusto!
Although the workshop covered a lot of topics around data conversion, some of the information presented could be applied to other types of projects. For instance, before beginning a project you need to allow plenty of time for the preparation process. This critical planning phase can include:
Setting Priorities — Before you begin a project, it’s important to define what is important to your company, department and content. Whether it be reusability, safety/legal requirements, search-ability or availability, you and the project stakeholders need to focus on how to accommodate the unique requirements of your situation. For instance, since I work in a regulated environment, making sure the process complies to specific regulations is important. Another element of the priority discussion is managing everyone’s expectations about what the project will–and won’t–accomplish.
Organizing the Team — Identifying and all agreeing upon some basic information about the project team is vital to avoid resource shortfall. This means choosing the appropriate team members and discussing the responsibilities of everyone. Then, having a frank talk about everyone’s bandwidth and who will manage the deliverables. Finally, deciding what parts can be done in house and what is better left to outside vendors.
Avoiding Pitfalls — This seems almost impossible because what project doesn’t eventually succumb to some type of setback? But, it’s important to think about it early and often to avoid derailment. Continuing from the previous topic, it’s important that the team checks in to make sure that everyone has adequate resources to complete their tasks. These check in meetings also allow everyone to discuss what needs to happen if a team member will be out of the office (and how to re-arrange responsibilities to keep the project on track). Finally, build in extra time into your schedule if something does go wrong. And if things do go all swimmingly, wouldn’t it be nice to not be rushed at the end?
I learned a lot from the workshop, and I am really looking forward to implementing the ideas in my own job. I encourage you to check out the DCL website for webinars, white papers and more about data conversion. Also, although the TC camp has folded up the tent, check out the TC Camp website for newsletter archives.