Changes: Organizational and personal

If I’ve been somewhat remiss in posting updates on the state of web services at the McGill Library it’s mostly because I’ve been too busy but also because of looming changes to how our department is organized. Last week, the new organizational structure was revealed to us, so I feel like this is as good a time as any to resume sharing my thoughts and experiences on web services at the Library.

For the sake of brevity, I’ll limit my discussion for now to how the changes impact me and my team. I’m assuming we’ll be sharing news of the new structure and roles publically at some time in the near future, so I’ll share a pointer to that info once it is available.

The short version of the change: (a) our department is now called Digital Initiatives, (b) the developers are now a separate unit within the department. (This doesn’t do justice to change, but is an overly concise summary of what has changed, at least from my perspective.)

Within the new structure, my title is Coordinator, User Experience and User Support. I’m responsible for both the user experience as well as the support of public and internal users across most of the Library’s systems. What this means in terms of concrete change is that in addition to the web services and I’ve been responsible for up to now, the scope of my responsibility extends to other online services such as the discovery layer. The main exception to this remains our ILS (Aleph) which is managed by another team. (I expect that I will work with this team on any UX work involving the Classic Catalogue, though.)

As mentioned previously, the two developers that were on my team are now part of a separate applications team. I expect that I will still work with them (and other developers, now) on my projects: they just won’t report to me. (Fortunately, I still have two people who report to me.)

The new structure came into effect last Wednesday, so while the structure and responsibilities have been put into place, a lot of work remains to be done to revise job descriptions of people on the various teams, and to determine how projects and operations will be managed in the new structure. In addition, aside from the ILS, we need to clarify who (aside from our AD) has overall responsibility of each of our systems (assuming we decide it is important to have individual responsibility for systems).

My immediate priorities have not changed. My high-priority projects remain (a) upgrading the Library’s web site to Drupal 7 (a.k.a. WMS 2014), (b) managing the decommissioning of our MetaLib and SFX services, and (c) implementing an intranet for the Library. Beyond that I think that most of my time in the near future will be spent adapting myself and my team to the new organizational structure.

As for how I feel about the changes, I’d say that overall I’m feeling optimistic but find the uncertainty around how we will coordinate projects and operations disconcerting. Although the new structure will give us more flexibility in how developer resources are assigned to projects, the amount of coordination required to move things forward is going to increase.┬áThere are other potential benefits aside from increased flexibility. Having responsibility across all online services, for example, makes a lot more sense since it is how our users conceive and experience our online services: as one system. However, since I started at the Library three years ago I’ve been focused on leading my team through through an ever-growing pile of work, on getting things done, and so my first instinct is to evaluate the new structure from this perspective. We have a good team, though, and I know we will figure things out. I just hope it happens quickly!

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