Transparency and our "Front Door" Process

Impact/complexity matrix for use in rating requests.

Impact/complexity matrix for use in rating LIT Front Door requests.

In the Fall of 2014, the University of Michigan Library IT unit launched a new initiative called the “Front Door process.” The name resulted from our desire to create a centralized space or “Front Door” through which Library colleagues can submit project requests.

With an eye towards increasing transparency, LIT developed this new process with three goals in mind:

  • gather IT project requests into a centralized space
  • provide a space for a simplified IT project queue or workflow
  • have both spaces accessible to everyone in the Library

How the Front Door Process Works

We decided to use the project management tool Trello to create digital “spaces” to help us achieve our process goals. In Trello, we have one space that gathers project requests from across the Library (the Front Door Trello Board) and a second space that visualizes the Library IT project queue and workflow (LIT Project Queue Trello Board).

Library colleagues submit project requests in the form of Trello cards and these cards are placed in lists corresponding to the different Library divisions on the Front Door board. The management group of each division (with the guidance of a trained Front Door representative) is responsible for reviewing requests and prioritizing projects based on division priorities. Once a semester, LIT managers review cards and rate requests based on complexity, cost, and impact. Using these ratings as a tool (see the graphic above), resources are then allocated to certain projects/requests.

Once LIT commits resources to a particular request, we “open the door” and provide our Library colleagues with a high-level view of the status of their project, as well as all the other IT projects currently in-progress on the LIT Project Queue board. Trello has been designed to be “Agile-like” in that the cards are moved from column to column as they are worked on by developers.

Using Trello for Transparency

As noted above, we wanted to improve transparency for IT projects and we are pleased with the results using Trello. Both of our Trello Boards are viewable by the entire U-M Library organization and we have the ability to notify individuals with quick project updates using the commenting mechanism on each Trello card.  We also use a labeling system for requests that will indicate the status of a request and when it was submitted. Adding an easy-to-use, web-based tool to our suite of existing LIT project management tools allows our colleagues to see what LIT is working on and areas of potential collaboration across the Library.

Results so Far

After two cycles, the new Front Door process is helping Library IT reach the goals stated above. A number of colleagues have commented on the increased transparency not only of LIT projects, but also requests from across the organization. We hope this will allow us to collaborate more fully, as the entire Library can see other divisions’ requests. The process also provides a mechanism for Library staff to suggest improvements to the systems and applications run by LIT. For example, we recently completed a request to add barcodes to our public-facing online catalog that will save Library staff time.

What We Hope the Future Holds

From the beginning, we planned for the development of the new Front Door process to be iterative, and we continue to revise the process based on feedback from our Library colleagues.  One possible future refinement is the creation of one, centralized form for submitting requests to help encourage wider Library staff participation. Also, we would like to begin using the Front Door process as a mechanism to facilitate conversations that look at cross-Library projects that help accomplish larger Library goals.

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