Here in Web Services there are essentially two types of work we do: client support and project work. In this post, I wanted to give you an insider’s look into what that means and how we work within each of those areas.

Before I get into how we work, I’ll talk a little about the work we do.

We manage over 500 websites here at Carleton. Some are custom sites (homepage, events calendar, intranet, Future Funder, etc.) Most websites we manage are in what we call the CMS template, numbering roughly 350 websites. A number are in our Framework template﹣around 50 or so﹣and then we have our new theme, which we call cuTheme. As of now we have fives sites in our cuTheme pilot.

Support work is the work we do to support all that I’ve mentioned above. Project work refers to new websites/services that we are working on.

Client Support

Here we are talking mostly about service desk tickets. Typical tickets include e-commerce requests, training requests, new websites, bugs, web analytics, and more!

Each month we receive anywhere from 50 to 110 Jira tickets that are passed on to us from the first level support in ITS. As you’ll see from the image below, February tends to be our quietest month.

Date Assigned Requests Resolved
January 2021 72 57
February 2021 45 61
March 2021 86 84
April 2021 91 85
May 2021 71 75
June 2021 62 61
July 2021 49 54
August 2021 111 95
September 2021 109 107
October 2021 80 91
November 2021 76 79

These tickets go first to Charlotte and Andrew (who handle the majority of them) and then if it involves dev work the ticket is then passed along to a developer. I’ll explain how we decide who it goes to when I talk about project work. We see all these tickets in a dashboard in Jira and at any given time we can have between 10 and 20 tickets open and in progress.

In addition to service desk tickets, client work also includes training/workshops/documentation, cuTheme migrations, site content reviews, accessibility scans, our monthly newsletter, and ITS communications, handled by Chris.

If you have submitted a ticket into the service desk, you have more than likely been in contact with Charlotte or Andrew and you will know first-hand how amazing they are. I mean, they were both individually nominated for Service Excellence awards this year and I don’t think a year has gone by with one of them not being recognized for their great service – so that says a lot right there.  We are lucky to have them!

We are also lucky to have two awesome co-op students join us this semester – Sarah and Krist – who have only been with us for a few weeks and are already killing it writing blog posts and updating our documentation.

Project Work

The best way to describe how we handle project work is to say Agile FTW. I can talk about agile all day, but will try to keep it short.

We plan all of our work in three-week sprints. A sprint is a stretch of time allotted to get specific tasks completed.  At the start of each sprint we have a Monday planning meeting. This is a two-hour meeting where we go over work that needs to be done in the projects that we’re working on. Right now our key projects are cuTheme, Events Calendar, Intranet, and RDS, our design system. Each developer gets to weigh in on the tasks ahead, and we go over how much effort we think a task will take. This helps us to plan accordingly, making sure we don’t over (or under) commit ourselves.

We then start the sprint, which is all managed in Jira.

Over those three weeks, developers know exactly what they need to focus on. Each morning we have a standup meeting where we go over what we did yesterday, what we will work on today, and any blockers we face. It’s a quick 15-minute meeting run by the superhero.

What do I mean by superhero?

The superhero role is just that – a super hero. For two weeks at a time, the superhero is the person who all the developer service desk tickets get assigned to. They handle all the site installs, bugs, tech issues, etc. They are also responsible for running the standup meetings. During this time, they are not responsible for any project work. Once their two weeks is up, they can jump back in on project work and another developer takes on the role. Our superhero are amazing at keeping our standup meetings on track and on time!

At the end of the sprint we have a very important meeting called the retrospective. This is an opportunity for us to talk about what went well (my favourite part because everyone gets shoutouts), what did not go well, and find ways to improve the way we work. I’m a huge fan of continuous improvement and taking something away at the end of each sprint.

After the sprint is over we have a week of what we call learning and development. It’s a week for us to catch up, to write documentation, to do knowledge transfer, or to learn something.

By working in sprints I am always amazed at how much we accomplish. With agile, we are able to be focused and clear on what needs to get done, and blockers are addressed immediately.

In conclusion…

All this would not be possible without:

  • Jira. As I mentioned we track everything we do in Jira, both client requests and project work. We’d be lost without it.
  • Teams. We use this for team meetings and a lot of communication. We have multiple channels and chat a lot.
  • Collaboration. One of the great things about our team is how well we work together. How we work with our clients and the Carleton community. Collaboration makes everything better.
  • A focus on continuous improvement. Agile really gives us the space to improve. We rely on client feedback, honest conversations about what’s not working, and a desire to improve what we do and how we do it.

And, it goes without saying: a really amazing team of web professionals – Charlotte, Andrew, Chris, Zahra, Mike, Marcelo, Kevin, Ishdeep, Michelle, Krist, and Sarah.

I hope you enjoyed this look into how we work and if you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out to me (Mary Kathryn) via email or Teams.