nortel partner experience evolution
Beginning in May, 1999, I was webmaster for the Nortel Information Center (NIC), Nortel Network's largest partner content site. Over the next year and a half, I took it from a series of directories accessed via an awkward, low-usability authentication system, to a branded static site experience, and eventually project managed the entire site's migration into an integrated, highly usable database.
How a back-end architecture revision transformed user experience
The NIC had been created by engineers as a simple directory system, sorted by region. If a product was multi-regional, files needed to be copied to multiple directories; global files were copied four times. The LDAP permissions setup required that partners sign in for each separate directory, which made for clunky user experience for partners supporting products in different regions. It worked like this:
Further complicating the situation was the fact that different product groups were supporting different directories and overlapping regions, with varying levels of rigor, so that one region might be updated while another was not. My goal was to create a branded, searchable website, improving usability and navigation, but before any of that could happen the permissions problem had to be solved. To fix this, I came up with a partner profile-based LDAP architecture:
After obtaining consensus from internal stakeholders, I implemented the necessary changes. The effect was immediate and dramatic: usage more than doubled in terms of files downloaded, return visits increased, and partners made more sales. Customer service tickets also reduced (I was the last level of media technical support for partners), giving me more time for research, site design and development, training product owners and teams, and eventually adding a team member to help support an increasingly useful site.
Personalized taxonomy, nortelnetworks.com
When Nortel’s product microsites were taken down and content integrated into one branded experience, all non-Web Business Organization (the corporate dev team) employees were let go or moved into different roles—except for my department, which was integrated into the WBO because of my efforts to promote usability, security, branding, and overall best practices. (We were also converted from contract to permanent employees.) Shortly afterward, a major personalization project was undertaken, to integrate intranet, extranet, and internet web presence into one personalized, dynamic application. I had two major roles in this.
- Project manager, data migration of static NIC content into an Interwoven Broadvision database, rebranding it as the Nortel Partner Business Center. Oversaw internal and contract technical team
- Site Evolution Coordinator. This role was fairly complex, and included work as:
- Liaison between partners, marketing, product development, engineering, executive management, customers, and vendors to determine requirements. Used creative problem-solving and collaboration to overcome conflict between departments.
- Developing a flexible taxonomy that managed extremely complex metadata for personalized site: categories and values for products, document types, permission levels, regions, languages, and applications were the tip of a very large iceberg. To this end, created hypercube (OLAP cube) to track region x product x profile (personas) x content type.
- Developed relational tables and mapped fields from existing databases into new Broadvision enterprise management system; helped normalize same.
The taxonomy, based in cognitive science as well as extensive audience analysis, was a success. In October, 2000, my paper on it was featured at LocalNet2000, a global system engineering conference in Aylmer, Quebec.
Towards a More Cognitive Knowledge Management
Knowledge management has traditionally been performed along the following path: gathering, organization, refinement, and dissemination. This positional paper will seek to suggest a more flexible approach, closer to human cognition, to enhance information flow and simplify architecture. The typical two-dimensional classification systems developed for static, printed data ignore the multi-dimensional aspects of web data; unfortunately, many web information schemata do not stray far from these boundaries. Drawing from systematics theory, cognitive psychology, library science, and traditional web information design, a new approach is synthesized which emphasizes multiple, flexible taxonomies, non-hierarchical, non-compound attributes, and future evolution of this into artificially intelligent and pseudo-intelligent sites.
what, where, & when
Web content manager, knowledge engineer, webmaster
Nortel Networks (nortelnetworks.com)
UX, web design, graphic design, taxonomy, training, branding, content strategy, IA (information architecture), usability, SEO (search engine optimization), branding, copy writing, user-centered design, usability, B2C, B2B, Adobe PhotoShop, Adobe Illustrator, Macromedia Dreamweaver, Flash, Fireworks, web analytics, advertising.