You likely have an employee or team member who you’re continually, exceptionally grateful for because she just rocks at her position. You know the one. She’s the team member that always manages to keep things humming along and knows a seemingly infinite amount of complex details about how things work at your company.
But then… then….
Then comes the day she lets you know she’s choosing to “pursue other opportunities”.
All the institutional knowledge she uses to keep things humming along is about to walk out the door with her, potentially leaving a dissonant pile of wreckage behind her.
Unfortunately, many of us have been there.
Today we share with you a story about a recent project completed for a well-known international client who found itself in this exact situation with their website earlier this summer, and how we helped ease their pain. (For privacy purposes, we’ll call this company “Company JX” in this blog post.)
A client that faced a very "un-chill" scenario
Company JX runs an online magazine dedicated to the mindful lifestyle—including yoga, conscious consumerism, organics and sustainability. Their online magazine, built in WordPress, receives nearly 10 million visits each month.
In mid-June this year they reached out to us here at TimeForCake after learning their staff web developer was leaving them. Permanently. In two weeks.
100% of the company’s revenue came from their website. When they came to us, it was a complex site that only one person understood. It was a site with millions of website visitors each month, a complex four-server hosting environment, an aging WordPress back-end, a separate but integrated ecommerce system running outside of WordPress, and thousands upon thousands upon thousands of pages. There was a lot to understand if one was going to work on or maintain the site.
Unfortunately for Company JX, almost none of this information was documented in a way that could be easily transferred to the next person or partner upon their web developer’s departure.
That’s where we came in.
Company JX brought us in to provide expert, technical website consulting and create a situation where the departure of their critical employee wouldn’t leave the company helpless and prone to severe catastrophe.
With July 1st looming and with all of the knowledge about how the complex website functioned stored only in their web developer’s head, Company JX was truly in a bind. There was a very real possibility that some part of their delicate system could start breaking down, or worse, come crashing down—and they’d have no one who could adequately support them in any reasonable amount of time.
If something broke, not just any WordPress developer could fix it. A person or agency who would work on the site needed to first fully understand its complex infrastructure and how all of the parts and pieces worked together. One wrong assumption and things could get ugly.
Talk about taking the focus off of harmony and enlightened consciousness.
Help from a real expert, please. Oh, and something we can understand
It is currently estimated that nearly 1/4 of all websites in the world are built in WordPress.
- That’s a lot of WordPress sites.
- That also means there are a whole lot of web developers out there claiming to be experts in building and maintaining WordPress websites.
While there are many great ones, there is also a tremendous variance in levels of expertise, client service experience and the ability to communicate clearly in plain English. Organizations must exercise caution when selecting a would-be expert partner, and that’s exactly what company JX did when they brought us in. We’ve specialized in WordPress websites for over 8 years and have a unique knack for speaking in accessible terms that don’t require a computer science degree to understand. This wasn’t our first rodeo.
How we helped Company JX get their “om” back
Proper, clear website documentation.
Proper documentation allows for institutional knowledge to transfer easily between employees and to outside vendors as necessary. It’s what prevents complete and total reliance on that one superhero employee you love so much.
Since there were only a few weeks until the outgoing team member’s departure, we needed a (very, very) quick onboarding process. We completed a series of interviews with the outgoing website developer as well as the hosting provider to learn about the website, its highly complex network configuration, security situation, server setups, backup protocol, and a host of other technical details. The website’s configuration was rather elaborate, so it was absolutely critical we gather and document the full picture of the technology running the various, disparate pieces of the website.
What Company JX received
Company JX received 3 deliverables from us.
Deliverable 1: Technical Specifications Document
Our research and analysis resulted first in a four-page highly technical document providing a complete overview of how Company JX’s WordPress website was developed, how it ran, where it ran, its features and functionality, and other technical specifications that mapped out everything a new web developer or systems administrator would need to know if they were going to work on the website.
Deliverable 2: Expert Recommendations Document
We also delivered a separate four-page document containing a number of expert recommendations for updates and improvements that would bring the website up to best practices in terms of security. It was a concise yet solid document written in plain English so that everyone from the CEO to the marketing department and any future technical employees or vendors could clearly understand what needed to happen to improve the security, functionality, and lifespan of the website in the upcoming year.
Deliverable 3: An Intangible Deliverable
The final deliverable, though intangible, was just as valuable as the eight sheets of paper we delivered: we gave Company JX a blissful reprieve from the incredibly high level of stress and fear they came to us with. We gave them a sense of calm and assurance. Company JX knew they were going to be able to quickly onboard help and a new WordPress developer because of our expert, in-depth documentation. They knew what needed to happen in order to ensure the future health of their site. They knew they weren’t going to lose everything their employee knew when he left.
A happy, mindful ending to the story
On June 10th it looked like Company JX would soon have no hope for expert website support. The likelihood they could locate a new employee and then rely 100% on that employee documenting everything related to their massive website in a matter of days was extremely low. We rapidly moved the work out of the hands and brain of one individual, kept things running smoothly and recommended improvements, allowing the company to focus on continuing to operate its business successfully. We also gave them more breathing space to search for a new employee who would be good fit, and peace of mind that they could share their website documentation with the new employee and get him up to speed smoothly and quickly.
A bit of expert web consulting can go a long way in preventing stress and disaster.
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….. how relaxing.