Creating a "new video request" system
A quick summary of my situation: I'm a video generalist in MN and I've been hired as a production coordinator (read: one-man-band) at a company of about 1500 employees to essentially rebuild a video department that was axed back in 2008. Our videos are largely technical in nature, service updates, safety bulletins, etc. I'm also working on equipment budgeting and all sorts of other protocols, most of which I'll probably be back here asking about. Right now, we're trying to determine the best way for other departments and personnel to bring video project ideas to us.
Here's the objective outline:
John Doe in Engineering has an idea for a video.
John Doe documents his idea in the form of a video request.
I (or my boss, or both) receive this request and process it in order to determine if it's feasible and if so, is it a high, medium, low priority.
John Doe's request is filed and archived.
My first instinct was google forms which I did a trial run of and while it seemed to work well, some of the brass here are a little intimidating by new technology and had mixed feelings about it. Other possible options are some sort of digital PDF or excel but I'm not completely sold on them either.
Would you guys happen to have any recommendations or advice for something like this?
Thanks in advance!
By all means, make a form.
Just don't make the clients fill it out.
The very best way I've found to handle requests is personally, via phone or email chain. Asking the clients, (who know nothing or nearly so, about what we do and how it's done) to fill out a request for services form leads to one of two results:
1: A "simple" form that's easy for them to fill out and that isn't intimidating, also doesn't give you nearly enough key information, so you end up just calling them to get details anyway.
2: A detailed form a mile long, that has a blank for every possible combination of need and technical abstraction, is too hard to understand by the "layperson", and they either skip filling it out, give up, try to handle it themselves, or they fill it out wrong, and feelings get hurt when you deliver what the form implied, but not what they actually NEEDED... or... they just call you up anyhow.
If your form listed the 30-odd variations of codec available in the "mov" wrapper, what's the odds the person filling out the form knows which to check for which of their needs? Can they look around the room where they want to record a video and tell you what a location scout would look for in terms of windows, lighting, power, sound, etc.? When they ask for a video movie on a disk, are they asking for a standard DVD, or a multimedia file on a DVD-ROM, and do they know how to play either of those?
Really, your job is to be the consultant, the problem-solver, the active listener. No way a form process is going to replace you, and why would you want it to? The best system, IMO, is to have a trained expert human answer the call, one who knows what questions to ask, what wasn't even thought of, what questions can be skipped, and can "read between the lines" to understand underlying technology issues and how they affect the budget or timetable or quality level.
Draft a form, by all means. But tailor it to YOUR needs as a PERSONAL tool for recording the key issues and questions and problems a potential user has. It might contain a scripted set of basic questions that get everybody on the same page, and it needs to have blanks for due dates and deliverables, sure. But this stage is also a golden opportunity to help steer the process and not just take an order out of the blue, but help them know what to order and what not to order, and why. It's a survey, not an order form, it's data collection, but not a specification document, ...until YOU work thru it.
If I need a building built, I would be freaked out by an architect that asked me to spec it all out on some spreadsheet, from plumbing codes to HVAC hrdware. It's not my area of core competency. I'd be comfortable listing a few basic needs, but I doubt I would think of everything on the first or even second go-around, unless an expert "deposed" me or interrogated me. And as the client, I shouldn't have to.
Finally, the personal touch of a formless interview ingratiates you with the greatest number of managers and networking contacts in the organization, putting you on a first-name basis with them right from the start. Now they think of an actual person when the subject of your media department comes up in a budget meeting or whatever. Much better than being an anonymous service like the folks in bulk office supply. They get their marching orders via simple forms, and may never talk to a live person except when things go wrong... but they are a commodity business, not a craft business.
That's where I'm coming from. You don't GIVE them a form. You ARE "the form".
Initiate your "return to services" by personally visiting every department or constituency, and laying out what your capabilities are, and asking what their needs are, even if they don't have something immediate to request. Ask them more tan what the immediate issue is - ask what their main communications problem is. Think about what you can offer, if anything, to solve that. Cast yourself in the role of personal media consultant.
Everything Mark said. If someone filled out a form, you'd still have to phone them to get all the details, and then meet them to point at things and talk about scripts and locations. If you make the form simple enough that it just contains a few basic bits of information, why get them to fill out a form at all?
Be approachable - let people think they can drop in for a quick chat, to make an appointment for later.
I'm moving off-site soon having been in this position for about 7 years (a move to a more centralised office) and to see the expressions on people's faces when they realise there'll be no more drop-ins for quick chats about video projects is really quite touching and humbling. And may form the basis of my next pay rise discussion.
"don't GIVE them a form. You ARE "the form"."
Very Zen :-)