Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Too many cooks spoil the broth

Last week a confusing e-mail was sent to the entire student population of the University of Alabama. It seems that all students were notified that some of their classes were dropped due to not completing the necessary prerequisites. Only 208 students were actually identified to receive the message about schedule changes, instead of the 21,750 that actually did. All students addresses had been queued up to receive a message about a disaster preparedness drill at one of the university's stadiums when the notification was sent. (Complete article)

Why did I even pay attention to this article? The duty described, sending mass distribution email messages to various groups of people, is one that I personally deal with on a weekly (if not daily) basis. Surprisingly enough, we have built a strong enough SOP around this duty that it would be very difficult for the above type of incident to occur.

Our Process:
1. Person requesting mass distribution message contacts our IT Marketing person (Jill)
2. After proper approvals have been met (Jill deals with this), all pertinent info concerning the message is sent to me (Sender, Subject, Message, list of addresses, Approval contact, etc)
3. I prep the appropriate listserv group with test addresses (several of mine and the Jill's) and I send a test message to the list to review formatting issues
4. If initial test looks good, add the approval contact's email address to the list and resend the message
5. Once the approver sees it, they notify Jill as to changes needed, or that it looks good to send
6. Jill provides the changes to me (repeat steps 4&5) or gives me a 'green light' to send
7. I update the list's subscriber info (to include target addresses) and send to the list
8. Clear the subscribers, and await next mass distribution.

Being that a single contact point is actually doing the sending to the target addresses, that will lower our likelihood to have an mistake like they had a UA. (at least this procedure is under control ... one down, hundreds to go!)

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