How Annie’s Weaves Its Publishing Web for Crafters

From its start as a small, mail-order needlecraft company, Annie’s has grown into a craft media empire. Based in Berne, Indiana, the family-owned business produces magazines, catalogs, kits, books, newsletters, and even its own TV show, PBS’s Knit and Crochet Now!

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Annie’s web development team handles everything web-related for the company’s wide range of products, which means constant content updates, new sites, and creative projects such as online classes with experts who teach everything from Bavarian crochet and quilting to jewelry-making and knitting magic socks.

Since the web department’s formation in 1998, it’s had to adapt right along with the web revolutions of publishing and retail. Project manager Michelle Lawrence describes the team’s busy role in the transformation that’s had to take place at Annie’s to keep up with the times and the business’s exponential growth: “In addition to performing our technical support duties, we also help guide others when dealing with anything that goes on the internet. It’s not necessarily a part of everyone’s background and explaining what we need and what we do in order for things to run smoothly is not always factored into the time we allot for various tasks!”

With so many parts involved in producing the various media channels, Annie’s web dev team has to make sure those parts keep moving. Michelle notes, “The most challenging thing about all those moving parts is communication, to make sure everyone relevant to a conversation is in the loop.”

To do so, the team has structured itself to keep communication flowing. Michelle and Heather Baker as project managers handle various stages of tasks, and there’s also a remote employee advocate to ensure that their concerns and issues are heard. Michelle explains, “This avoids bottlenecking things on any one person, but also makes sure messages are getting through to the right people, with experts on specific aspects of how the company works.”

As the growing team keeps up with “literally hundreds of concurrent projects”, it’s no surprise then that Annie’s web team is one of our most regularly active teams. Michelle points out, “iDoneThis’s snapshot view of what everyone is working on helps prevent forming work silos and saves the time of asking for updates on various projects and tasks.”

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Another major time-saver? Shorter meetings. “A big plus is that iDoneThis saves meeting time for us. We don’t have to fill everyone else in on what we’ve been working on lately, and we can skip ahead to problems or large projects.”

Meanwhile the team has an outlet to not only track and celebrate progress but to express frustration and the occasional aside, with dones such as:

  • “Still have issues where the application seems to lock up my browser… yay?”
  • “Ate at what my son calls ‘Catfish Heaven’. Mmmmm.”
  • “oh, i’m so done.”
  • “Installer will be here soon… hopefully before all patience is gone.”
  • “Help Brian to figure out leadgen keycode issue. Marketing’s fault!”

Positioned at the crossroads of multiple departments and products, Annie’s web team now gets a quick overall view of progress across parts, gaining context and improving coordination. “Everything we work on affects something another person works on,” says Michelle. “iDoneThis is a quick reference to see just how that plays out and facilitates a collaborative atmosphere.”

We’re happy to help independent companies like Annie’s cultivate creativity through the web and beyond!