How to Win a Tekne Award

Written by Mike Ellsworth   

Tekne Awards 2009
Tekne Awards 2009

On October 22, 2009, CareerOneStop , the program I manage, was the recipient of a Tekne award , presented by the Minnesota High Tech Association. We’ve all been in shock since then, and finally I’ve got the time to blog about the experience. We were up against strong entrants in the IT-Software & Hardware, Communications and Infrastructure category: Imation and QLogic Corporation.

The fact that we were even (self) nominated was a bit unlikely. Having followed the Tekne awards during their 10 years of existence, and having seen the caliber of the winners, I was pretty sure we had exactly no chance to win, and ordinarily never would have pursued the award. Luckily Linda Finley of Trissential, a consulting firm involved in the nominated effort, kept at me until I submitted a nomination.

I mean we’re a huge, comprehensive, national career information Website run by the state of Minnesota (DEED) through a grant from the US Dept. of Labor. We’ve got more career information than anybody, from salaries to career videos to occupation profiles and way more. Yes, we always think we do good work, but we don’t have the cachet of other 2009 winners like Honeywell, Ecolab (two awards), Vast (two awards and an innovative green process), and Starkey Labs.

Luckily the award committee disagreed.

The effort that was honored was a stem-to-stern remaking of the site involving:

  • Graphic redesign
  • User interface redesign
  • New Information architecture
  • New Taxonomy
  • Audience characterization
  • Usability testing
  • Section 508 compliance assessment
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • User-Centered Design training
  • Implementing an enterprise Web Content Management System (Tridion)
  • Implementing an enterprise search engine (Endeca)
  • Creating a new application architecture

This all involved more than 100 resources from two state organizations and 11 contracting firms. And we did all this at the same time. Yes, I’ve got a great team

So, how do you win a Tekne award?

Step 1 – Start with a great, talented and dedicated team, in our case USDOL, DEED, MnSCU, and XPAND.

Step 2 – Get a boatload of money from an unbelievably supportive sponsor, in our case, the DOL Education and Training Administration. Use liberally.

Step 3 – Hire a great branding and design firm like Azul 7.

Step 4 – Procure a great Web Content Management System like Tridion and engage their professional services.

Step 5 – Procure a great Web search engine like Endeca and engage their professional services.

Step 6 – Engage talented PMs, BAs, and architects, in our case, from Trissential, Tribeca, Tier 3, JPerzel, and Olhoft Consulting.

Step 7 – Mix well. Run infrastructure projects simultaneously while redesigning architecture and infrastructure on the fly (possibly not a best practice!).

Step 8 – Engage experts on user interface design, information architecture, taxonomy, audience characterization, usability, Section 508 compliance, SEO, and user-centered design, in our case from Azul 7, Earley & Assoc., User Strategies, UserWorks, and Frederickson Communications.

Step 9 – Stir into other ongoing projects and communicate, communicate, communicate.Mike Ellsworth at the Teckne Awards 2009

Step 10 – Release WCMS and search engine within three months of each other (possibly not a best practice!)

Step 11 – Sprinkle in results and learning from SEO, audience characterization, usability, Section 508 and season with user-centered design concepts.

Step 12 – Place in pressure cooker for it seemed like forever. Serves 24 million unique visitors a year.

Step 13 – Receive Tekne award.

Gee, in hindsight, it doesn’t seem that hard. Not.

Thanks to everyone who contributed!