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The Writers Guild of America, or WGA, is a labor union representing thousands of writers who create content for motion pictures, television, news and digital media. Writers have infamously struggled to find fast and fair compensation within the entertainment industry. The WGA is a managed coalition of writers working together to fight for better contracts and improve the standards within the industry.
The WGA holds elections every year for board of director positions and other positions. Any writer can petition to become a candidate but they are responsible for promoting their own candidacy, following a regulated process. Most candidates choose to have a promotional website to present their candidacy and collect endorsements.
An Old Fashioned Process That Excluded Many Non-Technical Candidates
Traditionally, candidates had to learn Wordpress or another CMS to create their own promotional website. Many writers are not technical, so they were unlikely to run for election due to this technical barrier-to-entry. This was a problem for the WGA whose election mandate is to get the broadest possible representation.
“The WGA needed to eliminate this long-standing technical barrier so that any writer could run in the election, leveling the playing field” said Neal Sacharow, Director of Communications.
Co-Designing An Innovative Website Building Tool
Thinklogic has served the WGA for many years and developed many different web applications and technologies for the guild. The WGA’s Director of Communications called in the Thinklogic digital acceleration team to hold visioning workshops to plan for how to best address the need.
Together, they came up with the concept of a website building tool so straightforward that any writer - even with zero technical knowledge - could use it to create professional candidacy and endorsement websites in a matter of minutes.
This tool would run the candidate through a wizard, asking the candidate questions about themselves and then mapping the answers to website content.
For example: What is your name? What position are you campaigning for? What photo would you like to add as your headshot? For each question in the wizard, there’s an accompanying explanation of where your answer will show up on your website and a preview of how it will be presented.
A candidate answers these basic questions, then selects a themed website design, and presto! An election candidate website that is fully compliant with regulations. Candidates can always go back and update their answers and change the website design themes “on the fly”.
The WGA and Thinklogic’s goal was to enable writers to be entirely self-sufficient. The simple step-by-step website builder was carefully designed to fulfill this goal, allowing even the least tech-savvy users to feel comfortable building a personalized website, quickly and efficiently.
The wizard questionnaire was very straightforward, yet there was a lot of power for any candidate that wanted to customize their website further. Text, images and layouts could be re-arranged, cropped and styled in a variety of ways, allowing the candidates to put their best professional foot forward, knowing all the while that the resulting website would be compliant with the regulated elections process.
Building a Custom CMS
Thinklogic has been developing web applications since 1998, and has expertise in a wide range of modern CMS. To realize this project however, the team pushed their CMS experience to its limits, and actually built the web editor for WGA elections as a custom CMS from the ground up.
The team was under time pressure to deliver before the next election, so Thinklogic quickly assembled a project manager, a UX designer, a front-end Vue.js dev, and two .NET core devs to design, build, test and deploy for prime time in under 3 months.
Although the WGA funded the development of the custom CMS, it had to be otherwise independent from the WGA to comply with election regulations. Luckily Thinklogic, a true end-to-end web partner, not only designed and built, but also hosts and operates the application so that it can be independent of the WGA.
Saving Hundreds of Hours with Automation
As part of the process of running in the election, writers need to collect endorsements from other guild members who support their candidacy, and forward those endorsements to the WGA. The WGA reviews and approves the endorsements.
And this process was… entirely manual! In fact, not only was it manual, but it was done differently by different writers using disparate systems. Some writers recorded endorsements via a form on their website, while others captured endorsements by hand. Some mailed endorsements in as a traditional letter to the WGA, some submitted the list of endorsements via e-mail, or attached in a spreadsheet. This resulted in a lot of inconsistency, and a lot of effort for the WGA to collect, parse, and approve.
Seizing the opportunity to save hundreds of hours of manual effort, Thinklogic created technology to automate the endorsement process end-to-end: collection of endorsements as a standard part of the website, automated transfer of endorsements to the WGA, compliant review and approval of endorsements, approving and converting petition candidates to official candidates, start elections website. All endorsements are tracked following a consistent, compliant format, and backed up into excel.
Introducing structure and automation requires change management, especially across potentially thousands of users who are used to the “old way” of doing things. Thinklogic was ready for this, having decades of experience in enterprise transformation. Thinklogic took an active role in change management, helping stakeholders embrace the transformation to the new automated way of managing endorsements. Many stakeholders had initial concerns: “this is how we’ve always done it!” Thinklogic led them through workshops to open perspectives that there was a better way for all involved.
The WGA and Thinklogic were looking for buy-in, first and foremost, from their members to use the website builder tool and the endorsement management process. For the first election year, they set an ambitious target of 40% use of the tool. But as the election unfolded, they measured a resounding 100% buy-in: all candidates used the tool.
Thousands of endorsements came through the automated system. This saved hundreds of hours in the first year election, and this savings will continue every year from here on.
In a post-election survey, Thinklogic asked “Was the Web Building Tool helpful in creating your candidate website, and if so, how?” Responses included:
“It was a godsend. And a great equalizer for candidates less technically capable, or busy.” - Dante Harper, election candidate
“I have no experience in web design and the platform made it quick and easy.” - David Steinberg, election candidate
“I thought it was fantastic. Made it quick and easy to do everything from post my statement to collect endorsements. I think this is a great service you’ve done for Guild members.” - Adam Conover, election candidate
And although the WGA and Thinklogic were prepared to support candidates using the tool, almost no troubleshooting questions were raised. Practically no tech support team was needed at roll-out, meeting the goal of being entirely self-service thanks to an extremely intuitive user experience.
Sprinting with Thinklogic’s Digital Acceleration Response Team (D.A.R.T.)
If your team needs a boost to assess and carry out large-scale web transformation, consider a digital acceleration partner like Thinklogic. Thinklogic’s Digital Acceleration and Response Team (DART) specializes in advising CTOs and CMOs on their digital roadmaps, rapid prototyping to bring a business case to life, and carrying out large-scale implementations, without distracting internal development teams. Thinklogic is an expert in web development, including a variety of modern CMS, headless CMS, and even custom-built CMS as in this case study. Located in Los Angeles, California with years of experience in enterprise verticals like manufacturing, commerce and banking, Thinklogic is your trusted partner for end-to-end digital transformation programs.
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