by Tyler M. Carey, Chief Revenue Officer
In October, I was fortunate enough to speak on a panel held in conjunction with the latest session of the Rutgers University Design Thinking Certificate Program. I’ve been on the advisory board of this program for a few years, as are other publishing, manufacturing, technology, and design thinking professionals. The panel consisted of Board Chair Hasan Elkomey (Chief Revenue Officer at Redstage), Joe Ford (COO at Hill & Smith), Matt Heller (Victory Design + Innovation), and myself. Needless to say, flanked by highly sought after design thinking speakers – one might even say visionaries – I could feel the onset of a case of Imposter Syndrome. My fellow panelists have used design thinking over their careers to reenvision how companies interact with their customers, their staff, and the products and services they provide. Me? Well, I’m just lucky to work with the great people at Westchester who routinely provide great editorial and production service on every content project they handle.
So, how does Design Thinking fit into the Westchester story? And what was I doing in Somerset, NJ, presenting at a grad school certificate program? This was really just another chapter in the ongoing story of our Client Portal. You see, the Client Portal that our clients use to interact with their projects took a long time to build. We initially tried to adapt off the shelf solutions, tried to build something focused on our own in-house workflows first and foremost, and went through several iterations. Along the way, we built a lot of great systems and features that became part of the iterative process, but it was our use of Design Thinking principles that helped us best define what our clients truly wanted to know about their projects throughout each project’s life cycle at Westchester. When we pivoted the viewpoint to “What would help customers better engage with their projects?” several pennies dropped. Key features came to include:
- Transparency – the ability to see every project at every stage, and basically see in advance if things are going well or if there are risks due to author delays, etc.
- Simplicity without losing Comprehensiveness – the ability to see at a glance where everything is via a simple Gantt chart, rather than multi-layered dashboards or spreadsheets
- Portability – the ability to have reports generated that go to the right stakeholders regularly, without everyone having to be an active ‘user’ of the system
- Customizability – knowing that each customer has slightly different variations to their publications processes and making the system flexible enough to adapt to those things
- Easier file transfers – the default for a lot of our clients had been FTP transfers for years, but through our partnership with Dropbox we were able to piggyback on Dropbox API’s and the overall Dropbox architecture to make a much more elegant, quick, and facile experience for transferring files and engaging with each piece of content within the Portal rather than having to ping-pong back and forth between multiple systems and wait for files to load.
The topic of the panel at Rutgers that night was ‘Empathy’ and it was really only through the use of empathy for our customers that we got ourselves in the right mindset to be more aligned with the needs of our clients. Using an empathy approach helped us to identify those core requirements that took the ‘good’ pieces from the system we were developing, junk the pieces of the platform that weren’t working, and rebuild it using Dropbox and other systems as a more intuitive architecture and interface for our clients to have all of the capabilities they had told us they really needed from this type of system.
Certainly, Dropbox applies a lot of similar customer-centric principles, and recently they released a video about our work together, highlighting how Westchester’s use of the Dropbox platform makes for a better experience across our global operation and through our Client Portal for our own clients. In November, the productive, customer-centric philosophy shared between Dropbox and Westchester was recognized with a First Place win at the Bookbuilders of Boston New England Publishing Collaborative Awards, which is an annual celebration of publishers and vendors who work together to come up with innovative solutions to address issues impacting the industry.
Westchester is fortunate to work with a collaborative partner like Dropbox, and also all of the collaborative partners within our client base who took time over the past few years to try out early iterations of the Client Portal, provide feedback, test new things, and ultimately help develop what’s now a comprehensive yet simple tool for managing work in process at Westchester.
Many thanks to all, including the Rutgers Design Thinking program for letting me share our story on the panel.