The Tartan Reworkflow
The Tartan Reworkflow is a project that aims to improve the workflow of Carnegie Mellon University’s student-run newspaper, The Tartan. It is Design for America's first time working with another Carnegie Mellon organization and spanned across one semester.
Prina Doshi, Amanda Witt, Elly Young, Clarise Liu, Evelynn Chen
Working with the Tartan, the Carnegie Mellon newspaper
The Tartan is an campus newspaper run by students that brings weekly news of current events to Carnegie Mellon students and faculty. We worked with Jennifer Bortner who was the Publisher of the Tartan and other members of the Tartan.
We met with our community partner to understand the problems that the Tartan was currently facing.
Our project is an analysis and reworking of the Tartan's workflow to increase productivity and engagement of the Tartan members.
The Tartan gets the bulk of their process completed on Sunday since their paper comes out on Monday, which ends up requiring many hours of work (typically 10 hours) for the Tartan members.
Understanding the current situation at the Tartan
We conducted our research through three research methods: interviews, fly-on-the-wall, and contextual inquiry. These methods allowed us to gain a wide variety of knowledge about their current workflow.
We interviewed two members of the Tartan: the Publisher and the Copy Editor. Since the Publisher and Copy Editor have good understanding of the inner workings of the Tartan, we questioned them about the current organization structure and areas of potential improvement. From the interviews, we gained understanding that the main problem they were facing was the long Sunday workdays.
To understand their Sunday crunch, we came into their workspace throughout the day and conducted fly-on-the-wall and contextual inquiry research methods. From fly-on-the-wall, we learned that there is a social atmosphere that distracts from productivity and around 10pm on Sundays, the environment is hectic while everyone tries to meet the publishing deadline. Through contextual inquiry, we discovered that when writers don’t make the Friday/Saturday deadline for their articles, editors’ work gets delayed as well.
After compiling our findings, we decided to reevaluate our how can we statement to reflect the writer workflow rather than changing the work environment since the social aspect of the club was important for community and could also lead to new article ideas.
Synthesizing stakeholder needs based on our research
These were the main insights we gained from our research methods.
Organizational Hierarchy Chart
Coming up with many ideas for the Tartan
When analyzing our research on the Tartan, we brainstormed three main categories of ideas to help improve the efficiency of the Tartan's process.
Website - Holds all outstanding tasks and issues relating to the Tartan and allows a manager to assign tasks to individual people
Workflow System- categories of articles have different timelines allowing editing to take place throughout the week
Website - compiles a list of training resources for new members and allows Tartan members to add to it
Forum System - coordinates Tartan members’ collaboration if they need help article or layout etc...
Reduce Sections - make some sections bi-weekly instead of weekly
Recruitment - Advertise for new writers through a media campaign to allow the Tartan to have a strict deadline on writings
Synthesizing stakeholder needs based on our research
We performed two exercises for ideating: Crazy 8's and a Feasibility and Impact chart.
After coming up with a variety of ideas through the crazy 8's exercise, we gathered those ideas and organized them by their feasibility and their impact. Our goal was to discover an idea that would have high impact and low overhead for implementation.
Through this, we found that many of our ideas required a lot of investment on the Tartan's side, which would be taken into consideration since they already have an issue with low staffing for the amount of work that needs to be done.
Gaining feedback on our ideas before the build stage.
We presented the Tartan's problem space and our ideas to members of Design for America. From this, we got over 40 responses of feedback about our ideas. We also presented our ideas to our community partner who gave feedback as well.
From the feedback, most people seemed to refer to existing management systems for the delegation of task management rather than the idea of creating a whole new system. This seemed to be a good idea but something that the Tartan could implement themselves without our further intervention.
Training seemed to be a positive idea from the majority of people; however, some mentioned that it may not be used. Our community partner mentioned that they currently don't have the bandwidth to undergo creating training, but would be open to use existing materials for it in the future.
Enforcing deadlines through reducing the number of sections was popular with the Design for America members since it would be the easiest and least time consuming solution; however, it would disrupt the Tartan's organization and was not a solution that our community partner wanted to go forward with.
The New Tartan Workflow
The final idea we landed on was a reorganization of their current workflow. This idea was both feasible and from our findings would be high impact since many of the issues the Tartan faced was caused by writers not being able to turn in their articles early enough for editors to have enough time.
Implement other Solution Ideas
We had ideas that could help with organization such as a task management system and campaigns for recruitment of writers, which were not explored due to lack of time.
Testing and Refinement
Further testing of the proposed workflow schedules would be needed to see if writers and editors are benefitted from this new system.
Making a connection with your clients
Talking to our community partner was important as she was our main window into the problem space. It was important for us to make sure that she understood what we were accomplishing so that she could give input.
The most exciting idea may not be the best idea.
After our idea brainstorming session, we were the most interested in the idea of creating a custom application to manage the Tartan's tasks; however, they could easily use an existing task management application that would likely get the job done and require less overhead.