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“We didn’t have a clear structure for this project. With Upfront Work’s user research, insights and strategy, we now have the tools and resources needed for year-over-year growth. ”

Steven Jambor, Vice President PDMA Chicago

Delivering digital transformation for university and non-profit partnership

Client: NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY + Pdma
Industry: nonprofit, technology

In 2015, Northwestern University and PDMA had an idea: If we created a competition for researching real-world problems– students of all majors could learn the fundamentals of product development, no matter what university they attended.  But how could they improve on a project without the necessary structure, process and technology?

The Challenge

Many times, universities and non-profits use volunteers to run events. With different people rotating responsibility each year, domain knowledge can get lost or duplicate files are made, wasting time and effort.  The challenge becomes how do you structure a process for new volunteers to intuitively pick up where others left off?

To differentiate this competition, more features are involved–a Northwestern design-thinking workshop, multiple universities, two phases of judging, mentors pairing with final teams, sponsors to donate prizes and a ceremony event.  All of which require the right process and technology tools to facilitate strong communication and transparency.

The solution

Understanding their challenges, we started by identifying the projects success metrics and conducted a user research study on multiple personas. Utilizing key insights learned during the research study, we began implementing a digital transformation in relevant areas. Some of those areas included creating a new website, file management system and instituting a project management software process. After that, we established clear roles and responsibilities, prioritized tasks by phases and instituted agile methods for phase iteration. Throughout the project, we tracked our success metrics for optimal decision making and performance.

With this digital transformation, Northwestern University + PDMA now have the necessary tools and resources for future support to deliver sustainable success.