Newsdirect is an Edinburgh-based political monitoring company, which enables organisations to track policy decisions which will affect them. It’s used by more than 200 organisations across the UK to make sure they have their fingers upon the pulse of government.
As the pace of news and updates continues to increase, and the number of clients grows, Newsdirect realised it needed a better way to manage its work.
The company has had several teams of students, from multiple cohorts working with it to help identify and increase the effectiveness and efficiency of its use of technology.
CodeClan spoke to managing director KirstyPeebles about Newsdirect’s experience with CodeClan, what it was like working with students, and how Newsdirect is planning to grow and evolve in the future.
CodeClan: What prompted you to work with CodeClan graduates?
Kirsty Peebles: “Around a year ago, we realised that to stay cost effective and to stay profitable, we had to find a way of looking at using machines or code to gather data more speedily. Our account managers were spending a lot of time gathering data, and we wanted to explore ways to save time and to allow our human resources to concentrate on the things that only they can do.
“Though we had a clear vision of what we wanted, were concerned at the risks involved in commissioning a large project without any prototyping. The beauty of working with CodeClan Client Xperience is that it gave us a safe space to explore ideas, and get concepts for projects and new ways to use technology.”
CC: How have you found working with the students?
KP: “The students are coming in with very professional standards, even after only 16 weeks of experience. I think that’s a big testament to the excellence of the training,
“For us, it’s been, it’s been a real learning experience. We had some ideas and described the challenges we have and from there, the students came in to show us how they could help to solve them.
“It’s also great working with the instructors. They are brilliant guides to help us understand the useful learning for students. For example, rather than constantly looking for new projects, they explained that it’s more valuable to revisit existing code and improve it. For the students, this became a relevant competency they’ve taken to employer interviews.”
CC: Has the CX project changed your plans or enabled you to do something you didn’t think would be possible?
KP: “What the first few teams did cut down our workload immensely. A daily two hour task of scanning through new political and policy updates was cut down to 20 minutes. With the work from the next team of students, we’ll be able to improve our app that scrapes and scans data, saving the team even more time.
“Our clients expect us to respond quickly to changes in the political environment. When burdensome tasks keep us away from the more interesting and valuable work, this hampers our agility to respond to changes of government or to fast-breaking news.”
“For example, when the Scottish Parliament makes changes to the design of their website, then a lot of our working practices literally have to change overnight. And when elections take place, many of the people that we are are tracking on a daily basis, would change too.
“So we need the technology and the expertise to be able to keep up with developments. That’s where the CodeClan students have really been a big help.”
CC: What’s next for Newsdirect?
KP: “We’re joining CodeClan! One of our team is joining the Professional Software Development course as a full-time student. It will greatly increase his ability to manage future cohorts and enable us to be even more efficient and insightful.
“Newsdirect will continue to expand. I suspect that for every two account managers we will probably be adding a technical role. We are now starting to recruit for people who are comfortable working in a digital environment and excited by the potential of the technology.
“We’re working with team members to imagine the new ways that software development could help them do their job. The transformation is remarkable, it’s creating an environment where ideas aren’t coming from the top down and bringing the team together under a common goal.”