A joint initiative between the United Nations in Geneva, Women at the Table and the US Mission to the UN, we recently had the pleasure of working on a bespoke software development project.
International Gender Champions was launched in 2015, as a joint venture between the United Nations Office at Geneva, Women at the Table, and the US Mission to the UN. The long term vision of the project is to help create an equal representation of women and men on panels across the UN.
We have had the pleasure of working with the US Mission to the UN for many years now, and they were in fact one of our first clients when interconnect/it was still a young company. They approached us back in the summer of 2016 to talk over the Gender Champions project and invite us to fly to Geneva and lead a workshop exploring the future of the initiative.
Our brief was to build a piece of custom software; a Tracker to allow Champions and their staff (or Focal Points) to engage with the project, submit their commitments and complete surveys. The results of the surveys would then be used for statistical analysis to determine the success of the initiative.
- Concept development
- Web development
- Content migration from WordPress
- User training
- Ongoing support
After initial Skype conversations with the US Mission to the UN, we travelled to Geneva to lead a workshop with stakeholders. We like to incorporate a number of interactive exercises into our workshops, to get the creative juices flowing and to get all stakeholders involved. As well as summarising goals and expectations, we also spent some time towards the end of the day analysing existing data capture designs, to identify positives, issues, opportunities and new thinking.
Once back at our office in Liverpool we worked through the data to produce a discovery document. This summarised the main points and requirements which are summarised below:
- Development of a secure database.
- Design and development of an easy to administer bespoke ‘Tracker’ system, with secure user log-in.
- Development of a custom survey builder.
- Switching the current website from WordPress to the Yii framework in order to give an integrated and approval workflow oriented back-end.
Over the years we have become accustomed to pushing the boundaries of WordPress on high traffic, high scale sites. Originally we also considered delivering this project using WordPress, but during the initial stages of the build it became evident that there were other alternatives to be explored. The complexity of the client’s brief, requiring a system to be accessed by several different endpoints, linked to a central database, meant we departed from WordPress; instead we developed a bespoke implementation on the Yii framework. Not only did this simplify workflow and back-end development, but also resulted in improved user control and access.
The multifaceted nature of the project required careful consideration of the workflow. For ease of administration it was important that all requirements were carefully integrated as simply as possible for those using the Tracker. It was necessary for managers and admins to have the ability to proof read and edit commitments and pledges before publishing them to the public facing site. Our response was to develop a rigorous moderation workflow, allowing a smooth and simple automation process.
As with any large project there are always exciting challenges to be found. For this project our vast experience of site migrations was especially useful. WordPress uses its own particular way of working with templates and assets and this had to be accounted for when migrating the client’s existing WordPress site to the Yii platform. We’re pleased to say our past experience allowed us to undertake this process without a glitch.
The development timeline of this project has spanned a number of months. Version 1 of the tracker was launched in time to collect and export data for the first annual report in September 2016. Since then we have worked to expand capability, add extra features, migrate the public facing site from WordPress and watch the project expand to launch in New York in March 2017.
We have been very happy to observe the fast performance of the site and the ease in which users have been able to navigate the software. To find out more about the project for yourself, head on over to the Gender Champions website.