2020: Year in Review
by Josh Billigmeier, on December 22, 2020
As 2020 comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on the ways the year has affected Fireside and the congressional offices we serve. Remote work has extended far beyond what anyone could have anticipated, changing the ways Fireside and congressional offices operate. We all started out preparing for successful short-term remote work, and ended up creating procedures to onboard new employees virtually. Fireside managed to meet these challenges boldly and create flexible solutions for our employees and staffers.
At the start of the year, our developers planned and delivered a few new features, including:
- Revamping our newsletter editor, Message Builder, to bring the latest features in mass email communication to our clients.
- Partnering with and integrating PoliScribe, our fellow civic technologists specializing in Natural Language Generation (NLG) to automate the form letter generation process.
- Streamlining casework messaging, so staffers can communicate with constituents and agencies in one place.
We used these improvements to help solve some of the unanticipated challenges brought on by the pandemic. We also saw the need for better IT support on the Hill, and launched our System Administration and Maintenance services (FSAM) to meet it. Our clients appreciate how easy it is to go through one vendor to meet their needs, and we’re excited about the continued expansion of this service.
In early March, our clients were swamped with constituent concerns while simultaneously trying to set up systems of remote work, so we helped out by:
- Boosting server performance to handle 350% increase in newsletter volume.
- Dedicating an employee to manage telephone town halls to meet the 1,000% increase in events scheduled.
- Switching desktops for laptops to allow for greater remote work flexibility.
- Setting up home printing from Fireside for offices who respond to constituents with paper letters.
Working in the midst of these changes has strengthened our drive for innovation. We look forward to next year and the discoveries it will bring, including those from our project with researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara. The huge influx of Covid-related mail is a stark reminder that every constituent voice matters, even the ones we may not hear from. With a better understanding of whose voices are heard, offices can proactively contact those who may not reach out first.
We’re hopeful for the day we can return to seeing our clients in person, but until then, we’ll continue to meet the needs of Capitol Hill in any way we can.