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    Updated July 28, 2014

No More Paperwork

The new interactive Deputy Support Center provides mobile accessibility and a direct line to the union

There’s a running joke when it comes to the cast-only tradition of selecting a company’s Equity Deputy at first rehearsal: you were probably in the bathroom when it happened.

With close to 900 deputies in the nation serving in this necessary role at any given time, the recently launched Deputy Support Center, housed on the Member Portal, was designed to create a simpler, streamlined and more accessible user experience on mobile device, tablet or laptop.

“Deputies play a crucial role as the frontline liaisons to Equity,” said Doug Beebe, National Director of Information Technology, and the driving force behind the new center. “But, they’re also working performers who often have questions or need guidance. The core objective was to improve our communication between our deputies and the union.”

For Beebe and his creative team, improvement and better communication meant using technology.

The interactive Support Center has removed the tedium of paperwork. There’s no more logging company hours and printing out forms that speak to grievances, safety and sanitary issues or injuries. Now, should a problem arise, deputies can communicate with Equity by “opening an issue” in the center.

According to Beebe, issues are handled by staff through the Issue Ticketing System, which ties into Equity’s internal organization. Any issue opened will be sent to the correct business representative and categorized by a variety of subjects. Issues are categorized by a number of subjects; but now, any forms regarding contractual questions or problems, personal compensation, injury reports, among many other matters, have taken a new, easier and immediate procedure.

Within the Issue Ticketing System on the Deputy Center, users will be able to attach a photo or document to help provide more information and visually explain any situation, which helps the business representative discover a solution in a timely manner.

And, not just for problems, the system can be used to ask questions and express concerns (about anything, from contract and payment confusion to time off and rulebook inquiries) to a business representative, who will call or email a deputy back with answers.

Additionally, the center holds a deputy overview, basic emergency protocol information, links to the rulebook library, Top 10 Deputy Checklist, specific contract type as well as the appropriate business representative’s contact information for the deputy’s show.
“The union isn’t a faceless, nameless entity,” Beebe said. “We have hardworking, professional staff dedicated to helping our members — we’re making it easier to build that relationship. Working together can now happen on-the-go, using a mobile device at a rehearsal, from your dressing room or on the road.”

When it came to developing this online center, Beebe said that it was crucial to understand the needs and requirements of all people involved (which in this case are deputies and AEA staff members). The staff at AEA held both internal and deputy-driven focus groups to get a sense of deputies’ challenges and the demands of the position. This meant also focusing on how AEA staff can provide the necessary support to any deputy.

The focus groups led to sifting through the numerous forms that have been used for years, and transforming — or eliminating — the paperwork to create a modern, efficient and streamlined process for all deputies.

Of course, technically, the center isn’t a new idea — at least according to Beebe.

“The idea of an interactive, online deputy experience goes all the way back to our original website mission from 1997,” he said. “But, the ability to execute just wasn’t there yet. Over the years we added online forms, but we now have the technological infrastructure to fully realize that experience — and our membership has the technology.”

So what does that mean for Equity’s deputies and members?

According to Beebe, it means improved communication, more immediate contact, less paperwork and a better, stronger union standing up for its members.”

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