COR E-Directory v2.0 (2008)
End-User Studios was approached by members of a Work Improvement Team (WITs) from a major local organization to realise their WITs project submission for the year 2007. (hereby referred to as the ‘client’)
Developing the Solution
The premise behind a WITs project is simple. Multiple WITs are formed within an organization, depending on the size of the organization, this can range from as little as a few team to hundreds and even thousands. Each WIT identify an issue within the organization to work on; the issue can be an existing unresolved problem that hinders productivity, or simply an improvement that can be made streamline existing work processes.
In the case of the COR E-Directory project, the client identified an existing work process that involved a complicated workflow and took up quite a bit of time. The department maintains a registry of the contact and portfolio details of many of the key employees in the company. At that time, the registry contained the details of over 1,100 of these key employees. As the company did not have an information system that allowed for all employees to query and retrieve the details of these key employees, the task was left to the client’s department to maintain the records, and to provide them to other departments that requests for them.
The department stores these records in two identical registry files. Each of these files contains printouts of the lists of employees, segregated by departments. Each file contains over a hundred page. Besides the registry files, the department also keeps two corresponding registry books. When changes are made to the entries in the files, the date, time, changes made in the file as well as the employee who made the change has to be recorded in the registry book.
On a predefined day each week, the Administrations department of the company would send down a memo with information on human resource movements to the client’s department. These memos would provide information on new and departing employees, as well as employees transferring between departments or re-assigned to a different portfolio within the same department. It is the responsibility of the client’s department to sift out those employees who are or will need to be in the key employee registry, and update the registry records. Since not all employee movements are effective immediately (some are announced well over two weeks in advance), the changes are only made to the files as they become effective to ensure the accuracy of the information contained within.
As this task was often considered time consuming and took away precious hours from an employee’s core duties, it was rotated amongst the client’s department on a daily basis. Memos that contained yet unmade changes were passed on to the next employee assigned for this duty, often resulting in several memos having to be tracked and passed from the employee handing-over to the one taking-over. From what we learnt, this task had remained as a staple of the department’s day-to-day operations for some years now.
The Problem Defined
To produce a viable solution for the department, End-User Studios stepped in to observe to workflow of this task over a period of time.
Several key issues were observed:
- There were two exact copies of the registries kept, and both had to be manually maintained with identical information. This was because the registries contained sensitive contact information on executives and management, and hence need to be kept under lock and key. However, to ensure that the information remains available even when a keyholder is away from office, a second copy is made available as a backup under the covering employee.
- Employee movements were released by Administrations on a fixed day each week, yet each day the week’s released memo has to be checked because changes can only be updated into the registry on the day they take effect.
- Since changes were made into the registries by hand, the condition and the readability of the registries deteriorated over the course of the year.
- At the end of each year, 2 new sets of registry books and files would be generated to replace the worn copies, leading to material wastage.
After analyzing the collected observational data, End-User Studios decided that a desktop information system would be best positioned to help the department with this task.
To solve the first issue, it was decided that an intranet-based, multi-user application would allow any employee on the company intranet to access the required information. To ensure that only employees authorized to access the information may do so, the system comes with a built-in authentication system.
Within the system, an easy-to-use Access Control List management functionality allows authorized users to maintain the list of users who are able to access the encrypted information.
The second issue was identified as the key problem that lead to a large wastage of time and energy by the department’s employees.
To remove the need for employees to go through the weekly memo time and again on a daily basis, the application made it possible for an authorized user to enter all required changes just once each week – on the very day the memo was issued, regardless of when the change will be effective.
The logic was simple: by allowing the employee to enter the effective date of the change, the application simply holds off updating the directory for a specific entry until the effective date has arrived.
This enabled the department to reduce the need to assign this role to just one employee a week, while still ensuring that the information contained within the directory is accurately updated on a timely basis.
The information system would not be complete if it did not allow for easy browsing of the entries made. COR E-Directory allowed authorized users to easily browse entries by user-defined groupings. Users also had access to an easy to use search functionality that allows users to narrow down entries by parameters such as name, appointment, department or contact information. In response to a specific user request, we even made even partial name searches in any order possible; e.g. A search term “nco hna” can bring up a name such as “joHNAthan haNCOck”.
The COR E-Directory was developed over two versions. After the first version with basic functioning capabilities were shown to the client, we sat in with the client to discuss how the application can be further improved in terms of execution speed, look and feel, as well as other needed features. Over time, the application was refined to the state which is presented on this site today.
The application fulfilled a special need that the department had; allowing employees to update their directory of key personnel to include manpower changes even before they become effective, yet ensuring that the changes are only committed on the effective date itself.
The application accomplishes this by keeping the effective information separate from the required changes, and automatically updating the information as the effective date occurs.
Version 2.0 of the E-Directory was submitted for the organization’s annual WITs convention in 2008, and bagged a Silver award at the corporate level.