The successes listed below are some examples of where we’ve been called upon to come up with some creative solutions to a tough problem. Only by dialoging and gaining an understanding of the needs along with some creativity was something truly unique created.

Perhaps your needs don’t require this level of ingenuity, but isn’t it nice to know our people have that ability if it’s required.

Problem: A company acquired 1,000 new sales agents and needed to deliver personalized software to all agents within five days to model their income under the new commission structure as part of getting them to sign-up.

Approach: The initial request was to take commission models being developed in Excel and convert it to a VB application for distribution.  However, given the compressed timeframe and testing risk of rewriting, the approach was changed to use an embedded spreadsheet control within a VB application dramatically reducing the time to deliver and testing effort. Additional value was gained because the spreadsheet control had built-in charting capabilities for added visual impact.  This innovative approach was key as the Excel commission model changed right up until the last moment.  Personalized commission data based on previous years sales was added to each agents copy of the software.

Results:  Delivered to 200 agents within five days of project initiation to rave reviews from the target agents, impressed by the speed and quality of the IT solutions being provided by the acquiring company.  Higher than target number of agents signed up through the acquisition process.

Problem: A department faced a crisis when because of an acquisition the volumes on a reinsurance administration system were forecast to triple. Problematic month-end reconciliations coupled with existing performance meant their LAN based database wouldn’t be able to handle the required volumes.

Approach: A prototyping exercise revealed migrating to a SQL Server database (a first for the company) would dramatically improve access times. Also investigation of existing reconciliation reveal a daily trial balance process could be implemented, allowing for precise diagnosis of out of balance situations. All of this could be accomplished without having to rewrite the front-end application thereby reducing the training requirements. This approach required close cooperation with the IT infrastructure group and the business users to make sure all needs were addressed.

Results: The revised system had significantly better performance than the original even with the increased volumes. In addition, the modified reconciliation process eliminated the need for multi-day month-end manual reconciliation exercises.

Problem: A 50 person call centre had limited tools for quickly providing information from legacy mainframe systems to call centre representatives (CSRs) to support them during a call. Although the existing tool would use “screenscraping” to scrape information from some common mainframe screens, the information was cryptic and hard to read especially for CSRs with limited training. Also numerous exception causes caused CSRs to have to manually navigate screens to locate information.

Approach: Although completely redesigning the application to directly access the underlying tables, or the creation of mainframe transactional queries would have been a preferred, cost considerations made this impractical. Instead the focus became to create a more flexible, robust application that handled all situations and better presented the information. Although the fundamental architecture was similar, an object orientated approach was built in to the new application allowing a more modular application. Also instead of blindly dumping screen after screen of information into a window for a CSR to pore through, the program selectively presented only the required information. Since the architecture was essentially the same, the new application could be piloted and tested in parallel with the existing application providing a valuable opportunity for feedback and refinement without disrupting call centre operations with a sudden changeover.

Results: Information that previously would require CSRs to look through 20 pages of information was suddenly available in a single screen, reducing errors and increasing speed. The newer richer interface provided a more user friendly interface and reduced training time since CSRs no longer needed to learn how to navigate cryptic mainframe screens. Due to the modular structure additional functionality was added to allow CSRs to automatically generate emails and letters from within the application with client information directly prefilled into the correspondence. After the application was handed off to a new dedicated IT support team they were able to begin implementing mainframe transactions to replace screenscraping. The modular nature of the application allowed them to present the information seamlessly beside screenscraped.

Problem: A department’s administration system for handling underwriting large insurance policies required some significant changes to handle new types of business.

Approach: Investigating the existing system revealed a complex, fragile system with a significant number of limitations. Although changes could be made to the existing system, significant improvements to the system were not possible. After consultation with the business a redesigned prototype was created and the go ahead given to begin development. Rather than cloning code from a similar system, the approach taken in the original design, an entirely new design was created taking into account all of the department’s needs. This included interfacing with their mainframe APL cost modeling systems and providing business users with the ability the create and modify their own client output without IT involvement. Implementing such a radically new solution required very close cooperation with the main business partner, ensuring the new system would meet the business needs because of the significant change management effort in rolling out the new system.

Results: Although the new system was built from the ground up rather than being cloned like the original, it came in a 1/3 the original’s cost with significantly more functionality. For the first time users were able to perform many functions for which they had previously required IT involvement.

Problem: A 50 person call centre had limited tools for quickly providing information from legacy mainframe systems to call centre representatives (CSRs) to support them during a call. Although the existing tool would use “screenscraping” to scrape information from some common mainframe screens, the information was cryptic and hard to read especially for CSRs with limited training. Also numerous exception causes caused CSRs to have to manually navigate screens to locate information.

Approach: Although completely redesigning the application to directly access the underlying tables, or the creation of mainframe transactional queries would have been a preferred, cost considerations made this impractical. Instead the focus became to create a more flexible, robust application that handled all situations and better presented the information. Although the fundamental architecture was similar, an object orientated approach was built in to the new application allowing a more modular application. Also instead of blindly dumping screen after screen of information into a window for a CSR to pore through, the program selectively presented only the required information. Since the architecture was essentially the same, the new application could be piloted and tested in parallel with the existing application providing a valuable opportunity for feedback and refinement without disrupting call centre operations with a sudden changeover.

Results: Information that previously would require CSRs to look through 20 pages of information was suddenly available in a single screen, reducing errors and increasing speed. The newer richer interface provided a more user friendly interface and reduced training time since CSRs no longer needed to learn how to navigate cryptic mainframe screens. Due to the modular structure additional functionality was added to allow CSRs to automatically generate emails and letters from within the application with client information directly prefilled into the correspondence. After the application was handed off to a new dedicated IT support team they were able to begin implementing mainframe transactions to replace screenscraping. The modular nature of the application allowed them to present the information seamlessly beside screenscraped.

Problem: The rollout of a new web-based self-service HR system to 3,500 employees presented a logistical challenge. Performance analysis indicated the system would be overwhelmed if everyone attempted to start to use the system at the same time. In addition, support teams couldn’t easily handle the spike in demand and training across multiple locations was a problem.

Approach: Although the system itself needed to be implemented in a single weekend, some creative thinking lead to an unusual strategy described as stealth implementation for rolling out to the users. Although the coming system and its benefits were outlined to all employees, no large scale training was scheduled. Instead changes were made to the existing systems menu’s to redirect users to the new web based forms as they came on-line. The first time they tried to use the new system they needed to define a password, but a streamlined process was created handle this part as well.

Results: The actual implementation became a nonevent. On Monday morning users came in and if they had to use the new HR system they were seamlessly redirected to it through existing menus. They also quickly learned how to access it directly through the web, but could continue to use existing methods if they forgot. During the first week daily transactions were slightly higher than average due to some curious users, but for most employees they learned the new system the next time they needed to access an HR form. Support teams were easily able to handle issues and training requests in the coming weeks, while performance never became a problem.

Problem: A project to upgrade an HR system to support web-enabled self-service was threatened to be derailed because the vendor solution still lacked a key feature that the previous in-house developed system had supported. Analysis revealed that the vendor architecture would probably never support the ability for managers to “surf” up and down their organization structure. However, senior management was insistent that this feature be available before the upgrade could proceed because of pressure from the line managers.

Approach: The previous analysis and system experts had clearly shown that there was going to be no way to deliver the same functionality that had previously existed no matter how much pressure was applied, leading to an escalating impasse. The breakthrough came in stepping back and asking what was the underlying business need and was there some alternative way to satisfy it. The solution lay in creating an automated tool that produced personalized reports for managers listing all direct and indirect employees. The tool would automatically generate individual reports for each of the 500 managers and send them an encrypted email both in Excel and Word complete with randomly generated passwords for each report.

Results: Although there was some initial concern because the solution wasn’t what was expected, managers quickly discovered the new approach had considerable benefits. No longer did they have to navigate up and down their organization structure, it was all contained in a single spreadsheet. Now they could slice and dice the information and perform analysis on, something that wasn’t available in the previous in-house version. Over time additional fields were added to the report and additional reports created to meet varying needs. However, most importantly the project impasse had been resolved and the upgrade project rapidly gained momentum and focus leading to a successful implementation.