In some businesses, "just-in-time knowledge" is more than a buzzword for improving productivity. It's also a tool for saving lives.
At the AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT), workers have for years brought food, clothes, and counseling to thousands of people with HIV and AIDs. The organization also exchanges research and program information with AIDs organizations worldwide.
But just as ACT's mission has grown over the years, the agency has begun to outstrip its human and technological resources.
"We needed a system to manage our support groups and volunteers, and to make our document library more highly accessible to other AIDs professionals," said Ned Lyttelton, systems administrator at the AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT).
ACT is now remaking its Website into a Domino-based knowledge-sharing space for AIDs workers, and a meeting place for the organization's clients and "virtual volunteers," who will access Notes applications from remote locations.
ACT currently uses Domino R4 internally for Notes, and runs its Web site in Domino R5.
Lyttelton, an AIDs counselor by training, now works as a self-taught Domino professional for ACT. He is currently learning to use LotusScript to make navigation and form submission at the ACT Web site more user-friendly.
But to create ACT's custom databases, Lyttelton partnered with Toronto-based Domino consultant Randal Oulton. Oulton built databases for client services, volunteer management, purchase orders, and timesheets. ACT uses Granite Software's data integration tool, ZMerge, to convert files into Notes databases and documents.
Oulton also created a directory of community resources that serves both internal Notes users and Web surfers outside the organization.
Since users can contribute to the Notes directory themselves, ACT's employees are free to respond to more immediate crises.
Notes has already saved some of ACT's services up to 60%of administration time, Oulton said in a recent e-mail.
Lyttelton agrees that Notes has made Act's services more effective. "Things really take off once the line between internal and external data has been broken down," Lyttelton said.
AIDS researchers outside of ACT will also soon have access to the organization's growing library of research studies and healthcare literature. ACT, however, had to build its own search application for the library, because the Domain Search capabilities in Domino R5 "gave us no real control over which databases got included and excluded from the search," Lyttelton said.
ACT was also able to add a search logging feature to its search application, which will keep the organization's content relevant to the needs of patients and professionals.
Lyttelton had also wanted to use Lotus Sametime to add an "ask the librarian live" feature to the site, but he said the cost was just too high.
Lyttelton said he is still planning on bringing real-time collaboration to ACT. The organization's managers will be able meet online, in real-time, with their partner agencies throughout North America.
ACT's virtual volunteers, meanwhile, may soon be able to chat live with their house-bound clients. Lyttelton said he is looking into alternatives to Domino collaboration. "We are examining things like Java chat rooms, MSN Messenger and NetMeeting," he said.
"We'd prefer to use Lotus software, but we have to keep an eye on our budget."