Article

Achiever finalist: Service (requests) with a smile

Mark Baard

Editor's note: This is the first in a series of profiles of SearchDomino.com Achiever Award finalists. The awards recognize IT achievers at user companies who design, build and manage complex IBM Lotus technologies. Winners will be announced next week at Lotusphere 2004, in Orlando, Fla.

Workers in the Great White North this winter can stay closer to their bun warmers, thanks to a new Notes/Domino application that makes buying technology equipment and services as easy as pushing a button. The success of the application has also ensured a future for Notes/Domino at the company that built and uses the tool.

The system, called Technology Service Request (TSR), was developed for in-house use by Vancouver, British Columbia-based Telus Corp., the second-largest telecommunications company in Canada. Telus, which employs more than 20,000 workers, has an IT infrastructure division that provides IT outsourcing to roughly 40 customers. Fifteen of those customers now use the TSR system to requisition new hardware and services from Telus and other vendors.

Telus' TSR department provides all of the services that would otherwise be handled by its customers' internal help desks. The department's employees provide a single point of contact for taking, accepting and rejecting service requests. Those requests are then routed to the teams, vendors and third-party service providers who can fulfill them.

But Telus' TSR catalog system, which is based in Notes/Domino, automates many of those requests and makes tracking them much easier for Telus and its customers. As far back as 1996, Telus realized it needed a workflow-based request management system to keep up with the company's growing outsourcing business, as well as its changing needs. "We had to find a better solution than tracking requests via e-mail and updating an MS Access database," said Ria Lawson, manager of tools and technology at Telus. "But we had to do it without adding resources."

Telus at first invited retail application providers to pitch their products, but none met the company's need to customize its products to individual business processes and to integrate with Notes. That's when Telus started building the TSR system. With the new system, each of Telus' clients could have its own preconfigured catalog of products and services.

More recently, one of Telus' customers asked to have direct access to TSR. Telus responded by installing the system on an extranet server the customer could access. Lawson describes the system as "client self-administer-able," which means the client can do much of the configuration of TSR itself, if not all.

TSR is a custom application, developed by Telus' own developers. One of them, Marc Porpaczy, used IBM Lotus Notes Developer 5 to create the TSR system and catalog. The package also includes elements of LotusScript, JavaScript, XML, COM, OOP, D/HTML, CCS, Formula Language and Flash.

TSR also allows Telus and one of its customers -- Kramer Ltd., Regina, Saskatchewan -- to use different terms for the same catalog items. "We are some distance away from Telus, and we use different terms," says Matt Robertson, information systems manager at Kramer, which sells and services Caterpillar equipment. "But TSR doesn't care which terms we use."

The system "learns" the language Kramer employees want to use. "Grey box" is as good as "PC" to TSR.

TSR catalogs include everything from service requests to specific items -- wireless phones, monitors, electronic security passes for employees, and so forth. Items can be sorted into categories and subcategories to match specific business processes or job functions.

Instead of creating a hardware checklist for new hires, Kramer created a "new-hire bundle" -- a package of items (phone, PC, stapler and other items) that a new employee would need. By selecting the bundle, a Kramer human resources person generates an order for all of these items simultaneously.

For all of those moving parts, TSR is working so well that Telus is becoming one of the largest users of the system for internal business processes. But TSR has been especially good at attracting new business. With each new catalog function that Telus adds, Kramer and other users of the system are asking for more.

TSR is flexible and customizable enough to accommodate the workflow, approval and business rules of Kramer, a company with just 270 employees. It is also (thanks to Domino, Lawson says) scalable enough to meet the needs of organizations with tens of thousands of workers.

But Telus is continually revising its product. For Kramer, Telus is revising the new-hire bundles into fully accessible checklists, with default items switched on. That way, Kramer employees can check and uncheck individual items on the list, something they can't do now.

Mark Baard is a contributing writer in Milton, Mass.

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