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Need GroupWise to Do Data Collection Forms? Call GroupLink

Novell Cool Solutions: Feature

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Posted: 20 Jan 2000

GroupWise does soooooo much. But even a product like GroupWise, nice as it is, can use a little help from its friends here and there. And what many GroupWise users don't realize is that lots of cool things that GroupWise doesn't do out of the box can be done with a little tweaking. We just got off the phone with a company that, with a little help, uses GroupWise as a rapid data collection and data dispatching tool. In fact, they find the new and improved GroupWise so useful, they don't want us telling anyone who they are, or even what industry they're in, since they'd rather their competitors not get the same advantage. Who did they call? Ghostbusters! No really, they called a very cool Novell Partner company called GroupLink, who specialize in making GroupWise into an all around workhorse. GroupLink came in and helped turn our anonymous company into a major player in their anonymous industry.

This company (referred to as "Pro Services International" or "PSI" for the purposes of this account) provides professional services to large companies and institutions. They have a need to collect business data from internal GroupWise users about a variety of business topics. They also have a need to process information coming via e-mail from several different sources, and to notify various GroupWise users when certain business events occur.

Electronic Timecards - Their first E-Forms with GroupWise

PSI's expanded use of GroupWise for data collection began when one of the Project Teams in the company wanted a more efficient way to collect data about hours billed by employees on their various projects. They had already tried other solutions (e.g., paper timecards, spreadsheets and e-mailed text) before deciding to use a quick snap-in to GroupWise called GLForms from GroupLink as a way to create custom GroupWise views as "data collection views" (i.e., e-forms).

This department at PSI wanted to use the messaging, rules and security features of their existing GroupWise system as a platform for collecting important data. With the GLForms snap-in they could let their department secretary quickly create custom data collection (e-form) views within GroupWise; select (from the GroupWise Address Book) who is to receive the custom view(s); and use their existing secure identities within GroupWise to authenticate which employee had submitted specific data. (This form of authentication within GroupWise met their requirement for "electronic signatures" on timecards).

Other Departments Adopt E-Forms with GroupWise

The Project Teams' use of e-forms with GroupWise expanded to other departments within PSI. After several weeks e-forms were being used in different areas of PSI for the following solutions:

  • Timecards / Project Data
  • Internal Work Orders
  • Help Desk Requests
  • Expense Reports
  • Human Resource Data Collection

Other PSI managers are also planning on using e-forms with GroupWise and GLForms' routing/approval feature for the following functions:

  • Group, Department or Company Surveys
  • Travel Requests
  • Purchase Requisitions
  • Security Approvals
  • Customer Service Requests
  • Other Functions

Here is some preliminary information about the benefits PSI achieves for each employee using GroupWise and GLForms:

  Per Month Per Year
Direct Labor reduced $ 150 $ 1,800
Response Time reduced * 50 - 80% 50 - 80%
Work Backlog reduced * 40 - 60% 40 - 60%
Errors / Rework reduced * 60 - 90% 60 - 90%
Learning Curve reduced * 15 - 20% 15 - 20%
Training Costs reduced * 50 - 60% 50 - 60%

*For the applicable process/function used.

Automatically Process Attachments/Run Programs/Notify with GroupWise

One "Automation" feature that PSI is using with GroupWise is to automatically process certain kinds of e-mail attachments coming from suppliers, subcontractors (and later customers). PSI received weekly pricing updates from its suppliers. These pricing updates were first received via fax-and now they are received via compressed, encrypted e-mailed Excel spreadsheets.

A PSI employee used to receive several of these "Pricing Update E-mails" every week and manually save the attachments to a local directory. Then the employee would run a utility to decompress (unencrypt) the saved file. Then the employee would copy the uncompressed file to a network directory (for import into the main pricing database); delete the local copy; delete the compressed copy; send an e-mail notification, to specific people, that the attachment had arrived and was processed; and delete the original e-mail.

Using GroupWise and another GroupWise snap-in (GL-Snap, also from from GroupLink) PSI is able to totally automate what used to be a manual process. Using the enhanced capability of GroupWise PSI has automated the following process:

  1. Direct incoming e-mails of a certain type (e.g., containing a certain sender ID, or subject keyword) to a specified GroupWise folder.
  2. Automatically run different processes on e-mails arriving in a specified GroupWise folder, based on sender and subject, including any combination of
    • Save attachments
    • Run applications
    • Notify (including subject, message, and attachments)
    • Move the e-mail to another GroupWise folder
    • Delete the e-mail
  3. Repeat any combination of the above

By using the powerful benefits and GroupWise and its automation enhancement capabilities PSI has automated several of its methods for handling external data. PSI has saved an estimated $1,200 per month (about $14,000 per year) for these functions alone. These savings are in addition to the $ 1,800 per employee savings of those using e-forms with GroupWise. During FY2000 PSI expects total savings, due to its enhanced use of GroupWise, to exceed $200,000 for its 120 employee operation.

GroupWise - The Powerful GroupWare Platform

The Novell GroupWise product is the most capable off-the-shelf groupware solution available. Out of the box GroupWise does more than any other commercially available groupware system. Some of these features include: E-mail management; calendaring/scheduling; task management; document management; and plug-ins for faxing and imaging.

In addition to providing these desktop productivity applications, GroupWise can also act as an "umbrella" under which various business processes can be tied together and share a common calendar, common messaging, and sometimes common data and references. Novell has designed GroupWise and the GroupWise APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to allow for powerful and strategic integration with other business processes that users want to be included under the GroupWise "umbrella."

Business Process Automation with GroupWise

More and more GroupWise users are realizing that they can add additional business processes to their powerful GroupWise "umbrella"-business processes that currently are not part of GroupWise functionality. Examples of common Business Processes which lend themselves to GroupWise Based automation include, for example:

  • Purchase Requisition / Order Management System
  • Security Access Approval / Management System
  • Customer Service Request / Tracking System (e.g. Help Desk)
  • Human Resource Benefits / Tracking System
  • Time Card Management System
  • Travel Requisition System
  • Contact Management System
  • Project / Product Management System
  • Collaborative Design
  • Work Orders
  • Expense Reports
  • Other Business Processes

GroupWise-Enable your Business Processes

Advanced GroupWise users are realizing that, if they automate (operate on) their business processes under the GroupWise "umbrella," they can then start to take advantage of the following kinds of benefits:

  • Common desktop interface (e.g., GroupWise toolbar)
    • Drop Down Menus
    • Toolbar "buttons"
    • And more
  • Common calendar --- Non-GroupWise events can be processed using GroupWise's
    • To-Dos
    • Appointments
    • Tasks
    • Call - Back reminders
    • GroupWise Notify (for alarms)
    • And more
  • Common messaging system
    • Non-GroupWise business process trigger e-mail notices
    • Non-GroupWise events get processed according to GroupWise rules
    • Non-GroupWise events get managed in GroupWise folders
    • And more

GroupLink is just one of many Novell partners that can help you customize GroupWise to increase productivity and streamline business practices. In the coming months we'll spotlight a few of these Lone Rangers so you can see better how much GroupWise can do, both off the shelf, and and with "a little help."

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