Customers benefit from IT projects

IT is most useful when it is appreciated by the people who use it. The four finalists in this year's Computerworld Excellence Awards for Excellence in the Use of IT for Customer Service have developed solutions for use by ratepayers, farmers, schools and Automobile Association staff.

IT is most useful when it is appreciated by the people who use it. The four finalists in this year’s Computerworld Excellence Awards for Excellence in the Use of IT for Customer Service have developed solutions for use by ratepayers, farmers, schools and Automobile Association staff.

Livestock Improvement developed a range of products for dairy farmers to record and manage their herds. MINDAlink allows farmers to record herd information on their PCs and to synchronise that information with the MINDA database, reducing the amount of paper-shuffling for farmers and cutting down on opportunities to make mistakes when entering data. MINDApro adds report generation capabilities to MINDAlink, and M-NOTE is a Palm app that interfaces with MINDAlink and MINDApro so farmers can get herd information in the field.

Business information manager Andrew Fraser says the software aims to be user friendly. “If they can read, they can use this software,” he says.

Operational savings from the MINDA products are passed on to farmers, who pay a lower price when sending reports with MINDA than with the paper system that MINDA replaces. Sixty percent of Livestock Improvements’ customers are using MINDA, up from 14% in June 2001.

New Plymouth’s Puke Ariki, a “regional knowledge centre” integrating a library, museum and information centre, developed the Taranaki Information Network to make its resources available to remoter areas of Taranaki. Libraries, schools and information centres are given a TIN PC, broadband installation, and maintenance and broadband access for 12 months. The PC can be used to access the Puke Ariki website and other selected sites. Puke Ariki’s site includes information about museum collections, Te Reo, story-swapping, and resources for teachers, students, and visitors.

Almost all the 36 TIN sites lacked broadband access before the project. TIN’s broadband connection can be used by networked PCs to access the internet.

In less than a year, over 100 Taranaki stories were added to the website. TIN has achieved its initial goals and Puke Ariki Is hoping to expand it to almost 100 new sites and extend its onsite support to 24 months.

Finding property data in Napier used to be a matter of working through databases, reports and staff spread all over the council. The City of Napier developed a geographic information system (GIS) web-based portal, MAPiT, to present data from multiple sources together in a user-friendly manner.

MAPiT provides different types of data to different users, such as building inspectors or property developers. The project was designed as an intranet application for the council’s planning department but is now used by the rest of the council and the public. A quarter of MAPiT’s internal use comes from a front desk computer used by the public, and MAPiT is also available online.

The Automobile Association receives about 800,000 phone calls to its response centre each year and sends service staff to over 500,000 callouts. In 2001 its proprietary despatch system was running at 99% capacity, crashing every couple of days, and struggling to cope with a steady increase in membership, phone calls, and callouts.

The AA’s Road Comms project aimed to meet demand and scale to meet future requirements. In September last year the AA rolled out the third phase of Road Comms, providing service staff with toughened tablet PCs mounted on the dashboard next to the driver. Because 75 of the 142 road service officers had minimal IT experience, training and ease-of-use were important.

Statistics show the impact of Road Comms. In 2000-2001 almost 13% of calls were abandoned; in January 2004 the number had dropped to 7.5%. The ratio of complains to compliments changed from 3:1 to 1:1.

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