When most Department of Conservation rangers think of smart tags they probably imagine signal-emitting ear tags on endangered animals. But software tags could revolutionise how they access the department’s vast information resources.
Last year DOC deployed Microsoft Windows XP and Office XP. Now the IS department has built a prototype using the smart tag capabilities in both to link documents created in Word to the organisation’s Bioweb species information databases.
“When someone writes in XP Word and, for example, types ‘brown spotted kiwi’, those words will be underlined by a dotted line which means there is additional information about that phrase, as well as images,” says CIO Channa Jayasinha. “They can then easily insert this information and pictures into the report they’re writing.”
Jayasinha says a goal in DOC is to make employees more efficient and effective through easy access and exchange of information.
“One of the real difficulties is telling them what we have in the way of information resources on the network.”
Rangers collect species data on fauna frogs, blue ducks and the like, he says, which is stored in a large SQL 2000 database for analysis and reporting.
“People can access it through the intranet portal. We also have another non-Microsoft image repository, which is in DB Text, a library information management system.”
Jayasinha says future uses of smart tags could be to provide access to contacts, customer relationship management data, maps and data sets.
“If you look at the way you’re providing information you’re either pushing it out to users or getting them to pull information. This is exposing information to them and it’s as easy as using your spell checker, so no training is needed.”
He says it took two weeks of customisation to integrate the Bioweb and image database with the smart tags.
Once the prototype is completed it will be put into production and also made available to other government agencies through Micro-soft’s “innovation centre”.
DOC is also replacing its Oracle financials as both the software and the hardware — a Sequent Numa-Q box — will no longer be supported by Oracle and IBM (which bought Sequent in 1999).
The department is taking the opportunity to also review the out-sourcing of its payroll to Cardinal and is considering bringing it inhouse.
“We may get a reduction in annual processing cost by doing something inhouse, although that has yet to be proven. The benefit could be more complete and accessible HR information, more effective planning and the flexibility to adapt to any strategic change in the future.”
DOC hopes to make its decision by October 31 this year, and finish implementation by July 31, 2004.