Wrestling With Interaction

By Carol Hildebrand  |  Posted 2006-07-06 Print this article Print

Shuffle Master, a casino equipment maker, found a quick way to get more from its customer relationship management and planning systems—and avoid a full-blown integration project.

Wrestling With Interaction

The challenges to implementing Radar were mainly cultural—first, to get people to use it.

"Technically, you can put together a portal in a weekend, but culturally there are a slew of things to consider," says Bill Fencken, director of business development at InterZnet.

Users must easily see the value of the intranet. Intranet owners—and it's vital for some group to take ownership, as Greene's I.T. department did—must also find a way to deal with information hoarders.

Greene and his team "took the iterative approach—start small, build competence internally, get user buy-in, and gather data on how the portal is used," Fencken says. The group met with members of each department, and polled them about how they'd like the information to be organized on each departmental home page. Based on their input, the I.T. group built a home page template that had sections for items like forms, procedures and links that each department could fill in themselves. The operations group, for example, links to FedEx and the agencies that regulate the gaming industry.

Greene integrated Radar into business activities such as order fulfillment, and filled it with valuable information unavailable elsewhere, making it a natural destination for users. Ongoing evangelism helps keep Radar robust, Greene says: "It's an education process. The biggest thing is constantly educating users on what's available. I always worry, 'Are we under-utilizing the system if 40% of the functionality isn't even tapped into?' My crusade with my business systems team is to keep that percentage as low as possible."

Overall, Greene reports that Radar is a success, with user visits and report use trending upward steadily. "In our current state, we have 130 distinct users a day, and we expect it to be 350 in the next six months," he says. Employees run an average of 400 reports a day.

The next big step: opening Radar from a mostly read-only portal to a more interactive one. This raises knotty questions of how to maintain content that is no longer solely created by the I.T. department, but by 300 or more employees from Shuffle Master's 500-person workforce.

Greene plans to open Radar to users cautiously. First, he'll let them use Excel to launch reports, which will allow them to download data such as quarterly sales trends straight to their spreadsheets rather than first having to create a report through Radar.

His group is working with InterZnet to build a process to make Radar interactive, and allow users to publish information to the portal without having to go through the I.T. staff, making it easier to share information and giving more control to users as to what's published. Greene plans to use document management capabilities in the next generation of SharePoint to help manage the content, but there's no doubt that his group will have less control of what is published.

Yet, those changes must not come at the price of Radar's informational integrity. As Greene puts it: "We have a faster reaction time to what's happening. We want that to continue."


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