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Monday, February 12, 2007

Deploying a much-needed search tool in the workplace

We have a limited number of licenses to use the payroll management software in our organization. As we have added more staff whose responsibilities involve using that software, those licenses get used up pretty quickly. It's not uncommon to receive 5 emails every day asking if someone would log out of the system so that someone else can get in to search something or run a payroll.

With some knowledge of the database, we've been able to develop a tool to work around the system by querying the server directly. In fact, this is exactly what I've done when developing the 401(k) reporting tool and other custom tools for the organization.

We have created a search tool that members of the organization can use to return some basic information about an employee. I may have mentioned before that we have several databases for different clients, and many times, we don't know the for whom the client works or in which database his or her records are. As a result, the user has to use trial and error to find the employee, which is time-consuming.

Our new Search Tool, which is what I'll refer to it as here, returns an employee's address and company name, along with whether he or she is marked as Active in the system. I have to give a lot of credit to my fellow developer for taking the intial idea I had, and, with some guidance on the SQL, has created the tool to execute the search.

I spent part of the day deploying the tool to different members of the organization who would most likely use it the most: One person from the Risk Management department who coordinates the paperwork related to unemployment claims; one person who is fielding calls from employees about not getting W-2 forms (probably because of an address change); and the receptionist, who helps out with overflow work, especially with respect to returned mail.

We're still building on to the tool while the application is in use, but we are developing in a separate environment. Once again, by having this application on a shared network drive, we can update the file on that one location as needed.

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