Let’s get Serious. Introducing: Our Project!
As promised, I’m not going to talk about the circumstances any longer, but provide some information about the project we’re working on. To put it in a nutshell, we are all doing pro bono consulting for local social enterprises on behalf of our employer, SAP.
So why would SAP send out 12 employees and have them deliver any services to clients for free? Because SAP’s vision is to “help the world run better and improve people’s lives”! And what is even better is that it’s not only the 12 of us, but 120 employees being sent to 10 countries with emerging markets every year. This Global Social Sabbatical program is only one small portion of SAP’s Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy and as such accompanied by many local efforts as well.
As mentioned earlier, we are 12 people that are working with four different clients. I am on a team with Lori and Santhosh and together we support Lanka Social Ventures (LSV) and in particular their Social Enterprise Incubator & Accelerator program (SEIA). In the current iteration of this program, LSV is providing mentoring, business coaching, help with arranging financial matters and also guidance on competency development to social enterprises all across Sri Lanka. The focus is currently on farmers and female entrepreneurs.
“Sounds awesome, but what’s the issue then?” you are probably thinking right now. The issue is that there is a lot of paperwork to do. And this paperwork is actual paperwork, on hard copy forms. For every step in LSV’s well-defined process, there is a form to be filled in by either the client or the coach. All of these forms have to be double-checked and approved by LSV management and only a small portion of them has been digitized manually by now in order to provide some rudimentary reporting.
So there are various issues. For example, the LSV executives have to spend many hours if they want to be up to speed with every project — which they have to be as soon as any approval is needed, e.g. for reimbursement of the coaches. Also, it is very difficult to track the current project status, i.e. how many hours of coaching have been spent on a certain client. Another big deal is the allocation of coaches. LSV works with around 40 freelance coaches who work part-time, and having to figure out which coach can be made available to which client for which subject is a manual process right now. Finally, performing impact measurements, for which LSV is actually accountable as they receive funds for conducting the SEIA program, has also not been automated yet.
Considering that LSV was only founded about 2 years go, the current way of operating is already a huge accomplishment and we are raising our hats to these guys for what they have put up.
However, LSV has identified some room for improvement, and this is what we are here for. So our task is to basically deliver an architecture of an information system that can deal with all of LSV’s major issues in order to free up their time from redundant manual tasks like entering data from the forms into spreadsheets and spending hours on staying up to date, and thus make their projects trackable and their impact measurable almost in real time by going as paperless as we can.
That’s what it is all about. So currently, we are busy designing data models, elaborating information flows and figuring out access control. Isn’t that cool? You might not be as excited about this project as I am, as I kind of feel like I’m inside a real life case study — you have to know I have a degree in business information systems ;-)