Vision of SLATE 2.0 ¹

Client management and “any other functionality”

This and any subsequent or linked posts are living documents and are subject to change often.

Client management for our educational services departments (CORE and SIP)

SLATE 1.0 provides client management for SIP and CORE, both of which have very little in common and the current chaotic schema perfectly reflects that.

SLATE 2.0 would do a better job at re-conciliating the contradicting requirements (both at the back and front end).

Both departments that belong in this category are described at length in their own post. Moving on.

Volunteer coordination

Currently everything is tracked by hard copy and Excel spreadsheets. Hard copies need to be entered into the system at one point (that everyone tries to avoid as long as they can, which is usually until the next yearly grant deadline). The Excel sheets are not better either because of the unintentional locks when someone opens one and forgets about it.

No single source of truth makes accounting and management even harder:

  • Some departments use shared drives to store multiple versions of their Excel sheets,
  • others store volunteer info on their local machines and the main volunteer manager has to ask for them periodically.
  • High overhead to filter redundant logs:
    (1) Multiple sign-in sheets around the building (one at the front desk and one at a department where volunteers do their work) and volunteers diligently sign in at each one.
    (2) Access News remote readers send their hours via email (or not at all) and sometimes come in personally to sign in as well.

It would hopefully also foster the development of TR2 because the current Telephone Reader software has no functionality to track reader hours automatically or otherwise. Not to mention how painful it is to extract usage information ².

Central knowledge base

There is a central shared drive that is accessible for every employee but

  • it is without a clear structure and
  • each department has their own shared drive as well
    with usually a similar structure the their folder in the central drive (see example in the next item).
  • Folders are cropping up left and right
    and even though these usually keep to the (organizationally) right main folder but it is still chaotic. For example, we were looking for a SIP flyer template that wasn’t in the central drive’s SIP folder (2132 files), it wasn’t on the departments own drive but on the employees computer. We found many promising candidates but because
  • there is no common naming convention
    we had to open 15 different files to realize that none of them were the right ones. (It could be that this flyer is still on the central drive but with such an obscure name that we didn’t even consider it.) This is also conducive towards leaving new folder creation because people are usually not willing to go through 100 files with weird names and they usually open another container with the currently most commonly used files. And so on.
  • Multiple versions of a document popping up at different places 
    (or worse, at the same place with different names) so it is hard to know which is the authoritative version of a central document (employee contact list, pay roll schedule etc.). There are many solutions (organizational and technical) but the easiest way would be to ditch the proprietary Microsoft Office documents-based storage and make a web repository with a clear maintainer. It would be also easier for the blind staff as well because Office documents have a bad track record of being screen reader accessible and with old computers these documents can take ages to start (or they just simply crash the system). Plus there is so much clutter.
  • Sharing a resource is difficult
    where the difficulty mostly comes from users with diverse levels of technical proficiency where they find links to Windows network paths intimidating. Instead files are being attached and emailed around. Yes.

Miscellaneous tasks

that includes:

  • scheduler to coordinate reservations for the main training room
  • online time sheets because each department is having their own convention of tracking hours to the joy of HR
  • automating the scanning and entering of DOR authorizations
  • ?

  1. ^ Technical details are deferred to subsequent posts and this is kind of a wishlist of what to include. (The challenges come from the fact that the application will start as a monolith and later split out to microservices.)
  2. ^ So far the easiest way was to use bash and awk one-liners.