Rance Clouser was at lunch and needed to get in touch STAT (that’s a hospital term meaning right away!) with a colleague (one of 35,000) he didn’t know that well. The vice president of IT for Advocate Health Care, the largest healthcare provider in Illinois, didn’t have the associate’s phone number in his cell phone.
In the old days he says he would have to call a co-worker he knew was at his desk and have him look up the needed telephone number. If it was after business hours, a common occurrence for a healthcare IT professional, he was out of luck.
Today he simply taps an app on his iPhone called Connections. In less than a second he has:
- A cell phone number
- The office number
- Access to the person’s calendar to see if he’s in a meeting
- The ability to send a text or email message if he is
Connections is a social enterprise directory app that works on nearly any smartphone or tablet device. “It can provide access to nearly any information desired about a colleague,” says Dave Cutler, co-founder and GM of SuperConnect, a division of Slalom LLC, that produced the app.
He says one lawyer, who worked for a law firm with dozens of offices, had lunch with a potential client who wanted to know if the firm had a lawyer with expertise in international patent protections who can could go to trial in Maryland. He won the client because he was able to tell him yes instantly.
Enterprises can list their employees’ business specialties, degrees, university, hobbies—anything the company deems important. It also includes organizational structure so you can tell who a specific person reports to and who reports to them.
The app also shows the person’s photo, naturally. It also links with the person’s calendar. It knows if the wanted individuals are in a meeting. If they are, it will send a text message to their phone. If they are available, their cell phone rings.
Each company can configure the app for its specific needs. Hospitals, for example, can track specialties, schools, degrees and the different hospitals where their physicians have privileges. The app supports organizations with well over 50,000 contacts, reports Cutler.
Tom Chew, Slalom Consulting’s national GM, says his users like the fact that his company has both birthdays and work anniversary dates in the app. “It helps us celebrate our corporate culture,” he says.
“We put our app in the user’s pocket. Its search capabilities provide a lot of information about your colleagues. It allows you to get a hold of them now,” says Cutler. “You have your entire corporate directory on your cell phone,” adds Chew.
Clouser says his users really like the app because most of them are IOS users (iPhone and iPad) but have Microsoft Outlook calendars. Getting those two to talk can be difficult for non-IT professionals like doctors and nurses. The Connections app, however, lets all the platforms integrate with Outlook easily.
Connections’ back story
Cutler says SuperConnect’s goal is to “work better.” The app’s goal is to make work “more engaging, enjoyable and effective.” It is a fusion of mobility, cloud and social media.
The concept for Connections originated in Slalom Consulting’s innovation practice. It was difficult to get to know the firm’s 1,800 consultants, recalls Tom Chew, national GM. At the time—2008—there were some programs for the desktop. But the mobile device looked like virgin territory.
The innovation practice developed the app, then deployed it in the firm. “It was hit. People actually used it. We had proof of concept,” says Cutler.
When the practice decided to bring the app to market, the firm created a completely separate division focused exclusively on product development called SuperConnect. Now the app had to be dynamic, scalable and robust. Cutler says the firm had the ideas and the senior technology expertise to create the metamorphosis; 17 employees are currently working on the app. But SuperConnect didn’t have the capacity to build it out alone. So it decided to outsource.
SuperConnect Man — direct link
Making the outsourcer its offshore unit
“Outsourcing is not a magic bullet,” says Cutler. “And it doesn’t solve all problems. But offshoring works really well if you can find a partner you can trust and respect.”
That partner is TEAM International Inc., which does 100 percent of its offshore work in Kharhov, Ukraine. (That’s as far east as you can go in the Ukraine without setting foot in Russia, explains Joe Chiovarou, senior vice president, business development.)
“SuperConnect outsourced their offshore operation to us,” Chiovarou explains. “They chose to use us instead of starting a captive,” he explains.
Speed was the main reason. “We already have a mature model in the Ukraine,” the outsourcer says. Cost was another; Chiovarou says his engineers cost half of the salary of their US counterparts. “They get long-term cost reduction without any of the overhead,” he adds. And then there’s flexibility. “We can change courses quickly,” Chiovarou adds.
SuperConnect is the perfect customer because TEAM International only does custom software applications development and maintenance. “We currently don’t work with ERP solutions such as Oracle or SAP,” he says.
SuperConnect is currently working with numerous beta customers for Connections and will be making the product generally available by end of September. “Our people love it because it’s so helpful and easy to use. We love it because they are using it,” says Clouser.