Professionals, service providers and businesses deal with numerous incidents every day. It is common knowledge that the problem with incidents is that they are unexpected; otherwise they would not be incidents but, for instance, scheduled tasks or planned maintenance.
Much like pedestrians are the variable part of the road for a motor vehicle, humans are the variable part of incidents and cause them to be unstructured and almost unlimited in their variety:
1. What happened?
2. Where did it happen?
3. To whom?
4. Who and what was involved?
5. Who was injured?
6. What was damaged?
7. What are the next steps and who are responsible for them?
Reading the list, we as humans automatically try and structure the information into what we know. Possible incidents usually fall into the following categories:
* Health and safety.
* Unscheduled production incidents.
Most processes and applications which provide us with business information are structured in their workflow, application layout and database structures. This leads to a situation where a user tries to force the unstructured world of incidents into a structured application and database.
An obvious solution is one which most organisations and service providers are guilty of and drives us up the wall when we are on the receiving end: “sorry the system cannot handle that”, “It is not my problem”, “I do not deal with that, please wait while I transfer you” or, in our world, “I only deal with security incidents – that is part of health and safety”, etc.
The challenge is that no business is exactly like any other business and we need to make our structured environments – be it processes, workflow, or applications – not unstructured, but as flexible as possible.
Some of the issues businesses and service providers deal with in incident management and which necessitate flexibility are the following:
* Multiple customers with different combinations of sites and incident categories.
* Numerous customer sites in different countries, regions, areas, towns and business campuses.
* Clients may require different and multilevelled breakdowns for incidents regarding their employees, customers, buildings and assets eg, campus à building à floor à unit/sector à apartment à room à asset/lights/geyser/airconditioning etc.
* The requirements for which types of incidents to log may be different for each customer and could be almost unlimited in terms of sub-categories.
Big and structured
One solution is to build a big structured environment that is popular with large ERP (enterprise resource planning) and facility management applications. The problem with big structures – be it software or construction – is that they are expensive, rigid, take long to build and set-up, and are expensive to run.
Large structured applications usually consist of numerous modules, databases, add-ons, implementation consultants, training consultants etc and inevitably the only thing more expensive than purchasing the licences and installation is the customisation and maintenance fees. Then what usually happens is that the application is so large and cumbersome that only a fraction of the structured functionality is used and leads the user back to the first problem of forcing the unstructured world of incidents into a structured environment. Maybe the glass is twice the size it should be.
Flexibility vs. structure
Let us be clear: there is a place for large structured applications and one size does not fit all. Some people require a VW Polo, or a Toyota Quantum, while others require freight trains. In the facility and security application environment there just seems to be a lack of Polos and an oversupply of freight trains.
So what will flexibility give you? It may not provide you with the depth and complexity of functionality of large structured applications, but it will give you the ability to use the application easily and successfully for a number of purposes. It will also provide you with the ability to extend the application and the reporting you get from it.
The Beach Boys said it best
The Beach Boys lamented in the 1966 song 'Wouldn’t it be nice' how their lives would be infinitely better and easier if only …. Similarly, we can say: wouldn’t it be nice if only we could:
1. Set up any number of site levels from country to as low as asset component and part.
2. Set up any number of categories and related sub-categories.
3. Easily set up unique assets (from vehicles and 2-way radios to CCTV cameras and air-conditioning units) and link them to sites and categories.
4. Log incidents related to any level or combination of levels for sites, categories and assets.
5. Extract intelligent business information from this, and
6. Do all this for a few thousand rand a month.
Do not be a product of your application
The character Frank Costello in the 2006 movie ‘The Departed’ memorably said: “I don’t want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me.”
Do not be a product of your incident management application; make your incident management application look like your environment. The world out there, and the related incidents, are unstructured and random and our applications need to be flexible enough to adapt to them.
The majority of software in the market is based on old development technology and languages which force constraints on the user. Furthermore, old technologies have large server and database footprints that, once again, incur costs for which the user ultimately pays.
Lastly, your customers, CEO or managers expect more flexibility and functionality for less cost from you. You should expect the same from your software applications.
© Technews Publishing (Pty) Ltd | All Rights Reserved