Engage4 – Helping vzw Kiosk with their planning tool
Our employer gave us the opportunity to experience the concept of ‘Connected Learning’ for the first time. Engage4 provides the framework ‘Connected Learning’ by matching teams from companies and non-profit organisations to develop a solution for the NGO’s. In other words: Connected Learning and by extension Engage4 lays the foundations for building the bridge between profit and non-profit. So it was a unique opportunity for us (Bo Vande Sompele, Stef Uytterhoeven, Ben De Keyser and Mathias Van Aelten) to be part of this cooperation.
Over a course of about three months and a total of five co-creation sessions, we had the opportunity to set up a nice project with the enthusiastic staff of Kiosk VZW. An organisation dedicated to youth welfare. More specifically, people with disabilities and/or children and young people aged 0 to 25 who are struggling with various and often complex educational problems. During the introductory session, we already had a good idea of the organisation we would be working with. Also the scope was broadly defined and we already made some suggestions for the (technical) elaboration.
What exactly did this broad scope entail? Well, since Kiosk VZW has grown into an organisation with several departments and a large number of employees, it was time for them to start keeping a careful track of their planning of hours worked. Mainly to minimise the administrative hassle that came with it. On the other hand, to reduce the margin of error, since up until that point everything was entered manually. Since Bo is by far the one with the most experience in our team, she immediately suggested to set up a Microsoft PowerApp. At first, this seemed be relatively simple because Kiosk VZW was already working internally with Microsoft, and so we could couple their staff directly to our system. But this turned out not to be as simple as initially thought.
During the next weeks/months we visited Kiosk VZW three times. The first time, we were warmly welcomed and also given both a tour and a full explanation of the internal workings. We were all surprised to learn that Kiosk VZW, and by extension the youth welfare sector in general, has to operate with very little resources and is kept straight by employees and volunteers who work day and night for the children and young people. This, of course, gave us extra motivation, so in the following weeks we set to work on the details. Stef had already created a Proof of Concept in PowerApps before the first session and we used this as a starting point in the following weeks.
In each of the following sessions, we used our time to solicit extensive feedback from the gentlemen of Kiosk. This also quickly proved to be of enormous added value since there is a very complex business logic behind the non-profit organization’s hour system. And at times it was not easy for us to implement it to perfection. We thought we could already present an almost final product during the last co-creation session, but that turned out not to be the case. The logic was therefore adjusted and implemented again by Ben and Mathias in the following weeks so that the application could be put into use. Also, the layout received a complete makeover. Before the final presentation, we sat down together one last time to finalize everything, and luckily there were only positive signals from both sides.
The application we eventually delivered was “ready to be tested in production” as we say, but not yet completely finished. In retrospect, we didn’t have the time for that. The application is now being taken further into the hands of kiosk’s own IT to finish the final details.
What can the application actually do? Well, as already mentioned, Microsoft PowerApps is part of Microsoft’s enterprise suite. Since most of Kiosk’s employees have an account coupled to their organisation, this list of accounts is easily integrated into the application and so each employee is logged in with his own account and can enter his own hours that way.
The user of the application has the ability to view his performed hours, enter performed hours or enter or schedule absences. Previously, this was all done manually and compiled for all employees in the same excel file.
What ended up being the biggest challenge for us was to implement the business logic of Kiosk as accurately as possible. They had very specific internal rules for calculating compensation for hours worked. After a process of trail-and-error, we finally managed to implement them almost completely in the backend of the application. Since the “paid out” hours are divided into scales depending on which time interval and also which day of the week they are performed between, it is thus not easy to develop a one-sided formula that takes into account all the possible scenarios.
During the closing event, we were able to catch up with the entire project-team one last time. We also used the time we had during the event to do the handover of the application so that it can be further developed where necessary by the IT-manager of Kiosk VZW.
At the end, we can certainly speak of a very instructive and exciting collaboration. A project that we probably never expected could ever come to fruition, but which we can recommend to everyone. Through this way we would like to thank the gentlemen of Kiosk VZW once again for the enormously fine cooperation.
Some screenhots of our application: