The first week of March opened with many fingers crossed. Transient Workers Count Too’s new Case Management System (Camans) was going live. The new application would rev up in stages, and this was to be the first week of the first stage. Would it crash?
It didn’t, Phew! There were small hiccups, but teething problems are always expected.
With Camans, TWC2 will now have a central computerised system for recording and progressing cases that come to us. It should prove to be a huge step up from the old system, with its ever-multiplying number of spreadsheets stored on different computers.
As recently as four or five years ago, an Excel-based system was good enough, but as TWC2’s array of services and pool of volunteer case helpers have grown, it was rapidly becoming unwieldy. The social workers had their own system, the Cuff Road Project had theirs as did each of the project groups: FareGo dishing out transport assistance, Project Roof assisting with housing needs, and Road-to-Recovery with their medical help programmes.
As Camans gradually goes full swing, all parts of TWC2’s direct services will work with the same database. Authorised staff and volunteers will get password access through which they can have a fuller picture of a client’s case. The old days of one volunteer being unaware of what help another volunteer was rendering to the same worker should pass.
Camans is a pro-bono project by a team of four very bright, hardworking third-year students from the School of Information Systems at Singapore Management University (SMU). Shoon, Myat, Su and Xiaomeng named their project team ‘Creovate’. In the photo below, three of them can be seen in a progress meeting recently held with TWC2’s project subcommittee.
On TWC2’s side, the subcommittee driving the project and its implementation began with four members and grew to six: Pat Meyer, Miguel Pina, Yew Kong Leong, Robin Rheaume, Ong Chin Kiat and Alex Au. Leong and Alex are on the executive committee too, regularly briefing the board about progress.
The Java-based app is designed to cope with the huge variety of cases that TWC2 deals with: salary claims, injuries, physical abuse, job scams, even the occasional criminal case. Some workers have multiple problems; others come back years later. Different types of cases require different kinds of data to be collected and necessitate divergent routes of follow-up, yet the system has to be able to respond. We also need the system to be able to track the various benefits we give out.
As noted by Robin Rheaume, “Camans is deceptively simple: under the hood, it is a lot more complex than it appears. Although it doesn’t look particularly sexy or flashy, the underlying data mapping and management is extremely complicated. I’ve been really impressed by the team’s ability to plan out the development and keep to a timetable to produce a workable system despite new requests from the client.
“A big part of their success was due to taking the time to thoroughly understand the client’s business. Also they invested in building a strong platform from the beginning – including security and auditing features as well as the dashboard interface for users. They also were producing Bootstrap templated prototypes from the get go which facilitated user testing and feedback. Conceptually, everyone was on the same page and there was a constant two way conversation about the development of the system.”
Nonetheless, TWC2 expects this to be a continually-improving system. This is especially as SMU expects the students to complete their project within six months, which means there isn’t enough time to develop some additional, but useful functionalities. However, as TWC2 executive committee Yew Kong Leong explains: “Typically, in a software development life cycle … after a period of use, you would have accumulated a list of improvements you’d want to see. Then you bring in another group of developers to make those amendments or add more functionalities.”
Now that the app is coming on stream, another really hard stage is upon us: migrating old data into it. The reason we needed the app is also the reason why it is a herculean task to migrate old data: they come in various formats with many gaps, located in a host of worksheets. Miguel Pina is leading the data migration exercise.
TWC2 is very impressed by Creovate’s work. Says Robin: “Their ability to manage the client calmly, to organise their work effectively and their quick response to bugs and new requests is extraordinary for a team of young people who have no experience in this area and are still managing a full course load. Really well done.”