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2006 Channel Elite AwardsGold Winners: Solution Provider of the Year: TelusBest Service Organization: AinsworthBest Enterprise: Cactus

Solution Provider of the Year: Telus
Finding a way to face disaster
By Howard Solomon

When disaster strikes organizations can be overwhelmed with the amount of information that has to be tracked.

In 1998 Telus Corp. set out to meet that challenge with the creation of a division for integrating a geographic information system (GIS) onto its telecommunications network to help people running emergency response centres.

It has honed that into what is now called the Emergency Management Operating System (EMOS), a hosted service from its Geomatics division. Components of it are used by Canadian federal, provincial and municipal agencies and private corporations.

For its effort the CEA jury awarded Telus Geomatics the Solution Provider of the Year award.

“The solution can be small and a portion of its capability used,” said Jim Huff, Geomatics’ national director who has headed the project since its inception.

“Then we can add on capability and make it a day-to-day-use tool.”

Run from a Calgary data centre, Geomatics offers a number of mapping services, of which EMOS is only part. They include the ability to track people using GPS-enabled cellphones and vehicles, locate GIS-tagged assets from oil and gas wells to banking machines, compile business demographics and view satellite images.

Some 70 people work in the division, including application developers, business analysts, data analysts and project managers.

Began in Alberta

EMOS itself began as an emergency notification service for Alberta’s oil and gas companies. That attracted the attention of the provincial government, which saw it as an offering its departments could use for disaster planning. Interest increased in after the terrorist attacks in the U.S in 2001.

The heart of Geomatics is GeoExplorer, a browser-based map service based on AutoDesk’s MapGuide, which Telus has customized.

When an incident is reported, customers can find locations by a number of criteria, including street address and postal code. A number of maps can be overlayed on top of each other to help predict the impact of an incident, such as a flood or oil spill.

Another capability is e-Team, a third party application Telus has rights to which lets users enter and track information on what respondants to the event are doing.

EMOS is part of what Geomatics calls a ‘Safety Net Solution’ that Telus has had internally that it is offering to clients.

These capabilities include a temporary contact centre and a truck called SatCOLT, which has an antenna for creating an instant cellular phone zone in a remote location.

Upon hearing of the CEA award his staff went around giving each other high-fives, he said.

“We felt we had a pretty good product and a fairly unique one,” Huff said of Geomatics. The award “is another voice” confirming that.

Best Service Organization: Ainsworth
Ainsworth wins in service

By Paolo Del Nibletto

The gold winner in this category is no stranger to service. They basically pioneered it since 1933. Ainsworth Inc. of Toronto employs an ITIL best practices framework for service delivery along with an innovative 90-day follow up plan.It is this plan that wowed the judges. The company manages to prevent the original problem from happening again. According to Ainsworth, its service offerings start with an understanding of what drives the customer’s business. By working together with customers the company can provide the skills and services which contribute to the ongoing success of their business.

Ainsworth has been an ISO-9001:2000 Standard Registered corporation since 1999. According to Stefan Hettich, an account executive at the company, Ainsworth uses the ISO process for dealing with customer satisfaction. This process ensures a timely resolution that actually prevents the problem from recurring. Each project that is completed ends in a customer satisfaction survey with the client.

After the Ainsworth team conducted its original survey and the 90-day follow-up survey, it said customer satisfaction has hit 99 per cent.

“This means our customers can consistently expect to receive products and services to meet or exceed their expectations,” Hettich said.

For each completed survey, Ainsworth donates $5 in support of programs to alleviate homelessness and provide other critical community services.

The company’s project management methodology is based on the Project Management Institution standards.

In addition, Ainsworth employs an ITIL best practices framework for service delivery. With ITIL, Ainsworth recognizes outstanding customer service when employees have gone “above and beyond the call” to delight customers.

An employee wins when he or she has accomplished the exceptional for customers.

Ainsworth clients include Cancer Care Ontario, Canadian Automobile Association, Canpar, Dynamic Mutual Funds, and the Ontario Breat Screening Program.

Silver and Bronze

Compugen won the silver in this category for the amazing strides its made in service. Compugen has expanded its service desk offering to an around the clock service. They have also implemented the INDUS service-scheduling engine. This automates all on-site service requests. In the process they have cut down its service delivery times from 21 days to between 10 and 11.

The bronze winner for Best Service Organization is Softchoice for developing a new method for IT Asset Management. The problem it faced was that customers did not have an effective IT asset management in place.

Softchoice developed a method called ITAM which works with any solution, in any organization running any type of network. With this method in place they significantly reduced help desk calls and gave customers a better handle on its IT management
Best Enterprise: Cactus
Hospital work rewarded

By Howard Solomon

A Quebec VAR’s work in perfecting a southern Ontario hospital’s radiation therapy IT system has won it honours for building the Best Enterprise Solution.Cactus Commerce Inc. of Gatineau impressed the judges with its efforts in completing the integration of Credit Valley Hospital’s radiation system, enabling monitoring of applications and ensuring availability of information in the institution’s regional cancer treatment centre.

“It’s a nice point of validation of the work we feel is fairly significant with this client,” said Rob Neilly, Cactus’ account executive for the hospital, “so it was very gratifying to get it.”

The work involved linking the radiation system to Microsoft BizTalk and BizTalk Accelerator, which had already been installed at the Mississauga, Ont. hospital before Cactus was hired for patient data transfer between its front-end applications and Meditech data repository

The goal was to automate this process, which helps make the hospital’s systems more efficient and reduces errors caused by multiple manual data entries.

The cancer centre uses an application called VARIs to deliver radiation treatment to cancer patients. BizTalk Server integrates VARIs with the Meditech data repository so patient information flows to the application in real-time. The hospital’s IT team wanted a better way to manage this process and troubleshoot any errors.

According to Neilly, Cactus’ staff discovered the system had not been optimized. The IT department needed a more formal approach to the architectural implementation of the project, he said.

Strategic partnership

Cactus developed a strategic partnership for system planning and support to perfect the system, and upgraded the Microsoft applications to add functionality.

For example, it now automatically sends an e-mail or text message to alert administrators when the system fails to transfer patient data between applications.

A new administration console provides a single interface for configuring, deploying and running applications across multiple servers. The console’s Group Hub page displays problems in colour-coded indicators so they can be seen easily, allowing the hospital’s IT team to be proactive in solving problems.

Avril Cordoso, manager of application services for the hospital’s information systems, had deep praise for the partner’s work.

“Cactus has been extremely flexible, responsive and creative in working with us to address ongoing challenges,” he wrote in Cactus’ submission to judges, “thus allowing us to continue to deliver excellent patient care.

“Our project manager at Cactus has gone above and beyond to assist us in obtaining resources, guidance and strategies with this important technology and demonstrated that Cactus can indeed support the critical integration needs in health care.”