Advantage Personnel, a casual labour hire company with eight offices around Australia, is using .Net to streamline its operations. With its previous system, instead of opting for an off-the-shelf package Advantage Personnel developed its own Lotus Notes application in 1999, building on its expertise and intimate knowledge of the recruitment industry. The system manages the entire recruitment pipeline process, covering jobseekers and clients who outsource their labour supply. Yet, after several years, Advantage Personnel discovered a stumbling block: it has vast amounts of data that are, for the most part, inaccessible through Lotus Notes without significant redevelopment of the application. "We want to know where we are picking up business, and where we are losing business opportunities," said David Wood, national service delivery manager. "It's not just the big things, either -- we want to know whether we interview someone but then never make use of them; we also want to know how long we take between placing an advertisement and filling the order." Wood says the company had tried Crystal Reports in the past to pull raw data from its Notes database, but its complexities and fat-client approach weren't suitable for general use throughout the company. While planning to revamp the corporate Web site, Advantage Personnel realised that an internal data-driven Web site may fit the bill. Being a new project, the company had the luxury of choosing a new suite of tools. "We focused on solutions that could promise we'd have our data at our fingertips," said Ian Munro, the company's national tender manager, who heads up the Web team. "We went with Visual Studio.Net," Munro said. "It had all the advantages -- it's Internet aware, it pulls data from many diverse sources, such as Notes, it leverages existing investments in Visual Basic programming, we can build in access controls, and as far as our staff are concerned, using the intranet is no different from ordinary Web browsing." The project is still in its initial stages, with only a handful of reports currently available, yet Wood is excited by the potential. "We can see this taking off," he said. Future plans include ad-hoc reporting, and even allowing the site to be used from hand-held devices and WAP (wireless application protocol)-compliant phones. Apart from a new server and Visual Studio.Net, the company has not set aside a specific budget for .Net development. Rather, the project has come under the general jurisdiction of existing Web development and IT support staff. However, in the end, the cost of the project may be moot. "We now have real data at our fingertips," said Walter Blaikie, managing director. "You can't put a price on business intelligence."
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