Project management with a difference – special requirements for an aid organization

What are the requirements of a customer with over 2,000 years of tradition and a global sphere of action? At EASYtalk 2018, Roland Illigmann from Reindel & Puchta Systemhaus GmbH reported on ancient archives, unequal conditions, and priests with no email access. The project management for an international Catholic aid organization was as challenging as it was interesting.

What was our assignment?

Our customer, an internationally active aid organization, supports and initiates projects to improve living conditions in areas of conflict, in the wake of natural disasters, or following war and violence. Whether it’s help in acute emergencies or long-term support projects, the local project partners help where the need is greatest. Donations are collected to implement the projects. In order to receive money and realize projects, project partners all over the world need to present extensive project proposals.

An aid organization on the way to digitization

Currently, they work with Word documents and paper proposals. One of the things they asked from us was an application for the centralized and simple digital creation of a project proposal as a PDF form. In other words, the project proposer should be able to create an application for aid money – as easy as pie. This requirement very quickly resulted in an application to record the multifaceted application information in a sensible way and transmit it to EASY DMS. The applicant, Church institutions as a rule, should be able to automatically send and archive the project proposal. In addition, a physical storage medium was needed. Of course, the requested solution was to be used worldwide, and therefore be multilingual. Specifically, we will implement German, English, French, and Portuguese, while correspondence will also take place in those four languages.

The challenges:

How do I communicate with a bishop in Burkina Faso who doesn’t have a fast and stable Internet connection? Along with highly varied IT skills among the project participants, a functioning IT environment is not a matter of course in developing areas. It also cannot always be expected that security standards will be maintained. Passwords are often hacked, and third parties even actively try to disrupt the process. If something appears peculiar or someone doesn’t answer adequately, the whole project is immediately blocked and the flow of money is stopped.
Governments or regions are not always well-disposed toward Catholic services. An especially high level of confidentiality in communications was therefore needed, and we had to develop some processes along a “diplomatic” path. This personally delivered communication resulted in corresponding run-times.

The implementation: an offline client for creating proposals, connected to DMS and Workflow

We developed a separate application for the requested project management, EASYDor, which is based on the EASY DMS system and EASY Workflow. Capture Plus and EASY Archive are used in addition.
Another application was created for applicants: EASYDorClient. Input is as simple as possible, and generated platform-independently in JavaScript. The data can be imported offline and then transmitted to EASYDor by e-mail or a web service. The internal handling of project proposals is very extensively supported by workflows. The full decision process must be trackable, and the project status must be recognizable at all times. The ongoing communication with the project participants is also mirrored in DMS. Several hundred document templates are currently stored in the system. For the financial handling of the projects, we created an interface to various ERP systems, which allows synchronous processing of data via web services.

Future-oriented path to digitization

Even though the project is not yet finished, it can now be said that it pushes the scope of a DMS to its limits. The daily cooperation with the customer is very positive. Innovative ideas were developed in the workshops, and some requirements forced us to look for novel solutions. However, in the future, I will be very cautious about using the term “archive” when talking to the Catholic Church. They have a very different concept of time – remember the 2000-year-old Church archive? Despite their considerable tradition, in this project the Church is forward-thinking, and moving ahead into digitization.