Canadian software developers win big time in technology contests

A powerful case management system that helps the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) effectively handle complaints it receives, and Canada’s first critical care information system snagged the top prizes at two recently concluded technology contests.

The events were sponsored by Microsoft Canada.

Yong Hu, senior solutions architect at Navantis Inc. and his team of developers won the first price in the annual TechNet Canada Innovation Awards for connecting the intensive care units in Ontario’s 120 hospitals using Microsoft’s .Net 3.0 Framework.

Sam Zaid, chief operation officer of Apption Software and his team won first prize in the MSDN Code Awards for building a new case, audit and initiative management system (CAIMS) for CHRC – also based on .Net 3.0.

TechNet Canada honours IT professionals chosen by their peers for implementing outstanding technology projects.

Programmers recognized by MSDN Code Awards are selected by the developer community for creating exceptional IT projects.

Awards are given at the individual and team levels based on community impact of the project, use of Microsoft-based technology, and technical expertise in execution.

Getting a handle on help

The new CAIMS helped Canadian Human Rights Commission personnel better access data and cope with no less than 50,000 inquiries that land in its office each year.

Each request, said Zaid, could potentially lead to an investigation that takes several months to complete.

He said the Commission continually faces this deluge of requests.
“The organization’s existing system was having difficulty integrating with newer applications.”
The older system relied on an Oracle database. However, over the years, CHRC implemented new processes, calling for the rollout of newer systems.

The legacy systems did not work well with emerging business processes, and ended up isolated from one another, Zaid noted.

As each system contained its own fragment of overlapping and conflicting data, IT teams were often on call to resolve problems.

CHRC reported that more than 39 per cent of in-house help desk requests were directly related to resolving data integrity issues.

Zaid’s team designed a new system based on service oriented architecture (SOA) principles and using the .Net 3.0 framework.

The application included case management, contact management, document generation, meeting scheduling, and operational performance features.

The SOA approach integrated all existing systems and unified data fragments.

The upshot is eight to ten times fewer help desk requests stemming from data integrity issues, Zaid said.

A new workflow-aware management system also tracks the end-to-end lifecycle of each case.

Prior to this, the process was ad-hoc and data flow between systems, extremely confusing. Workflow, tracking and the complaint lifecycle were managed using external Excel spreadsheets.

The complicated system, it seemed, posed certain challenges to staff.

“Ten years after the development of the original system, 22 per cent of all help desk requests were for application training,” said Zaid.

He said the process control developed by Apption Software – using Windows Workflow Foundation – resulted in a nine per cent drop in training requests.

The new system effectively resolved other issues as well.

For instance, previously remote and visually impaired workers found it difficult to access the organization’s system.

So Apption Software solution developed a Web-based SOA application with a much simpler interface that was accessible remotely and could be used by visually challenged workers.

The new system is being credited with bringing about a huge transformation – perhaps the most significant in the past 10 years, according to Herve Ethier, IT manager at the Commission.

A critical change

Yong Hu of Navantis and his team developed and implemented Ontario’s first Critical Care Information System (CCIS), which has enhanced system access and reduced patient wait times.

The system connects 120 hospitals using Microsoft BizTalk 2006 to coordinate patient data flow between facilities and Active Directory Federation Services.

This, in turn, provides users with single sign on capabilities.

One big project challenge was integrating a new set of business requirements with existing data systems and the new CCIS.

This needed to be done for the 120 hospitals to achieve Health Level 7 standards in message transmission, and guarantee compliance with the Personal Health Information Act.

Navantis used BizTalk Server 2006 and BizTalk HL7 Accelerator to implement the data integration interface which transmits patient as well as admission and discharge information from local hospital systems to the CCIS.

The team also developed a secure identity federation and Web single sign on feature for the system, which now uses Microsoft Identity Integration Server to create and manage changes to a user’s ID.

The system now enables health workers to access various applications using a single sign on and allows them to transmit patient data between hospitals much faster.
MSDN and TechNet competition provide an opportunity for developers and IT professionals to acknowledge their peers’ outstanding work, according to Barnaby Jeans, audience marketing manager for Microsoft Canada.

Other winners include: Kuris Kril, senior technology specialist at Telus and Alexei Kouznetsov, research assistant for Tom Baker Cancer Centre.

Kril developed a replacement for an unreliable and costly Web sign-on heavy equipment dealer Caterpillar, while Kouznetzov created a tool that automates the prognosis and diagnosis of cancer from histology specimen.

Winners received cash prices, along with money to donate to a charity of their choice.

The winners were honoured on Saturday at Microsoft Canada’s Energize IT event at the Toronto Congress Centre.

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