Hlalani IQ - case study

Hlalani IQ is a construction project management solution.

It enables emerging contractors(builders) to engage with the government. The system takes care of the entire supply chain process, including project progress monitoring and reporting as well as inventory management.

Background

I met up with a team of engineers who were doing work for the municipality and managing project information with excel sheets.

They were looking for a way to streamline their work and improve efficiency but didn't really have anything specific in mind; they knew they needed software to solve the problem. They had investigated and even bought some commercial products but none fitted the niche nature of their use case.

The idea was to have a bespoke, internal use system built to solve their problem. I advised them to set up a new entity to own the product and make it available to other engineering firms as a software as a service product.

alt

Research and data collection

I proceeded to get my head into the project.

I visited the depot site office to see how the operations worked, issuing stock to contractors and keeping track of progress manually. I interviewed employees to determine pain points and collected example spreadsheets to get a sense of what type of data needed to be catered for and insight into the existing way they were handling the information.

Depot site office depot site office

Contents of a depot container contents of a depot container

Problem solving and planning

I established the core deliverable was a reporting solution but in order to generate the reports we needed to log and track a wide variety of information through the project life cycle.

Some of the pain points included:

  • keeping track of damaged or missing stock
  • monitoring which contractors took additional stock and needed to pay for it
  • keeping track of non-compliance issues
  • speed of reporting

I began by mapping out system entities/components, switching between Evernote and Omnigraffle, based on the existing process for managing the projects. I also added check points and steps where the system needed to implement controls from an audit trail perspective to ensure reliability of the data along with compliance to the tender processes - with excel anything could be edited at any time so this resulted in a major adjustment after implementing the system.

I put together a monster system diagram. alt

I put together a summary workflow diagram1 alt

I also put together a diagram indicating relationships between entities alt

I then broke the diagram up into modules to make it easier to work with and focus on specific tasks.

Here's the Tender Management Workflow alt

Branding

Before we could begin building, I knew we needed a colour scheme and logo so I facilitated an introduction to one of the designers I knew and she put together a few mockups from which the client chose their favourite and then she iterated a bit, polishing it off.

alt

Development and implementation

We proceeded to get started building the system. We made use of a few libraries: CodeIgniter, Bootstrap, JQuery, FDPF and Font-Awesome.

We used BitBucket to track and assign all development tasks as well as for version control. When a task was finished it would be assigned to someone for internal testing prior to submitting to the client for testing and sign off.

During the process we had white-boarding sessions to work through complex issues and discuss the project.

Me facilitating a session2 nathan facilitating a discussion in front of a whiteboard

Picture of the white board after an inventory discussion inventory workflow on white board

As we released functionality for testing, the client started to realise what was possible and so the refinement and iteration process began. The more they used the system the more they realised what was possible and we gradually added more functionality and more reporting to the system.

The product has enabled them to take on additional workload, drastically improve operational efficiency and also provide instant reporting.

Here's a video presentation(8min 29 sec) explaining the concept.

The following are some demos of the interface(best viewed full screen):

Interactive Map

Before the interactive map they were using paper based plans with different colour highlighters.

alt

Responsive Desktop

Mobile Friendly UI

It was a great learning experience. Post launch, we've added extra modules and done a complete rewrite of the project interface.

Footnotes

  1. I added colours as the project progressed to help us keep track of what we needed to focus on.

  2. We worked with internal and freelance developers.