Agency Couch

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Background of the Project:

  • This project was undertaken in 2017 with the Department of Health of a State Government.
  • There are around seven medical colleges in the state which come under the Department of Health. All their budget requests are routed through three levels: the Administration of the College, the Directorate of the Department, and the Secretariat of the State.
  • Streamlining the budget approval process by automating several key steps was necessary for quick decision-making and effective implementation of various public health initiatives.

Need Mapping:

  • Earlier, budget proposals were usually made manually, with each level sending the required documentation to the next level by post. 
  • Due to the large geographical spread of the different units, as well as the time taken to approve or reject each proposal, the process used to take months. Manual processes also left room for human error.
  • The client approached Agency Couch to automate the entire process of modifying, approving, and rejecting proposals at all three levels.

Key Challenges:

  • Ensuring security was a priority. This project entailed a lot of back-and-forth of sensitive data relating to public health. Therefore, we focused heavily on security and data encryption.
  • Several constraints in the form of outages due to web server hosting, bugs, workflow issues, and third-party dependencies were also taken into consideration.
  • Training of respective personnel from all the seven colleges on how to use the software was necessary. Therefore, the scope of the project was quite vast. 
  • The project would have to run for a few years, so maintenance was also a prime consideration.

Solutions Offered: 

  • We offered the client a completely automated module that defined a bi-directional workflow and followed an organizational hierarchy.
  • The hierarchy was as follows:
  • At the admin level, the user was responsible for adding the names of colleges, assigning users for respective colleges, as well as users for the Directorate and the Secretariat.
  • Once the user for each college was assigned, they were able to add proposals as per the data entry proforma. Additionally, they were able to track the progress of the submitted proposals, which made it easier to check which proposals needed resubmission.  
  • The user assigned at the Directorate level was responsible for validating proposal proforma, and handling discrepancies in submitted proposals. They were also in charge of approval and rejection of proposals. They were required to send approved proposals to the secretariat. 
  • At the Secretariat level, the user was required to validate proposal proforma based on prior approval by the Directorate. If discrepancies were found in submitted proposals, they could reject the proposal with specific comments for resubmission. The power of final approval lay with the Secretariat.
  • Because of the number of users and levels of division, we implemented the following functional options to ensure ease of use:
  • Online proforma for proposals.
  • Upload option for documents. 
  • Option for user-specific comments on current proposals.
  • View and manage submitted proposals.
  • Dashboard notification to check the status of proposals.
  • Archives of previously approved proposals.
  • A two-step authentication process for login using mobile OTP to mitigate security constraints.

In addition to this, we offered two more modules to the client, as detailed below. 

  • The Human Resources module: 
  • Users at the college level could use the application to manage the basic contact details of staff in all departments. They could also access the create, edit, delete, and transfer options. However, it was mandatory for colleges to have documents from either the Directorate or the Secretariat to be able to use these options. The Directorate and the Secretariat users could view, create, or move staff entries of all listed medical colleges, as well as upload documents to validate create or transfer orders. 
  • The Nursing Colleges module:
  • Directorate users could upload and mark proposals of nursing colleges. They also used the module to forward requests for inspection of proposals to SDLIC, upload and forward inspection reports to the Secretariat, and approve or reject proposals. Secretariat users had the same powers as Directorate users. 

Technology Used

  • DIT server hosted this web application on a web server based on Apache, Tomcat, or NGINX.
  • The application was private and exclusively accessible to the DIT intranet work locations.
  • The project was based on PHP (third-party Codeigniter and Laravel framework), with a MYSQL database.
  • We integrated SMTP and SMS for OTP generation.
  • A third-party PDF generator was included to generate proposals and proforma reports.