Syracuse University student project team helps small business gain access to state-of-the-art software
Syracuse University student project team helps small business gain access to state-of-the-art softwareMay 02, 2002Judy Holmesjlholmes@syr.edu
From its unassuming, third-floor office suite in a remodeled brick building in the heart of Syracuse’s historic Armory Square district, TotalKare of America Inc. operates one of the largest healthcare distributorships in the Northeast. Yet, the company is a small, locally owned business among today’s corporate giants.
The products the company distributes, installs and services are among the latest high-tech security and communications systems used in the healthcare industry today, and they are in high demand among large urban medical centers and small, rural facilities alike. The devices help assisted living centers prevent people with Alzheimer’s disease from wandering out of the doors unaccompanied, and enable frail, elderly residents to summon help in emergencies. Other devices enable hospitals to better protect newborn babies from being abducted, keep track of hospital equipment and prevent patients from falling out of beds and chairs.
While TotalKare sells the latest security technology available, the computer network and database software system it uses within the company for inventory control, sales tracking, service support and accounting is fragmented and outdated.
“Affordable operational software packages that are on the market today are all independent and don’t communicate with each other,” says Steve Bergstraesser, president and CEO of TotalKare. “The kinds of packages that do communicate cost millions of dollars and are out of reach for businesses like mine.”
After investigating various options that led nowhere, the company learned about the i-Launch Pad in the School of Information Studies from SU alumnus Adam Peruta ’00. Peruta designed the company’s Web site while he was a computer graphics student in SU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) and now teaches Web design courses in both VPA and the School of Information Studies.
“We were to the point of aborting the whole investigation and sticking to the systems we currently have when Adam recommended we speak with Craig Watters,” says Mary Szarejko, director of operations for TotalKare. Watters is the school’s assistant dean for advancement and founder of the i-Launch Pad.
“Craig and his group of students came in with a game plan-to evaluate our company’s inner workings and prepare a feasibility study before they made any promises,” Szarejko says.
Led by information management graduate students Bhaskar Majee, Launch Pad president, and Karma Lodoe, Launch Pad vice president, the students prepared a timeline for the project, analyzed the company’s hardware and network configurations, and gathered initial business process and software information from the company’s employees. The students then gave the company their hardware recommendations and a proposal to create an Access database that integrates inventory, sales, service and human resources into one seamless system.
“After reviewing all of the information the students presented, we decided to establish a working relationship with the i-Launch Pad,” Szarejko says. “We’re about a quarter of the way through this initiative and I can honestly say that I’ve never worked with a more professional group of people. This is a win-win situation for both parties.”
The project encompasses a variety of perspectives and areas, Majee says, including information architecture, process mapping, systems analysis and design, business strategy development, business process engineering, and database and network development. The project team includes students from both the School of Information Studies and from the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science.
“Students from both disciplines have worked well together to develop innovative solutions to TotalKare’s technology needs,” Majee says. “We are now in the design phase of the project, which involves collecting as much information as possible about the business processes before we design a system. We hope to have a prototype ready by the end of the summer.”