From exchange students to international education projects: Epos supports them all. To do this, the government agency often cooperates with external experts, whose specialisms are accurately recorded in a list. The challenge here? Too many unlinked databases and applications that act as separate IT islands. The result? An enormous amount of paperwork and a high risk of errors. Cegeka and Microsoft PowerApps to the rescue!
Working with external experts is not straightforward
Jan Ceulemans, who is responsible for dealing with external experts at Epos, starts off: "We regularly work with external specialists: experienced individuals who specialize in education, training or international projects, for example. Our group of experts is made up of professionals (such as teachers) and retirees. We keep track of them in a database, but that is not exactly an easy task. We use IT tools made available by the European Commission for our projects, but we also have our own list of experts, all linked together via a series of Excel files.'
"Because of this combination, it's almost impossible to keep a clear overview. Every year we call in new experts, and every year we discover a lot of files without links – which means we have no idea who has worked on which project."
Centralized online database with PowerApps
Jan continues: "We wanted to have a centralized online database that we could check easily, where we could enter all our expert data: names and projects, but also payment letters, for example. We also wanted to draw up our contracts and letters of payment within the database. A link to the online environment of the European Commission – which we didn't have until then – was also a must."
Cegeka was one of the players that responded to the tender. Epos carefully evaluated their proposal. "We would never have thought of a solution with PowerApps ourselves. But after hearing their professional explanation, we had a good feeling about it, and we even saw possibilities for other IT needs. In addition, Cegeka is a large, international player. We were also reassured in terms of continuity: we used low-code for the Microsoft apps and minimal custom programming. Simply put, for this kind of project, PowerApps is the only logical choice."
“We had a good feeling with Cegeka: they saw the bigger picture and protected our continuity with a practical solution.” – Frederik Van Crombrugghe, IT manager at Epos
The challenge: centralize and integrate
Jeroen Sergeant from Cegeka ensured the successful completion of the project. "Setting up a database of this kind involves a lot of work. First, we had to collect all the relevant data: backgrounds, skills, contact details and so on. That was the first challenge, as we were working with a range of fragmented files: SharePoint, personal PCs, mailboxes… you name it. That required some clever teamwork: Jan collected the Excel files and delivered them to Frederik. He then transferred them to the European IT tool in which the registrations had to take place."
"The integration aspect was also important: all the experts had to be linked to their projects, but they also had to be easy to find for new projects through the right tags. For example, if there was a new project on mobility in school education, we would need to find a school education expert with knowledge of mobility. The new solution gives us a 360° view of all the experts and their related projects and expertise within the application, which is an enormous time-saver for Jan.”
“We collected all the data from different platforms and used the logic of the data model to link the experts to the right projects.” – Jeroen Sergeant, functional consultant at Cegeka
2 partners, 1 team
From initial analysis to final IT solution, the process took three months, with another three months needed for training, organization and go-live. Jan: "Our close cooperation and short feedback loops allowed us to achieve quick results." Frederik proved himself a crucial link in this process. "I worked closely with the Cegeka experts and then implemented the lessons learned internally. That actually went surprisingly smoothly: at Cegeka they took the time to explain everything to me in an understandable way and there was room for feedback at every step.”
However, not everything went as expected. Frederik: 'This has been the first time we have done an IT project with an external partner. This meant there was a learning curve on both sides, and given the tight schedule, it was often tough to get everything done on time. We also had problems with getting our licences: we had to order them through the Flemish Government's framework contract with another external partner. As a result, we did not have the necessary environments for development on time. Fortunately, the project was never shut down: Cegeka had set up a test environment to work in, so that we could transfer everything when the development environment was ready. That high degree of flexibility and out-of-the-box thinking essentially saved our expert database.”
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