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How does OutBack work?

OutBack has two basic purposes:

  1. Indicating the status and whereabouts of all of the employees, and in particular which employees are available to take a telephone call.
  2. Providing the necessary employee information to make it possible to select an employee if the caller does not provide a name, or to find an alternative if the asked-for employee is not available.

How does OutBack do this?

Merlinia OutBack is a networked client-server system. Every employee in the company runs the OutBack client program, typically in the background so that it does not use any screen area.

When the OutBack client program is made active it displays a grid with status information about all of the employees. For each employee you can see current status and whereabouts, a graphic view of his/her coming calendar appointments and a large amount of static information. This static information can include department name, e-mail address, mobile telephone number, product competences, or whatever information the IT dept. decides to make available.

OutBack screen shot

(Click to view)

The OutBack server program is the heart of the system

Many competing employee information systems are client-only programs. OutBack is a true client-server system.

The OutBack server program not only coordinates information exchange between all of the client programs, it also communicates with Microsoft Exchange Server or Lotus Domino. This provides several advantages:

  • Free/busy times from calendar appointments are obtained for all users and are kept updated.
  • New users are automatically added to OutBack when they are added to Exchange Server or Lotus Domino. Similarly, users who are no longer employeed by the company are automatically removed. OutBack requires practically no administration.
  • All information that the IT dept. decides to make available to OutBack users is extracted from the "data store" (Exchange Server or Lotus Domino or other database). For example e-mail address, mobile telephone number, department name, etc. only needs to be maintained by the IT dept. in one place, and can still be displayed by OutBack.
  • Last but not least, a client-server system is more efficient and results in less network load than a client-only system that polls a common database.

How does OutBack know if an employee is available?

OutBack indicates which employees are available to receive telephone calls and which ones are not. This status and whereabouts information comes from several possible sources:

  • OutBack keeps track of all employees' calendar appointments, and this can be used to indicate if an employee is available or not.
  • OutBack also monitors whether the employee's PC is turned on, and it is assumed the employee is not available if his/her PC is not on.
  • OutBack turns one of the keyboard keys (the Pause/Break key) into a special OutBack hotkey. A single keystroke is enough to tell OutBack that you're away from your desk for a few minutes, and another keystroke indicates that you're back again. More informative status messages typically require only one keystroke and a couple of mouse clicks.
  • The OutBack status and whereabouts information can also be updated from a mobile telephone using an SMS message. This is a useful facility for employees who are on the road a lot.

Why both calendar-based and manual updating of status?

OutBack determines employee availability via calendar appointments and through manual input.

Processing calendar appointments is an automatic method of determining employment availability, and is good for determining that an employee is not available when he/she has a meeting or similar activity scheduled.

But a calendar does not take into account when an employee arrives and when he/she goes home, which OutBack determines automatically due to the client program logging in to the network.

Also the lunch break, coffee breaks, quick ad-hoc meetings, etc. are not noted in the calendar. OutBack's special hotkey makes it so easy to indicate absence from the desk that it quickly becomes second nature to use this key. This makes it possible for OutBack to provide an extremely accurate indication of employee availability.

The OutBack key...

This one key on the keyboard is the key to OutBack's ability to keep track of all of your key employees!




Outlook calendar

Many in/out boards are based on calendar appointments or manual input. OutBack uses both!




Mobile telephone

Employees who are on the move can use their mobile telephones to query OutBack and change their OutBack status messages.

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