In 2009, the Food Bank in a major Canadian city came to us with a purchase request: they wanted to buy cards and tracking software so they could ensure that food was being distributed correctly. Food was being handed out, but it was untraceable. Who had received it?
Rather than take their order and walk away with a large technology sale, we acted in the best interests of the client and asked for specifics: why did you want this printer? why do you need cards? what is the goal of your program? what metrics are you trying to measure? are you sure ID technology is what you need?
As part of the discovery process, we met with the managers at the Food Bank and asked detailed questions about their process until the whiteboard in the board room was covered in schematics with lines, arrows, circles and big question marks.
It turned out that there was no way for the Food Bank to hold volunteers accountable for food that disappeared. If we had sold Food Bank the system requested, they would have been able to track the food going out the "front door" to correct recipients, but would not have been able to stop the flow of food out the "back door" being sold for cash.
Based on our consultative approach to their requirements, and the issues that were exposed during our analysis, the Food Bank re-wrote their volunteer policies to allow greater accountability to all volunteers for the food they were distributing.
This cut off the unauthorized loss of food as volunteers quickly fell into line with Food Bank policies. This process took about a year, but in 2010 the Food Bank came back with a desire to purchase the solution we had proposed.
We custom programmed (one module at a time) a Recipient Management System (RMS) based on their existing processes, and created an app running on mobile computers that kept track of each recipient's food quotas.
Loss Prevention - If a recipient attempts to get food quantities beyond their weekly quota, operators know instantly. A recipient can no longer move between mobile food banks and cheat the system.
Cost Reduction - Binders of paper that used to be carried to each food bank have been eliminated, reducing the number of paper sheets printed each month by thousands!
Confidentiality - No papers are taken to the mobile distribution points, the data between handhelds and server is encrypted, and no personal info is displayed.