Article, as it appeared in the Third Quarter 1985 issue of Enterprise, a magazine for the employees of Southwestern Bell Corporation.
Creativity is a key to making work life better
These employees found ways to make new things happen at Southwestern Bell Telephone
Tapping your creativity can bring a renewed sense of vitality and purpose to your life--especially on the job. Those little aggravations and annoyances can be overcome, sometimes with simple ideas you hadn't seen before, sometimes with more complex ideas and old-fashioned hard work.
The payoff comes in satisfaction, reduced frustration and the ability to concentrate your energies on productive tasks.
For some examples of people who have used their creativity on the job in exciting ways read on:
Fort Worth SSC system works like expensive computers at a fraction of the cost
Frank Locker, manager-network maintenance at the Fort Worth special services center (SSC), knew he had a problem. The center he managed was drowning in a sea of paperwork.
It certainly was cumbersome, but the work had to be done to process customer trouble reports and record details of trouble reports in progress.
In the center, all customer trouble reports need to be retrievable almost instantly. Lives may depend on this, for the center serves such essential, unusual phone lines as those used by the Federal Aviation Administration, railroad train dispatchers, ambulance dispatchers, public utility repair crews, airlines, weather forecasters and police departments.
Clearly what was needed was a computer system capable of sorting out the administrative muddle and keeping it unmuddled.
Two systems were available--the CMS-3A for about $1.3 million or the SCAMIS system for about $450,000. Both systems had advantages and disadvantages. The two biggest drawbacks were the cost and the initial time required to build a data base.
Locker discussed the problem with repeater technician Ted Palmer, who holds a degree in computer science from Texas Christian University. Together they determined that if a computer system could be purchased, Palmer could write programs to meet the organization's needs.
Eventually the center received approval to purchase--for $97,000--a WANG VS-80 with a 90 megabyte disc drive, 26 work stations and a printer. The center's management team met and formulated the basic plan for the programs.
Palmer's immediate supervisor, Mike Reid, network services supervisor-network maintenance, served as the liaison between Palmer and the management team.
As Palmer programmed furiously, switching equipment technician Jerry Yancey and repeater technician Larry Shuman assembled the hardware for the system.
Within 30 days of delivery, the center began logging all customer trouble reports and processing them completely--work that previously had to be handwritten and then manually passed through the center.
Now, simply by pressing a button, all SSC personnel know within seconds anything they need to know about what is going on in the center--how many trouble reports are being handled and the status of each of them.
The center is now totally paperless. But more than that, the system offers many other advantages. For example:
4 The system connects directly to TIRKS (trunk integrated record-keeping system), which means the center can instantly obtain a work order record detail (WORD) document for each trouble report.
These documents provide detailed information about the equipment in service and the technical specification for a circuit. They're necessary to help find trouble on a circuit, and they used to be considerably harder to get hold of.
"This is one of Ted's biggest accomplishments," Locker says. "To connect with TIRKS, Ted had to teach the Wang computer to mimic an IBM line protocol. The experts call this '3270 emulation.' Suffice it to say that a lot of people in a lot of places were trying to achieve this, but Ted apparently was the first to succeed."
"Because of the computer system, we immediately can see the history of the circuit. We look more professional to the customer."
4 The system also keeps track of the trouble reports on each circuit and the action taken to clear the trouble.
"This has been a tremendous improvement in helping us deal with customers." Locker says. "Before, if a customer called a second time with a complaint that hadn't been properly resolved, the person talking to him had no inkling of the earlier report.
"Now we can see immediately what the history of the circuit is. We can tell the customer what we did to try to resolve the problem and what we'll try next. We look a lot more professional in the customer's eyes."
The system also saves tremendous amounts of time. On a recent day, for example, it closed out 140 reports of trouble caused by a cable cut in one minute, 12 seconds. Locker estimates this would have take about nine man-hours before the computer was introduced.
This is only a small sampling of the benefits the system has brought to the Fort Worth SSC. It works so well, in fact, that the Special Services Center in Little Rock purchased similar hardware. They then brought in Locker, Reid, and Palmer to install the software and train their people. The trio finished the job in 2 1/2 days.
Palmer's software allows the SSC to process a lot of data in its local system that formerly would have been processed in a centralized system. The principle of distributed processing used by the Fort Worth SSC system could prove to be a real money-saver if introduced in other SWBT operations, Locker says.
The system is a regular member of the family, Locker says. It even has a name--SSAMS, which stands for "Special Services Administrative Maintenance System." Employees usually call it "Sam." On July 23, the employees threw a party for Sam's first birthday.