Clearly, the performers are the stars of the show at the National Theatre in Prague. However, behind the scenes, there are hundreds of stage hands and lighting technicians and carpenters, not to mention countless sets and props. All of it works together to create the mystique that makes the fantasy come alive for the audience.
How do you keep all of the employees on the same page and working within the same guidelines? What do you do when props get old, when decorations go out of style, when costumes and wigs are outmoded, and when the Wicked Witch absolutely needs a new mirror?
A couple of Excel tables and one really old application in MS Access was no longer enough.
Two main problems needed solutions:
1. Publishing Guidelines
As a government-funded organization, many rules and regulations had to be maintained, updated, understood, and followed by all of the employees. The Microsoft Access database with hundreds of files was not efficient.
2. Decommissioning Properties
A simple database for the properties used in hundreds of performances was the foundation for an archaic approval process. So, when the table that was repeatedly pounded upon during an emotional scene eventually needed to be replaced, a long set of steps were put in motion: an Excel spreadsheet with rows of data went to an accountant to confirm the value for each item (which was usually zero); a commission of several people (which was different for each theatre) had to agree with the valuation; the Director had to be consulted for properties worth more than 10,000 EUR; the technical department had to sign off; and, finally, the table was ready to be sold, moved, or destroyed. All of the approvals were on a Word document. The signatures were on a physical piece of paper.
One developer was able to quickly and effectively create applications to eliminate both pain points.
The first — the maintenance and publication of hundreds of guidelines — is now done through a simple single-page application. One administrator keeps the guidelines up to date. All of the employees can access them whenever they need to.
The second — working with old props and other assets — was more complex so the solution was especially impactful. Now an app takes the prop data from the accounting system. The accountant confirms the value by entering Yes or No. The item then moves automatically to the different commissions with email notifications and links. The Director is consulted for valuable items. And the Technical Department gets instructions accordingly. There is a different dynamic matrix for each commission.
“We didn't know what we wanted,” Ing. Dagmar Růžičková, the Economics Manager, said. “When you clean things up, you see the weak points. And when the digitalization starts you don't want to go back. The final versions (of the apps) look very different from what we thought they would.”
Additional apps have since been added, including an app for Commissioning properties (the opposite of the Decommissioning app), an automated form to quickly and efficiently report damage, and an overview app that connects all of the apps for easy access.
Added Růžičková: “The price was good but the speed was better.”
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