Peter McCrum talks to Corporate Benchmarking Services about the performance of its innovative management system Trilogy
I was told that there was a phone on the island and, if possible, managing director of Corporate Benchmarking Services Jonathan Bendit would get to it and try to call us back. Sure enough, a couple of hours later, over a crackling line from a remote Scottish isle, Bendit was able to talk me through his innovative management system, Trilogy. And very enthusiastic he was too.
Trilogy is a web-based data gathering and reporting software program designed for multi-site organisations and trade associations. It is intended for corporations with a central organisational core, but with multiple, often remote sites. It has two fundamental functional tools architecturally underpinned by the structure and content of these tools; Knowledge and Performance.Accessing information
Knowledge consists of two further tools which reflect the requirements of organisations and individuals in the way they access information. A document library provides a repository for company standards, guidelines, best practice, newsletters and conference notifications. Documents can be stored in any format. A range of categorisation options and a multi-level folder format allows administrators to provide their user communities with mini-libraries over which they have individual control.
Trilogy contains an internal question and answer tool where users can anonymously post questions and receive answers from colleagues who can help. An archive stores the resulting Q & A traffic for any user to reference. Fast and effective, the tool is a proven system for harnessing willing expertise from an internal peer group while protecting the identity of the person seeking help.
The Performance tool provides solutions to the time consuming task of gathering performance data and organising and reporting the results. With management often requiring such information rapidly, it helps to have a tool which speeds up and simplifies the process. The system contains various tools for running multi-question surveys, and processing volume responses from multiple contributors into meaningful outputs.Access controls
Trilogy also incorporates a database which contains the names and details of the users and business units. When a person is added to the system they are first connected to their professional group and then to the business units for which they have responsibility. Individuals can have single or multiple roles and site responsibilities. Users have read-only access to the database, administrators have database management rights where they govern individuals' access.
The overall database is customised to match an organisation's corporate structure allowing for group, division, subdivision and geographic locations into which each business unit is placed. The result is an organisational matrix where the company database can be rapidly segmented by user type, geographic region and business stream. The database is the cornerstone of Trilogy and is carefully matched and managed for an organisation's requirements.Adaptability
Bendit is keen to stress that the main advantage of the system is that it is adaptable: "Trilogy can bend to fit and be redesigned to do anything you want it to. It can be adapted to meet the requirements of almost any compliance scheme such as ISO 14001 and EMAS." This adaptability inevitably means that there is a need to configure and set up the system for each individual company that purchases it, and in that sense it cannot be described as an 'off-the-shelf' product. "Trilogy is an 85% ready system" says Bendit. "The balance of about 15% is customised for each client. We will work with the client and deliver them a working tool."
There are other systems out on the market, and when asked what sets Trilogy apart from its competitors, Bendit points to both its adaptability and speed. "There's nothing difficult or hard wired and there is no cost associated with changing it. People are often worried when they buy a system that it is over hard-wired and over pre-set. There are tremendous advantages in being able to make Trilogy into what you want. This is why Trilogy is so attractive."Multi-language capability
Trilogy's clients share Bendit's belief in the system. Jonathan Garratt, director of environment, health and safety for the Smiths Group, an engineering company in markets worldwide ranging from defence contractors to petrochemical companies to hospitals, chose the system because it suited the needs of a decentralised and widely dispersed company. It has over 100 sites providing environmental data and it required an online information gathering service. "We needed a system where we could design the questionnaires to suit our needs and that had a multi-language capability - we wanted all our data in the language of the country providing it. This would improve the data quality and make data gathering more efficient," says Garratt. Other systems the Smiths Group looked at couldn't provide this.
Another consideration was the cost. "The price of Trilogy was more attractive to us than other systems on the market," he says. Garratt is pleased that the system has enabled him to provide more accurate and meaningful environmental, health and safety information for the company's annual reports. "There is lots of knowledge and expertise within the company and Trilogy allows us to tap into that and react immediately. Without the system, finding the source of the information required could be time consuming," he said.
Diana Montgomery, of Centrica, which deals in telecommunications, energy and energy storage, says: "We've only just begun to scratch the surface of its functionality, but we've been impressed by its data gathering capabilities, the customised questionnaires and knowledge access. It's a very powerful tool that can deliver not only the operating financial review requirements, but we can also bolt on a lot of other data such as capacity, waste and emissions trading data." Her only reservations lie with the complexity of the system means it cannot simply be plugged in and started up. It needs time and expertise to set up and customise. Trilogy apparently meets all the requirements of both these large, diverse international corporations and according to both Garratt and Montgomery, both organistations have yet to utilise the system to its full capability. This new generation of management system seems to be more user friendly, more adaptable and more powerful than ever before.