By Kieran McDonald, Applications Engineer
COVID-19 has pushed businesses in all sectors to develop and adopt technology that facilitates digital interactions. As the need for people to work from home becomes more permanent, the demand for remote data access and collaborative tools has soared. At Eclipse Mining Technologies®, we are developing solutions to the challenges of an increasingly digital mine.
The first step in empowering employees to work from home is to give them access to resources they need to do their job. This generally boils down to a laptop and access to the internal network, which sounds simple, but even this basic setup has challenges.
1. Accessing Data
A common approach is to provide each employee with access to a Virtual Private Network (VPN), or a Remote Desktop to access a machine on-site or both. Each method works, but they tend to be slow, require constant internet access, and might interfere with other software. This is a problem in any industry, but it can be a significant barrier when considering the sheer size of mining data.
Well aware of this challenge, the SourceOne® data platform (“SourceOne”) was designed to let you host your data on an internal server, but also provides you with the ability to host your data on a cloud server (e.g., Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services). This frees you from needing to use VPN to access your data, which can enhance speed and performance. And though you may be thinking, “but I don’t want any user of SourceOne to view my data.”, there is no need to worry. SourceOne provides a robust system of permissions set by project, role, or individual pieces of data.
Of course, using a cloud server still requires you to have a reliable internet connection. To combat this, SourceOne also provides the ability to Work Offline. In Offline mode, project data and license information is downloaded locally onto your machine, allowing you to work without being connected to the internet for any length of time. As you work offline, all changes you make are tracked in the History, and when you do get connected again, you can seamlessly merge all these changes into the latest version of your project.
2. Licensing and Permissions Limitations
Another common problem that comes up, is access to, or availability of licensed software. Usually, software is licensed to a particular user or even to a specific machine. It is not too difficult in the office to find out who is using what license, but at home, it becomes more challenging. This can be very frustrating in a Remote Desktop situation as you and your coworker kick each other off trying to use something licensed to that machine.
SourceOne uses a simple seat-based license system, so there is no need to fight over who has the comprehensive license. We also provide a web-based license tool so your Administrator can view and manage seats from any device. Finally, we provide a “Participant Seat” option that allows any user to view and export data without the need to use a seat.
With the data challenges taken care of, let’s move on to the real problem: People. How does your team know what they are supposed to do? And how do they communicate their progress to each other? Common approaches to this challenge range from shared calendars, daily meetings, company chat, spreadsheets, and so on. With so many sources of truth, it can be challenging to find out who is doing what. What if your team’s tasks and the relevant data were kept in one place where anyone with proper permissions could view them? Well, from the SourceOne portal you can manage all the tasks and data related to your daily operations.
3. Tasks Alignment
Sometimes half the battle is just knowing what everyone is doing. The SourceOne portal allows you to create tasks with rich metadata and assign them to your team members. Once tasks are created, you can quickly view everyone’s tasks using configurable Kanban boards. Once everyone knows what everyone is doing, you can start having conversations about the tasks using comments (dated and documented). You can let people know when it is time to do their part with notifications. Finally, since the tasks and the data live together, you can easily attach any relevant data to a task so it can be reviewed right in the portal (e.g., the final report). Everything you need to keep everybody together and on track available on any device. No need to install a heavyweight application on a desktop computer.
4. Institutional Knowledge
Now imagine another situation. Your team has worked together for some time, and they are a well-oiled machine. Then you hire somebody new. How do you get this person up to speed as painlessly as possible without significantly impacting your productivity? For new hires, one of the most challenging things is just discovering all the processes in a new company. I say “discovering” because typically, processes, issues, and decisions are not well documented (if at all) and tend to live as tribal knowledge passed down from old to new in a process that could be compared with “hazing.” What if, instead, your new hires simply opened SourceOne’s History Center to see everything that was done in your project? Every process, every task, and every change made to the data in one place. That would certainly go a long way.
Now for your hands-on people, imagine you could give them a sandbox to begin in. Completely isolated and safe, so there is no fear of messing up production. The same versioning system in SourceOne that captures History allows for branching of projects. Branches are copies of a project at a point in time (basically parallel universes). They behave just like regular projects except that you can throw them away or push the changes to the main project when you are done with them. Now your new hires can go back in time using a branch and rerun your modeling process themselves and see if they come up with the same result.
And what happens when these parallel universes collide? With so many people working on the same data, you are bound to touch the same things. Who wins? There is no collision, and nobody wins. The SourceOne Conflict Resolution system analyzes and saves all the changes in the History, and all you have to do is decide which becomes the latest version. Nothing is lost. If you decide later that a change should be brought forward, you can always find the change in the History and reverse it.
These and other challenges await you as you journey towards an increasingly digital mine. But you do not have to make that journey alone. SourceOne can help you centralize, access, and control your mining data while facilitating collaboration, experimentation, and transparency within your team. SourceOne is the only industry platform in the market – and the one you need to meet, overcome, and even turn these challenges into opportunities.