Takeout Express 1.0 History

On December 24, 2004 I started construction of Takeout Express for DotNetNuke. A simple little plug in aimed at a niche audience for a niche, yet popular open source portal framework called DotNetNuke (http://www.dotnetnuke.com). I had been following the project since it's creation as I Buy Spy Workshop and had created a few portals using it and used it as a base for certain web applications. I thought DNN had incredible potential and wanted to see if I could get in on the action, I wanted to create something unique that was fun to build and solved a real life problem.

In my time at a small manufacturing company in the center of Illinois I had an interesting work schedule (2003-2004). We were required to work 9 hours a day and got half an hour unpaid lunch. The company was undergoing tremendous growth, earning and spending money faster than they knew what to do. We had a staff of 4 in the IT department, 3 programmers and a sys admin/tech support/jack of all trades guy with a cool name (Niles). Most people were pretty taxed in the company, from the direct labor force to management. Often times people were working through lunch so they could get to family events later that night such as soccer games or cheerleading practice, what have you. The company was also going through a buyout process and dealing with a number of other issues that was common for a company experiencing such success. Of course this added more work, they did some smart things though, the executive team did start to add heads but followed Brooke's Law in realizing that you can only throw so much resourcers before you start getting diminishing returns.

My office was close to one of the two decent conference rooms in our facility leaving me to always be interruptted by a gaggle of suits exchanging in small talk over coffee. It was also next to accounting, who was constantly doing reports and requesting #'s from IT (Because we had no real reporting infrastructure). I started to notice something, in order to be more productive (or at least give themselves the appearance of being more productive) would order lunch in from someone that would act as a gopher and take orders for a group of people, drive to the restaraunt place 6-10 different orders, bring them all back, and drop them in a common spot or be nice enough to deliver it to the persons desk.

On the outside, the system looks efficient, no where we can really improve it. However, I started to notice deviations, here are some examples.
  • Finding someone willing to get Takeout
    • Could you find someone going?
    • Where they going where you wanted? Or somewhere acceptable?
  • How to pay them
    • Did you have cash?
    • Were they willing to spot you?

This process could take anywhere from a few seconds to 20 minutes depending what time you started looking, if you knew what you wanted to order, and a number of other factors (did they stop to chat for a few with the person providing the takeout service?). At that point the person would return to their desk, do some work for awhile, and then when lunch arrived would eat at their desk while somewhat doing work. In the end, it ended up becoming less productive to do this approach then to just go out and pick up lunch for themselves. Their was the opportunity.

There is another scenario where you have a conference/meeting and an administrative assistant would provide the Takeout Provider service. This is where money would be supplied by the company via petty cash, p-card, etc. It becomes a non-issue for the person ordering (Takeout User)

Takeout Express Project Goals

  1. Provide an easy way to let users/employee's know if someone is getting takeout, provide necessary details such as where they are going? how many people are they going for? When they need orders by?
  2. Provide a common payment system that can be tied to a number of funding sources (Paypal)
  3. Takeout Provider must be able to setup an instance in less than 2 minutes
  4. Takeout User must be able to find and place an order in less than 1 minute

These seemed to be good goals and benchmarks to actually increase productivity. We couldn't get all 30 minutes back from the person but we may be able to get an extra 20 minutes of productivity and only 10 minutes of loss during the working lunch. If we could get the user to actually be unproductive for 10-15 minutes instead of 30-45 and multiply that across the # of users taking advantage of the service, and your productivity increases exponentially. This is an incredibly simple model for measuring productivity, but for routine tasks (payroll, data entry, etc) it certainly proved to actually increase productivity.

The Release

Takeout Express 1.0.2 was released in April of 2005 on a DotNetNuke module merchant site called SnowCovered http://www.snowcovered.com. Had some mild success (sold about 25 copies) and after a year of no support issues and my own work becoming incredibly involved, the project was shut down and source code delivered to all clients.

Last edited Jan 2, 2008 at 1:56 AM by cege7480, version 4


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