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Questek Systems Inc.

"Moving from Paradox to Advantage was extremely easy. It only took us about a day to change the forms and another day to troubleshoot everything. So within two days we had moved to Advantage."

T. J. Sullivan
Chief Technical Officer
Questek Systems Inc.

Questek Systems Inc. is the developer of Humanis Staffing Software, which is used by hundreds of staffing companies in the United States and Canada to serve their clients and applicants more effectively and run their businesses more efficiently.

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Propelling Company Growth
The staffing business is nothing if not detail intensive. Companies, both large and small, must maintain a broad range of information about their clients and job applicants. A small staffing company might have information on as many as 2,000 clients and 10,000 applicants. A large staffing company might have information on as many as 10,000 to 20,000 clients and 100,000 applicants.

To be successful, staffing companies must understand their clients' businesses and staffing requirements. They must maintain up-to-date contact information as well as current and historical placement, billing and industry-specific qualification information. At the same time, staffing companies need to keep track of their applicants, including contact information, education, qualifications, certifications, work permits, previous employment and payroll data.

"Essentially," says T. J. Sullivan, chief technical officer for Questek Systems, Inc., "the staffing business is a bit like a dating service for companies and potential employees. Staffing company consultants need to gather and maintain the type of information on clients that enables them to build productive, ongoing relationships with those clients. At the same time, they must be able to quickly find applicants who meet specific criteria when clients are looking to fill positions either on a temporary or direct hire basis."

In the past, the staffing business was largely paper-based, with information maintained in paper forms stored in banks of file cabinets. The front-end of the businesses – matching qualified applicants to client orders – involved staffing consultants manually searching through the numerous paper forms in their applicant files. This was a tedious, time-consuming process – a process just begging to be automated. The staffing companies also managed their back-office functions manually, or perhaps used a rudimentary accounting system to handle client billing and applicant payroll.

Questek Systems, Inc. was one of the first software companies to see the need for IT automation of these front-end and back-end processes and to develop a complete and affordable solution to help staffing companies become more effective and efficient. Thanks to its incorporation of the Advantage Database Server into its solution, Questek has become one of the leading providers of staffing software.

Meeting Client Demand
Questek's Humanis Staffing Software was originally developed as a DOS application designed to run on individual PCs. With the introduction of Windows, Questek rewrote the application in Delphi, using Paradox as the application database. This allowed Questek to meet client demand for a Windows-based system, but it proved to be an imperfect solution.

"One big problem," recalls Sullivan, "was opportunistic locking. It corrupted indexes and in some cases, data. Beyond that, a lot of configuration was involved in order to get the Borland Database Engine (BDE) to work properly. There were something like 20 steps just to do an install of the BDE and if you missed any of these steps it would cause all manner of problems. So, we were having lots of problems with data integrity and the system required a great deal of post-installation support."

Moving to Advantage: "A Great Change for Us to Make"
Right around that time, Sullivan was introduced to the Advantage Database Server, which proved to be a critical turning point in the evolution of Humanis. Porting Humanis from Paradox to Advantage enabled Questek to eliminate the problems it was having with Paradox. At the same time, it allowed the company to offer a client-server version of its solution.

"Moving from Paradox to Advantage was extremely easy," says Sullivan. "It was a matter of opening up all of our forms, changing TTables to TAdsTables and then making some minor tweaks on each one. At the time we had about 100 forms. It only took us about a day to change the forms and another day to troubleshoot everything. So within two days we had moved to Advantage."

From there it was a matter of converting the company's Windows customers to Advantage, which also went very quickly. The positive impact of the move became apparent almost immediately.

"It was a great change for us to make," says Sullivan. "The application became much more robust, the installs were very easy and support calls dropped dramatically. It was a great move forward for us."

Questek did evaluate other options before moving to Advantage. These included Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle, but both of those options would have required Questek to make other changes to Humanis. Advantage, on the other hand, did not require Questek to make changes to the application. And because of Advantage's minimal server requirement, it made moving to a client-server deployment very affordable.

Humanis Staffing Software Hits the Mark for Mark Staffing Solutions
Mark Staffing Solutions in Calgary, Alberta, Canada provides an example of why Questek has been so successful.

The staffing company, which currently has 6,000 clients and 30,000 applicants, specializes in secretarial, clerical and commercial staffing for oil and gas, communications, manufacturing and education organizations in the Calgary area. The company was founded in 1990 and began operating with no IT systems. Although it soon installed an accounting system, the lack of a staffing software system meant its highly educated staffing consultants were bogged down in mundane activities such as data entry for clients and applicants.

"We wanted our consultants to be spending their time building ongoing productive partnerships with clients and applicants - not doing data entry," says Paul Hughes, vice president and co-founder of Mark Staffing Solutions. "In order to be successful in this business, you have to have a unique and deep understanding of clients' businesses and personnel needs and of applicants abilities. So shortly after implementing our accounting system, we began looking for a solution that was designed specifically for the staffing business."

Mark Staffing found its solution in the Humanis system.

"Most of the systems we investigated weren't fully integrated," Hughes continues. "In particular, they did not have a back-end functionality that was specific to Canadian requirements. Humanis did. The system has allowed us to streamline our processes and to enable our consultants to do what they do best, which is building personal relationships with clients and applicants. We used to be totally paper-based. At one point, we had so many file cabinets containing all of these paper forms and files, they blocked out all of the windows in our consulting area. Now we have a totally digital solution that has eliminated the manual work, even allowing our applicants to enter their information directly into our system either over the Internet or on PCs in our offices. Humanis has also allowed us to remain lean and mean. We have one person who does all of our back office work, something that would require a large staff without Humanis."

As far as the technology that powers Humanis, the employees at Mark Staffing are not even aware of it. "The system just runs and provides us with the accurate information we need to serve our clients and applicants as well as to plan, track and evaluate our progress," adds Hughes.

Making a Difference
"Embedding Advantage into our Humanis Staffing Solution has taken us up to the next level," says Sullivan. "We used to be one of about 45 companies offering staffing software. Now we're one of the top five. Being able to embed Advantage in Humanis made a huge difference. With an embedded database, you can install it and forget about it. Our clients don't even know Advantage is there most of the time and they don't need a DBA or IT staff to manage it. It just does its work in the background, and that is probably the biggest selling point for us."

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