Merlinia OutBack as an employee information system
OutBack is intended to keep track of a group of "users" (typically employees in an organization) and to maintain information about the present and expected future "user status" for each user. User status includes indications of whether the person is at work or not, whether he/she is available to take telephone calls, where exactly the person is and how best to get into contact with the person. This information can be invaluable for a company telephone receptionist, and can also be useful for all of the employees in the company.
Having up-to-date information about employee status improves general efficiency in an organization.
OutBack Windows client program
The Windows client program normally runs in the background, and does not take up any screen space.Here's what it looks like when the window is being displayed:
As can be seen, there is a ribbon menu at the top, and three panels. The largest panel shows a list of the "OutBack users" in the system along with basic information (name, email address, telephone number, etc.) and their current "user status". A second panel contains a user selection tree that allows the selection of various groups of employees to be shown in the large grid. Finally, the third panel at the bottom displays selected information about one employee, when a single employee has been selected in the large grid, including display of the employee's picture, if available.
Where does "user status" come from?
The "user status" information about users is determined from many sources. The users themselves provide direct information simply by logging into the system and by manually specifying their current status, for example via the "OutBack hot key" on the keyboard. Microsoft Outlook calendar appointments are another major source of status information, via the Exchange Connector module. The organization can also provide standard timetables which provide default background status information, for example working hours and lunch times, as well as holidays.
In addition to the Windows client there is also an OutBack for Android app, and its users can set their status from their smartphone, and can query the status of other users.
User status "templates"
OutBack's user status system can be configured via "templates". This makes it easy to customize the user status facility for each user or group of users, so it's easy to set status, for example using the popup menu from the task bar.
This makes it possible to set user status without having to open the OutBack window.
Setting user status via the "OutBack key"
Another way in which OutBack makes it easy for users to manually set their status is via the "OutBack key", a key on the keyboard that can be configured as a hot key that is always active, even when OutBack is running in the background. The key typically used for this purpose is the Pause / Break key, which is not normally used for anything by Windows applications. You can even get decals from Merlinia to place on the key to remind users of its existence.
The advantage of this is that a user status system that is partially based on manual input from the users has to be very, very easy to use. Otherwise, the users, being lazy (i.e., normal human beings) will neglect to specify what they're doing, and if enough users consistently neglect to use the system then it becomes ineffective as a receptionist tool. (Of course, the user status based on Outlook calendar appointments will still be available.)