Reengineering course management processes at sunrise

01. July 2003

In conjunction with PARX AG, sunrise developed a browser-based course management application with the aim of managing further education courses more efficiently. Development of the application required standardisation processes. This case study documents the procedure in this process reengineering project.

1. sunrise

sunrise is the second largest telecommunications provider in Switzerland. At the beginning of 2001, diAx and sunrise were merged under the brand name of sunrise with TDC Switzerland AG.

The target groups of sunrise are private and business customers to which the company offers telecommunications services in two business segments:

  • Mobile communications: sunrise serves 1.17 million mobile communications customers. Net turnover amounted in 2002 to 903 million Swiss francs, an increase of 85 million over 2001. Growth in turnover is due to an increase in the number of customers and a higher volume of communications.
  • Fixed line networks and the internet: sunrise holds a 20% share in the fixed line network market and serves 852,000 private customers with whom the company generated a turnover of 744 million Swiss francs. The net turnover from internet services, which include dial-up connections and ADSL, amounted in 2002 to CHF 117 million. 518,000 customers have dial-up connections, while 31,000 have an ADSL connection.

Net turnover of TDC Switzerland AG amounted in 2002 to 1.764 billion Swiss francs.

“In order to tap the full potential of the system development,
our initial task was to analyse and standardise the course management process. ”
(André Ryf, Head of New Media, sunrise)

In Switzerland sunrise employs 2,500 employees from 60 countries. Continuous staff development is part of the company’s philosophy and is supported by a wide range of available courses. At the beginning of each year further training objectives are agreed upon by superiors with their employees.

In conjunction with PARX AG, sunrise developed a browser-based course management application with the aim of managing further education courses more efficiently. Development of the application required a standardising of processes. This case study serves to document the procedure of this process reengineering project:

  • Step 1: Analyse process
  • Step 2: Define objectives
  • Step 3: Establish project organisation
  • Step 4: Reengineer and automate processes
  • Step 5: Review achievement of objectives

2. Analyse process

There are a wide range of sunrise-specific course on offer: besides IT, sales and product training courses, there are numerous training seminars on subjects such as personality development, management and social skills, project management and office applications. Some of the courses are led by external lecturers.

HR implements the course management process. One person is responsible for advertising the course and administering registrations. Course management affects as intersecting function all sunrise employees. The company holds 205 courses a year; an employee attends on average 1.5 courses a year. This adds up to a total of some 3,700 course registrations – the administrative workload is accordingly heavy.

Weak points in the process also contributed to the decision to develop a course management application:

  • Course administrator - The course administrator has to manage 3,700 registrations with dozens of Excel spreadsheets, which takes up nearly all her working day.
  • Expertise – Only the course administrator is expert in administering the courses in the Excel spreadsheets. If she is absent, course administration comes to a halt.
  • Approval process - The employees have to transfer course details to a form, print out the form and submit it to their superior for signature. Only then can they hand it in to the course administrator.
  • Unexcused absences - Unexcused absences mean that the courses are not fully utilised when held, although there were still employees on the waiting list.
  • Reporting - Staff development data can only be evaluated with a great deal of effort and difficulty. It takes the course administrator an entire working week to collate employees’ course attendances for personnel interviews. The HR department bears the entire cost of courses. Evaluation of the cost of courses by department is not really possible under the present system.

3. Define objectives

Analysis of the process revealed the weak points listed above, from which André Ryf derived the objectives for the new course management application, as follows:

  • Course administrator – The course administrator is provided with a course management tool and as a result has freed-up capacity to take on other tasks.
  • Expertise – The process has to be simple and comprehensible so that courses can be administered even when the course administrator is absent.
  • Approval process – The approval process is automated, thus time savings can be realised by both superiors and employees.
  • Unexcused absences – Tighter control on unexcused absences from a course should induce employees to cancel if necessary thereby raising awareness of the value and of the cost of training.
  • Reporting – Detailed reporting should enable data to be evaluated for the HR department and management. This would also allow course costs to be passed on to the departments.

4. Establish project organisation

As André Ryf was tied up with other projects, Silvio Galfetti, an external consultant, took on the task of project management. In conjunction with the HR department he formulated the specialist requirements and wrote with PARX AG specifications for the course application based on these.

Beat Käch was the technical lead on the project. With his team of developers he coordinated its technical realisation.

André Ryf was in charge of monitoring and quality assurance.

The costs of the project were shared between the New Media and HR departments. Normally at sunrise the internal contractor bears the external costs of the application. Given that all employees stood to benefit from course management, however, the department of New Media assumed part of the cost.

5. Process reengineering and automation

Define roles:
First Silvio Galfetti defined the affected roles and their access rights:

  • Employees – Employees can access the course offering and select and register for courses.
  • Managers – Managers can access the list of available courses and select and register for courses. In addition s/he can see the courses for which employees have registered, which she can either approve or reject.
  • Course administration – The course administrator enters the courses into the system. She administers course registrations which she receives from managers and plans the running of the courses. She can send e-mails to course participants and can see the course history of every employee. She is also entitled to take the final decision on a course registration.
  • Course leaders/third parties – Internal and external course leaders receive the list of participants and report any unexcused absences.

Standardise and automate processes:

The project team standardised the following main processes for course management: course advertisement, registration process and course administration. To this end, Silvio Galfetti looked at the existing processes and discussed enhancement potential with the course administrator. It was difficult to standardise processes because a great many exceptions and dependencies had to be accommodated. PARX AG mapped the standardised processes in an IT solution in order to automate them, as follows:

1. Advertisement of courses:
The course administrator publishes all course details in the intranet. She can enter a new course or edit an existing one. A content management system with a standardised data input form lets her do this.

2. Registration process:
The registration process involves in chronological order the employee, his/her manager and the course administrator. (cf. figure 1):

The employee can access all advertised courses on the course portal. S/he selects a course, justifies the request and registers for the course. Employee data originates from SAP.

Before the process is initiated, a thorough feasibility check is run reaturing automatic checks whether, for example, the employee is already booked on another course during the course duration or whether s/he has already attended that course.

If there is no overlap of booked courses, the manager receives an e-mail confirming that the employee has been booked on the course. The manager can either approve the registration or reject it on his/her personalised course portal. The decision is immediately reported to the employee by e-mail.

Figure 1: registration process
Figure 1: registration process

The registration is forwarded simultaneously to the course administrator once the manager approves it.

Should the employee cancel the booking during the registration phase s/he will automatically be removed from the list of course participants.

3. Course administration
The course administrator checks the registrations once again. She uses standard e-mails with which to notify employees and managers. Certain e-mails are triggered automatically, while in the case of others the system suggests a text and the message is sent out manually. As a result, the text can be added to or altered according to the particular situation.

In order to monitor course management, there are a number of different automatic warning mechanisms. The course administrator is reminded, for example, one week before a course is due to start, so that participants on the waiting list can be informed about free places.

6. Review achievement of objectives

Standardisation and support with the aid of IT enabled all the weak points in the process to be eliminated:

  • Course administrator – The course administrator now spends only 50% of her working hours on course administration.
  • Expertise – The process is easily understood; as a result, course administration can continue even in the absence of the course administrator. The warning mechanisms indicate any critical activities.
  • Approval process – The approval process is automated. The registration is sent on automatically from the employee to the manager and subsequently to the course administrator .
  • Unexcused absences – The superior ins informed of any unexcused absences. As a result, the employees cancel in good time.
  • Reporting – Various evaluation facilities are available putting HR in a better position to plan the range of courses and monitor their take-up.


“Within a short time PARX AG has succeeded in optimally realising complex specialist requirements and workflows in the system development.”
(André Ryf, Head of New Media, sunrise)


7. Process reengineering pays off

Investments in process standardisation and in the IT solution has reduced costs. The intranet infrastructure has been influenced as a result, leading both to cost advantages as well as disadvantages with regard to costs incurred in maintenance, running and IT staff costs.

Overall, thanks to rationalisation and automation, overheads are small in comparison to the cost savings.

The application’s economics is established by the following benefit categories:

1. Reduction of process costs:
Time savings were realised in all three main processes. All those involved benefit from this:

Fifteen minutes per registration have been saved: employees save 5 minutes when booking a course, managers save 5 minutes when issuing an approval and the course administrator saves 5 minutes in checking. The greatest time savings were made in the case of the course administrator: course management now only takes up 50% of her working hours. As a result, she has more free capacity for other tasks which she can pursue with motivation.

2. Reduction of training costs:
The following measures led to fewer unexcused absences; as a result, the courses are better utilised. Employees cancel in good time, so that somebody on the waiting list can obtain a place on the course.

  • In the case of unexcused absence the course administrator sends an e-mail to the employee concerned with a copy to the appropriate manager, in which she requests an explanation for the employee’s absence.
  • If a course participant is absent again without due explanation, the costs of the course are charged on to the department.

3. Enhanced process reliability through standardisation:
Susceptibility to error can be reduced through standardisation.

8. Challenges

One of the next objectives is to support managers in reaching decisions:

  • Once managers have an overview of the courses attended in the past, they are in a better position to take a decision on course registrations for their employees.
  • Management of absences is linked to course registration. Thus the superior is able to see, before s/he approves the registration, whether other employees are already due to take leave during the period when the course is running.

9. Conclusion

In many cases, the maximum potential of an IT system can only be realised when business processes are redesigned. sunrise confirms this. The key is to optimise task distribution and task sequencing and to support the new IT process. This means that the organisation and the functions within it have to be adapted. It is thus important that those affected are involved in the business reengineering project. To this end, sunrise evaluated the specialist personnel requirements to deduce the objectives of the new process. The company can only become more efficient and gain competitive advantages If all technological, organisational and personnel measures are optimised in common.

Owner/s of the solution

André Ryf, Head of New Media
Industry: IT & Communication, cellular and fixed-line networks, internet, data communications
Company size: large-scale enterprisesunrise

Solution partner/s

Andreas von Gunten, CEO

Case study author/s

Pascal Sieber, Nicole Scheidegger
Sieber & Partners
Gerrit Taaks
Unic AG

01. July 2003
Scheidegger; N.; Sieber; P.: Organising E-Business III; Verlag Paul Haupt; Berne; Stuttgart; Vienna 2003.

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