Behind the scenes of GS: cross-platform

The year was 1989: the dawn of administrative computing. In a laboratory filled to the rafters with paperwork, CERN's then Director-General Carlo Rubbia saw an opportunity for a complete administrative overhaul. He established the Advanced Information Systems (AIS) project to analyse CERN's administration, which in turn suggested the Electronic Document Handling (EDH) system. By 1992, EDH was up and running - the start of a new chapter in CERN history.


If you think you've never come accross EDH, think again. The system is an integral part of CERN life, handling everything from the purchase of materials to leave requests. EDH sees you through your entire CERN life: from your first CERN job application to your final retirement checklist.

One platform, sixty-five functions
What makes EDH so special is its solitary nature: it is one platform that carries out dozens of varied functions. "Most companies organise their administration in 'vertical' applications," says Derek Mathieson, head of the GS-AIS Group. "They will have separate systems for leave, for purchasing, for contracts - and none of the systems talk to each other." EDH, on the other hand, brings all of CERN's administrative rules together onto a single platform. By combining these different types of data, the system can work a lot more efficiently.

"We had the advantage of starting very early, building horizontally from the ground up and adding to the same system as we developed," explains Mathieson. EDH started off its life as a purchasing system, which later began to incorporate more complex documents. Once leave was added, the EDH team found they could leverage the different types of information gathered in order to make EDH the cross-platform system it is today.

Whatever task you need handled, EDH is there to make sure all the right steps are taken. "EDH knows every administrative rule and regulation," says Rostislav Titov, Section leader of the GS-AIS-EB section and EDH Project leader. "So when you submit a request, it will ensure you provide the right information and receive the correct approvals and will even generate complex administrative documents, such as letters to job candidates with details of travel and subsistence reimbursement."

The GS-AIS-EDH team.

Times, they are a-changin'
Like any IT system, EDH is in a constant state of change - but it's not the only one. A new, younger generation is shifting CERN's demographics, bringing with them higher expectations. "There are more Millennials at CERN than any other age group," says Mathieson. "This is a generation that has come to expect systems like EDH and, for them, EDH is simply the minimum requirement. As our users develop, we need to keep pace."

The GS-AIS group is currently working on expanding its systems' accessibility on mobile devices and tablets. Soon, potential employees will be able to apply for a CERN position from a bus stop, and managers will approve leave requests from a meeting. "It's the future of accessibility," concludes Titov. "So while EDH can be used on these devices today, we plan to make the experience even better."

by Katarina Anthony