Why Custom Software?

 

Most companies depend on software to run both critical and non-critical components of their business. Despite the numerous and diverse commercial applications available on the market today, many have found that these applications do not fully address their needs: The package may only partially solve the business need, while concentrating on requirements that do not exist; Reporting may be inflexible or unnecessarily complex; Cost may be prohibitive due to excessive features, or it may be within budget but not contain the features desired; Finally, there simply may not be an application available that can even remotely fill the void.

 

The Common Thread

Let’s assume you have fruitlessly searched for a commercial application. The next step, of course, is to create one in house if you have the resources and expertise. The alternative is to hire an experienced software developer to do it for you. You may fret over finding someone who is familiar with your industry, and who has enough experience to understand what it is you do and where you want to go without wasting a lot of time.

Sounds tedious? It doesn’t have to be. No matter what business you are in, identification and expression of your "problem" is the first step toward solving that problem. Vibrance has been able to create solutions for clients that vary dramatically in size and industry because business needs have fundamental commonalities. This common thread is the foundation of most business problems: How to most efficiently and cost effectively meet customer demand.

 

Real Life Problem/Solution Scenario’s

Listed below are some of the real-life problem scenarios that Vibrance has been asked to help with. Many of these concerns may be similar to yours.

You will see the "common thread" throughout each scenario. Each client needed to control costs, increase accuracy and productivity, and reduce the time it takes to accomplish a particular task. You will also note that most solutions contain common elements that can easily be transferred across multiple industries. For instance, tracking systems are most often associated with discrete environments, yet can be used to manage processes common in telemarketing or financial industries.

 

Industry independent solutions

  • Order Entry / Inventory Tracking / Inventory Control
  • Flexible & Non-traditional Quotation Systems / Job Costing Systems
  • Tracking systems & reporting for management of non-discrete processes
  • Administration automation - reduction of manual calculations and data entry

 

Problem/Solution Scenarios

1. Order/Inventory/Price List Program
2. Telemarketing System
3. Construction Industry – EZ-MURK Construction Management System
4. Time Management - Time Sheets
5. Time Management - Time Keeper
6. Document Extraction
7. Order Entry System

 


Problem/Solution Scenarios

 

1. Order/Inventory/Price List Program

  • Problem

Company X was a start-up in search of a highly flexible order entry system that could also track inventory as received from suppliers and ordered by customers. Despite the numerous commercial order entry and inventory control applications available, company X could not find one that offered flexible discount structures based on customer discount levels and product categories. Company X wanted price lists be generated based on those same discount structures, so that each price list differed from customer to customer. These price lists, which could vary from day to day, needed to be delivered to the customer with little to no hassle, with "hot" - or frequently purchased - items, highlighted in some manner. Finally, Company X wanted customer history reporting to be flexible and reflect discount structures.

  • Requirements
  • Manage order entry.
  • Track inventory.
  • Print unique price lists for each customer, based on his or her pricing schedule.
  • Ability to automatically fax price lists on a weekly or nightly basis.
  • Solution

Vibrance developed an Order Entry/Inventory control application that allowed for flexible discounting on both product and customer levels. The application can generate and print unique price lists for each customer, marking the "hot" items in red. Lastly, the application can fax price lists individually or en-masse, at any time throughout the day. Customer histories’ reporting includes order histories, discount structures, monthly sales, and discount levels for product categories.

2. Telemarketing System

  • Problem

Company X, (the start-up listed above), needed a simple, straightforward telemarketing tool that would allow reps to view their clients current product pricing and order histories on screen. Company X also wanted reps to keep tickler files that were viewable by management for QC purposes. The telemarketing package, Gold Mine, was considered, but they found that it to be too complex and feature heavy for their needs.

  • Requirements
  • Simple/Easy to use
  • Display customer information and order history
  • Electronic tickler file for daily reminders
  • Allow management to review tickler items
  • Solution

Vibrance expanded the Order/Inventory/Price List program to incorporate the desired telemarketing features. The user interface for the new system was completely overhauled so that the tickler and customer information screens were always in focus. The new telemarketing functions facilitate quick information gathering of customer information. Management can print a daily activity report, viewing the tickler items for all sales reps on a given day.

3. Construction Industry – EZ-MURK™ Construction Management System

  • Background

All public construction projects are managed by a state or local DOT agency.

  • Contractors are required to document all labor, material and equipment costs in order to get paid for a job. 

  • Each year the rates for labor and equipment change.

  • Labor rates are governed by union contracts and include such things as overtime pay, workman’s compensation rates and fringe benefits.

  • Equipment rates also change each year, reflecting changes in operating costs. Furthermore, the equipment cost is depreciated.

  • In both cases, the history of these changes must be maintained during the duration of the job.

  • On large jobs ($1 – $10+ million) the amount of paper work can be staggering. The bottom-line cost of the job must be periodically provided to the DOT, taking into account the all the changing rates.  These large jobs can generate final cost reports exceeding 500 pages. These reports are comprised of standardized, required forms and include daily and weekly summaries for labor, daily summaries for equipment and materials, Project-to-date equipment summaries and grand total summaries that also handle calculations involving markup, subcontractor rates and insurance costs. 

  • To receive payment during the job, the contractor submits summary cost reports to the DOT. Errors in data or in cost/rates can result in payment delays of many months. DOT consultant will often “bounce back” submissions that are off by $0.01, even in the case of multi-million dollar jobs.

  • Problem

The industry has been "under-computerized’, thus projects are typically documented and tracked on paper, calculations are performed on adding machines, and results are manually transferred via pen and pencil to a notebook-ledger. Furthermore, forms have to be filled in manually - either hand written or typed. Some companies were tracking information using technology, but were ultimately manually transferring data to forms for submission. No matter the size of the job, the amount of detail required to maintain, track and manage is enormous, and the chance of error increases significantly without automation.

  • Requirements
  • Reduce the manual labor required in this process
  • Reduce the amount of time to prepare cost reports
  • Eliminate the need to calculate costs by hand
  • Increase accuracy of reporting
  • Expedite the process of "getting paid"
  • Manage each construction job in an electronic format that can be easily distributed within the company and to the DOT auditors and consultants
  • Produce reports and forms that are acceptable to the DOT and that are standard throughout the industry
  • Provide tools to summarize total contractor costs over many jobs
  • Solution

In conjunction with another consulting organization, Vibrance created a commercially available program called EZ-MURK. EZ-MURK reduces the arduous task of costing a job to mere data entry. Labor and equipment rate information is entered on a yearly basis and daily work is entered by office or field staff. The program verifies that rates exist for a particular labor class or piece of equipment and that it is valid for the date of work (the rate hasn’t expired). EZ-MURK handles all calculations and prints completed DOT forms on demand, saving hours of manual data entry and decreasing risk of error.

4. Time Management - Time Sheets

  • Problem

A Worcester area manufacturer pays its workers mainly by piecework. The owners of the company have done some extensive searching and have not found a commercial package that will fulfill their needs.

  • Requirements
  • Track employees by piecework.
  • Track employee time when machines are being repaired - downtime.
  • Track time-off: sick days, vacation, etc.
  • Print payroll summary reports each week.
  • Simple. Easy to use.
  • Solution

Vibrance develops a program that tracks each employee by the number of pieces produced and by the amount of downtime (in minutes). It also tracks time-off, such as sick time or vacation. One key to the Time Sheets program was to make data entry very easy, as the manager would be entering 20-30 employees per day.

  • Problem

Many professionals work on a project basis, sometimes shuffling between projects during the day. Projects can take different forms for different professions. Lawyer or accountants, for example, may consider a "project" to be a "client", whereas an architect may consider a "project" a "job." In each of these cases, similar activities, or tasks, tend to occur for each project, for example, meetings, phone calls, research, etc. A way to track the amount of time spent in each task within a project would be desirable.

Another beneficial feature would be the ability to define project and billing milestones. For example, when an architect submits their first round of drawing to the client, a milestone could be entered to denote the hours worked on that project. Billing milestones, similar to project milestones, would denote when invoices were sent and for how many hours.

  • Requirements
  • Track time by project and activity.
  • Report time by project and activity, or for a particular activity in all projects.
  • Track project and billing milestones.
  • Print project milestone summaries, showing the amount of time logged during a milestone period.
  • Print billing milestone summaries, showing unbilled hours or profit/loss figures.
  • Solution

Time Keeper was developed by Vibrance as a commercial package to meet these requirements. Users can define projects and activities and then log time against them. Summary reports show the amount of time spend in each activity, under a given project. There is also a report that summarizes activities for all projects, for example, how much time did I spend in meetings for projects X, Y and Z. The milestone capabilities allow the bracketing of project hours so that major events in the life of a project can be recorded.

6. Document Extraction

  • Problem

This consulting company uses a standard document template to facilitate the interviewing of survey participants. Typical rounds of interviews can involve 50 or so participants. At the end of the survey, various sections from the interviews are compiled (manual cut-and-paste) into separate documents to summarize responses to a particular survey question.

  • Requirements

Eliminate the labor-intensive and error-prone cut-and-paste operation.

  • Solution

Vibrance created VerbatimSorter™, a program that analyzes a formatted survey document (in Microsoft Word) and extracts specific sections, creating a new document with only those sections. Ease of use was a key feature, as well as the formatting of the extracted sections.

7. Order Entry System

  • Problem

This retail company had, in place, a custom order entry system. The system did not perform as expected and their current vendor was not able to resolve their problems.

  • Requirements
  • Order entry system that allowed for quick order taking over the phone.
  • Print labels, work orders and invoices.
  • Maintain customer information, including credit card numbers and last order date.
  • Interface with Quick Books.
  • Solution

Vibrance developed an order entry system that met their unique needs. The interface with Quick Books would allow orders to be exported from the order system into Quick Books for billing and accounting purposes.

 

 

 

 

 

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