Monday, December 28, 2015

Triggers

Why are almost all software projects structured around the data schema as opposed to the user and environment? This always ends up with the software defining your business as opposed to the business defining the software.

I run a service business, a small shop. We service a variety of commercial and residential customers. Refrigeration, air conditioning, heat pumps, air systems, etc. We deal with a number of client accounts payable and asset management systems. We have a variety of regulatory stuff, maintain some inventory, and turn over lots of jobs, usually having 20 balls in the air at the same time.

I'm maybe 80% there, but the complexity is staggering. I'll tell you what frustrates me about the software that we use.

The more capable it is the more it tries to tell me how to run the business.
The less capable it is the more difficult to set up specific requirements such as sales taxes and the like.
Mobile is terrible. It doesn't get used for good reason. My phone for data entry has a tiny screen by the time the keyboard is up.
I don't want modules, that is database centric. I want processes.
There is about 1/4 of an employee's time worth of housekeeping.
I know where I am, what I want, what data I need, it doesn't.
It is easier to build clutter, duplicate jobs, customers, invoices than searching.

A long time ago when I started in this business we had a notebook by the phone. Every call got a note; who, what about. That was the core of the business process; everything started there either in a conversation or voice message. This was before cell phones were accessible.

Why does service business software not start with that basic function?

I know why. Three reasons. There is someone answering calls and dispatching. It is difficult. The authors don't understand the business.

My goal is to put together an event based business process package that is configurable, knows where I and my technicians are, knows where the customers are, can nag us to do the things that really need to be done, can be set up by a smart business operator to gather data at the moment in time when it is easy and likely to be done.

I get a call from a customer. In time I show up at their site, am there for an hour or more. I make a call to one of my suppliers. Then leave. Next morning freight shows up, and the software asks me which parts are for that customer and job.

When I leave that site and am not moving (not driving), the phone pops something up asking if that was a job. Yes. Equipment worked on can be selected. A description entered. You phoned a supplier, did you order parts? Yes. Done.

The phone rings, another customer. We have a job in progress. One of my techs is close by. We converse and schedule something. I need to order something. No, in addition to the job in progress.

Another call, this time a drop everything emergency. I get to the site, do the repair. My phone beeps, deadline for ordering is 3pm, you have something to order. It remembers, and the next morning when there is a minute what can be entered. Phones come builtin with bar code reading capabilities. Three of these, two of those, yes one of each for both jobs.

I don't want to see a map, i know where I am. The next day, everyone has a log where they were, who they talked to. An email from a vendor with a pdf, estimate for which job? Click. I research some repair manual. Click, attached to this customer. You were at this location and you took photos. Yes, equipment. No time right now to enter details, but housekeeping knows and someone can clean it up when they have time.

Housekeeping. This email has a phone number in it, one that shows up in the log. Is that about this job? Yes, a contact is born with email, phone etc. All tied to a job.

Something old? Throw it out, a job was created based on a call but there was one already.

This is my day. Chaotic, manic, demanding and tiring. The software i use makes it moreso. 5 email accounts, multiple devices, a list a mile long to do every morning.

Some days it is quiet. Here is a list of stuff to clean up. Oops a call, drop everything and go. No problem, it will remind me again. Or a bunch of data entry stuff can be sent to someone else.

I want a solution. I am writing it.

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