Happy New Year!
This is a great time of year for taking a fresh look at things, taking a step back, and thinking about how you can do things better in the coming year. Whilst you mull over those thoughts, here's an overview of how Software-Matters fared in 2010....…
We started the year with a variety of Access projects. We were kept very busy through the cold weather with a brand new client, a big re-vamp for an existing client and distributing and modifying another system amongst some client sister companies. The new company was Arjobex in Essex with a quality control system. The re-vamp was for Fairweathers' plant nursery production system and the distribution was for a patient case management system. Also, for the second year in a row, the VAT rate changed in January. Having already been through this a year earlier, our clients and their systems were well equipped to deal with the change.
We started building another new database this month, in this case to handle finances managed by a third party. A new client, Bloys Business Caterers, asked us to build a system to supplement an existing Access database that links into their Sage accounts. February also saw us tackle several jobs using Excel.
In March, alongside the on-going development projects we did a lot of work in our role of supporting systems. A couple of clients developed problems with their servers, networks or backups. At one company, one of their IT staff accidentally overwrote everybody's live files with a backup during a server move (ouch!). We helped to identify the root cause and then were able to reinstate their databases using their backups and our own file copies.
This month we were delighted to be contacted by a well-known clothing company that wishes to remain anonymous. They had a database that simply stored data. We designed and built a user-interface to make it more straightforward to enter the data – inventory tracking and insurance valuation information – and more straightforward to retrieve the relevant reports. We also started to work with RTJ Solutions, who needed an entire new Access database system to manage incoming servicing jobs and assign them to engineers. This included an auto-updating Status Screen in Excel to be displayed permanently on a large monitor at the front of the room so everyone can see the exactly what the state of play is.
May was a month of small changes. A new report here, an extra to do list there, a new piece of information to be stored somewhere else. We were contacted by several clients who hadn't commissioned any new work for a while with little tweaks and extras that they'd been saving up.
In June, James and Katherine both celebrated 3 years at Software-Matters. Appropriately, they both spent the month working
in their specialist areas. James spent a lot of time working on geographical and web-based systems. One large system we have developed with Savills combines maps and a database using a specialist web-based interface. Katherine's month was largely spent automating projects in Excel. One of these was for a charity supporting church schools and their annual census. For several years we have analysed the results and produced a series of reports for them to distribute among their members.
Software-Matters collaborates with several small, local businesses, in particular Anderson Dynamics. For some of our time over the summer we provided additional support for the clients of these businesses as our
associates took their summer holidays. We also had our own work to do, including a new system for DB Engineering to record, allocate and track job requests in their machine shop.
August was a big month for training. As your personnel change, it's important to make sure they're properly trained on your data systems. To this end we provide both on-site training and sessions here in our own office. Both of these options were taken up by clients in August. Philippa travelled to Salisbury and Wimborne, whilst staff from alkoomi visited us to be trained on their web-based business survey system. In addition we held a team-building session for ourselves. The 4 of us spent time discussing our personality traits and how this influences our methods of working (for a summary of our insights, see this article in Smatterings 8).
The autumn brought fresh new challenges with it. A new project for On Screen Productions involved taking data from an Access database, displaying it as graphs in Excel, and then presenting those graphs in PowerPoint. Following on from our team-building meeting, September saw the first of our monthly team meetings, introduced to formalise some of our in-house procedures and keep us all up to speed with the projects underway.
The Access and Excel combination came in handy again in October, with a new project to visually track sales data from Sage and EPOS (electronic point of sale). Earlier in the year we were really pleased that Clipper - the tea people - had found us via Google, and this is when work on their project started in earnest. An existing client approached us to design a new farm/estate management system for him, which was to include the ability to schedule tasks and produce a diary for his employees.
One of our clients has a number of particularly large database systems to cover different aspects of their work. This month we seemed to be making significant changes to all of them! We incorporated additional features, produced new reports, and in one case restructured much of the existing data.
Luckily undaunted by the snow, we worked with a new addition to the team – a snowman made by Philippa's children stood outside the window. Inside it was business as usual however. The paperless office is becoming more and more possible as technology improves, and in December JB Marine wanted to update their database system to help them achieve this. The most crucial aspect of this is file and folder management – it's no use having everything on your computer if you then can't find the files you need. The changes to the database will create and move folders as necessary, file documents in them automatically, and provide a quick and easy way to find the right folder for a customer.
And that, in a nutshell, was 2010 at Software-Matters! It was our busiest year to date – here's hoping that continues into 2011.
So, how will 2011 be for you? Do you have some new ideas you want to implement? Are you planning to do things better? If you are, we'd be delighted to help. To kick start your year, check out this issue's offer for a great deal!