November 24, 2017

QuickBase Dashboards

Here’s a post from the QuickBase blog that talks about the value of custom dashboards in QuickBase:

http://quickbase.intuit.com/blog/2011/02/03/maximize-your-teams-utility-of-quickbase-dashboards/

The Elevator Pitch

In today’s world, almost anyone involved in business needs to have an “elevator pitch”—to be able to clearly and concisely describe what they do and the value they provide. This is particularly true for persons with “outward” facing roles, but even those with internal roles should be able to effectively articulate what they do—if for no other reason than to be able to answer questions from friends and family!

I recently came across a great article on how to craft an effective elevator pitch. It’s published by George Devitt of the Polaris Group, and you can find it here:

http://www.polarisadvisorygroup.com/documents/The_Elevator_Pitch.pdf

I found it very valuable—I immediately sat down and rewrote my own “pitch” using some of the guidance in the article. I hope you find it valuable too!

Lean Manufacturing and QuickBase

I visited a local a manufacturing company this morning. It’s a very interesting company—they make simulation software for various governmental agencies. As I was listening to their COO present a summary of their operations and then later as we toured the facility, it struck me how consistent the use of QuickBase is with a lot of the things they do to manage their work flow and their business. They emphasize:

Agile Software Development

According to Wikipedia, “Agile software development is a group of software development methodologies based on iterative and incremental development, where requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing, cross-functional teams.”

Key principles include:

  • a focus on customer satisfaction through the rapid delivery of useful software
  • close cooperation and communication between developers and businesspeople
  • frequent delivery of software (days or weeks rather than months or years)
  • welcoming changing requirements, even late in development
  • a focus on simplicity

That sounds exactly like the typical development process for one of our QuickBase applications!

Quick Strike Approach

The COO made a point that that they believe it much better to deliver a “good” tool rapidly to 80% of the target audience than an “amazing” tool to 10% of the target audience a year later.

Again—very consistent with our typical development process (and philosophy) for a QuickBase application. The typical QuickBase application is not “perfect” (it doesn’t have every bell and whistle in the world) but it dramatically improves the business process that it relates to. And the development process is short (and the cost low), so the benefits are realized quickly.

Visual Management

On the facility floor, there were color coded charts and bulletin boards everywhere. The company seeks to use “visual management” where a manager can rapidly assess the state of work by quickly glancing at a board (that hopefully is filled with green).

QuickBase’s ability to color-code dashboards and reports means that a user can quickly identify important items that need attention. (If you were looking at the report to the right, what would you focus on?)

* * * *

The company I visited has been highly successful because they focus on rapidly delivering high-value software. We do the same thing (albeit with business software, not simulations!). If you would like to hear more about how we can help you manage growth and improve your key business processes, please give us a call.

Database.com versus QuickBase

Interesting article here on the announced Database.com platform from Salesforce.com.  The author’s conclusion:

Making databases more accessible to programmers who already know how to use databases is nice and all, but how about making databases more accessible to business users? Why not let non-programmers build web apps without writing code? To do this, Database.com would have to include things that Salesforce.com discloses explicitly are not part of the platform: page layout tools, reports, dashboards, and so on. These can be built with Force.com, but using Force.com requires programming knowledge.

It seems to me the more innovative cloud DB players are the companies providing a cloud database with a complete, integrated app development platform that requires no coding, only point-and-click configuration. These platforms, like TrackVia (the author’s company) or Intuit’s QuickBase, are doing more to change how cloud apps get built than the better-known DaaS vendors are.

In summary, Database.com promises a few interesting features, but it’s hard to see why it’s a better platform than existing offerings. It’s certainly not going to put Oracle out of business. The best part may be the domain name.

New Year’s Resolutions on What to STOP Doing

Here’s a great article by Jim Collins on how to increase your productivity by figuring out what to stop doing.

http://www.jimcollins.com/article_topics/articles/pulling-the-plug.html

Very consistent with Steven Covey’s treatment of “Quadrant 4″ items.

PixelOptics Intros World’s First Electronic, Self-Focusing Glasses | News & Opinion | PCMag.com

All of us who need reading glasses know this would help our productivity:

PixelOptics Intros World’s First Electronic, Self-Focusing Glasses | News & Opinion | PCMag.com.

“Ad Hoc Apps”

Here’s a great post from the QuickBase Blog – The “Invisible” ROI of Ad Hoc Apps:

http://quickbase.intuit.com/blog/2010/12/22/the-%e2%80%9cinvisible%e2%80%9d-roi-of-ad-hoc-apps/

Thanks to David McCormick of Intuit!

Featured Application: Office Supplies Order Approvals

We recently developed an office supplies request system for a client. The unique thing about this application is that it does not require the person requesting supplies to be a QuickBase user. Only approvers and supply coordinators are QuickBase users. A web form that can be placed onto any web page—on the company intranet, for example—is used to submit orders. Orders then are emailed to a supplies coordinator, who costs out the requested supplies. The order—including estimated cost—then is emailed to an approver (or approvers, depending on the total estimated cost). If the request is denied, an email goes back to the original requester with comments from the approver. If it is approved, the request then is routed back to the supplies coordinator for ordering. Once the order is placed, the original requester is emailed with the estimated delivery date.

Budget reports with the dollar amount of previously approved orders help managers adhere to their supplies budgets.

Our client expects to save thousands of dollars each month (more than paying for the cost of QuickBase with the savings from this application alone). Are you spending more on supplies than you should? Let us help you fix that.

Weekly Team Reporting

Effective communication is vital to the success of a growing business. One critical need is to keep team members informed about what’s going on in other areas of the organization. Doing so keeps everyone engaged and on the same page—not doing so can create a “silo” effect that results in people and departments feeling isolated and can affect morale and productivity. In my experience, the most effective way to keep everyone up to date on the activities of other departments is a combination of weekly departmental staff meetings and a weekly report. The weekly report consists of two parts: (1) a series of bulleted items, grouped by department, that include activities, milestones, and issues/problems, and (2) key performance metrics, again grouped by department, showing the current week, the prior week, and four weeks ago.

We recently developed QuickBase templates for several clients that implement this methodology, with outstanding results. Contributors are automatically reminded each Friday via email if they have not submitted bullets and metrics for the current week, a “review copy” of the report is automatically emailed to senior management each Monday, and the final report is automatically emailed to the entire team each Tuesday.  There is minimal administrative effort involved in producing the report, and the team stays up to date on activities and metrics. If necessary, reports can be automatically filtered for specific departments or distribution lists.

Is your company doing a good job of fostering effective team communication?  Would an automated reporting process help? Please call us if you would like more information about this tool.

“Smart” Project Management

Almost any business needs to manage projects and action steps. This may be a constant activity (e.g., a consulting company, a caterer, etc.) or it can be periodic (e.g., a trade show). Most companies have at least a rudimentary system or tool for managing projects. The question is—is your tool “smart?”

One of the keys to effectively managing projects is to focus on the things that are important versus routine. And your project management tool should have the “smarts” to help you with this. If you are using a system that does not proactively remind you about exceptions (overdue tasks, upcoming deadlines, etc.)—that’s not a smart tool.

Another key to effective project management is effective communication. Your tool should automatically communicate via email with other members of your team as necessary to keep them up to date with tasks assigned to them, other task status, etc. If it doesn’t, it’s not a smart tool.

Among the many things that it does very well, QuickBase has several excellent project management templates that can either be used “out of the box” or modified to meet your specific needs. We recently have helped several clients implement project planning tools that are designed to be smart (as described above). One of the tools even is integrated with another QuickBase application that is used to manage meetings (email out agendas, track attendees, email out completed minutes, etc.) so that project-related meetings and related action items are included in the project management “dashboard.”

The benefits of effective project management can be difficult to directly quantify, but can have a major impact on the success of your company. If you would like to hear more about how we can help you improve the effectiveness of your project management process (and make your life easier!) please give us a shout.