July 21, 2017

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.

“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.

“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.

Approval Workflow

One area in which QuickBase excels is automating and documenting approval workflow.  Almost any business has transactions requiring approval.  Examples include purchase requests, credit memos, inventory adjustments, expense reports, travel requests, etc.  With paper or spreadsheet-based systems, this can be a cumbersome process involving multiple people handling multiple documents.  With a QuickBase application, it’s almost effortless:

  1. The originator fills out a web form with information such as the amount, request reason, person to approve, etc.
  2. the application automatically sends an email to the approver
  3. the approver either approves or declines the request
  4. QuickBase then automatically routes the request either  to the area that will fulfill it or back to the originator (if it was declined). 

You can even build in business rules such as “if the amount of the request is above $10,000, also require VP approval in addition to the normal approval.”

QuickBase provides a simple and efficient process, and there is a database of records for future reference and documentation. 

Contact us at info@LloydConsult.com to find out how we can help your business.

Free Consulting!

OK, so maybe we have an ulterior motive, but the fact is–we’re offering free consulting to new clients.  From now until October 31, we’re offering new clients our “No Risk/All Reward” program that lets you select one of our five most popular business applications (Project Management, Sales Pipeline Tracking, Business Contract and Document Management, Sales Tax Registrations and Filings, or HR Information), sign up for a free 30-day trial of QuickBase, and we’ll get you up and running at no charge.  This includes configuring the application for your users, setting up email notifications, and providing training videos.

 What do you get?  A browser-based, email-enabled, multi-user, multi-location web application that can save your business money and time.  QuickBase is used by 50 of the Fortune 100 and by thousands of smaller businesses.  Our clients are saving tens of thousands of dollars a month using QuickBase applications for everything from travel approval to tracking bar-code scanners to managing contract renewals.

Why no risk?  If you don’t want to continue using QuickBase at the end of the 30-day trial, cancel the trial and owe nothing.

What’s in it for us?  We’re confident that once you see the benefits of QuickBase you will want to use it for other applications within your company—and hopefully will want us to help you.  We also want you to be telling your colleagues and business associates what a great tool QuickBase is—and we want you to be good references for us as we are talking to prospects.

Interested?  Send us an email at norisk@lloydconsult.com to schedule a time to discuss.  Or you can download additional information here.

Five High-Value QuickBase Applications

When we talk to a potential client about how we can help, we almost always see an opportunity for at least one of these five high-value applications:

  • Sales pipeline management.  QuickBase has a number of templates for sales force automation, ranging from simple pipeline management to a full-featured system that rivals SalesForce.com.  If you don’t have the visibility you need into your sales efforts, one of these templates, or a customized version of one of them, may be what you need.
  • Project management.  All businesses have projects and action items they need to track and manage.  Microsoft Project and other project managers are powerful—but their complexity can be an impediment to using them.  As with sales force automation, QuickBase has a number of well-designed templates that range in complexity based on your needs.  Half of the Fortune 100 use QuickBase, and I suspect that many of them use it for project management (as well as other applications).
  • Contracts and document management.  All businesses have contracts and other business documents that they need to track and maintain.  Doing a good job in this area is important for a number of reasons.  It can become particularly important when you’re trying to sell your business and are going through buyer due diligence.  A QuickBase application is a great way to handle this effort; reminding you about upcoming contract expirations, enabling you to search within scanned PDFs, and generally making your business document management a much easier process. 
  • HR data.  You may have an HRIS (HR information system) built into your financial software.  But if not, having a system that maintains HR data, including comp rates, performance information, benefits data, etc. can make your life easier.
  • Purchase requests/approvals.  All businesses buy things.  Having an effective, efficient purchasing process that enables you to ensure that purchases are approved is critical to controlling your costs.  A QuickBase app can route purchase requests to the appropriate approver (based on department and purchase amount) and then to your purchasing group.  Nothing falls through the cracks.  And nothing gets purchased unless it’s approved.  Are you trying to control costs after the fact?  Why not get out in front of the issue.

 Any of these look interesting?  Contact us at info@LloydConsult.com to arrange for a free consultation to see if we can help.

How Can We Help You?

Do any of these sound familiar?

  •  Your business has outgrown one or more key business processes.   (For example, the spreadsheet that worked well when the process was done by one person no longer suffices now that three people need to access the same data.)
  • You have multiple locations and are finding it hard to effectively maintain control over key metrics and data.
  • You recently completed an acquisition and are struggling to integrate key business processes.
  • You still have manual, paperwork-intensive processes that take longer than they should and are prone to mistakes.

With our experience and work flow tools, we can help with all of these situations.  Let us spend an hour with you and identify ways that it can save you money and time.

Case Study: Cutting Travel Costs

The Challenge:  ABC Company had approximately 60 operations managers scattered across the country. These managers were constantly traveling–to visit customers, train new employees, deal with HR issues, etc. However, management was not convinced that all the travel being incurred was really necessary, and a mandate was issued to reduce travel costs. The problem: no infrastructure existed to review and approve proposed travel–or to compare approved travel costs against a budget.

The Solution:  In less than two weeks, we developed and implemented a travel approval system that:

  • automatically routed travel requests (along with a justification for why the travel was needed) to an approver
  • routed an approved request to a travel coordinator who made flight, car rental, and hotel arrangements
  • routed declined requests back to the requester
  • provided real-time visability to approvers on the status of their monthly travel budget

Result:  Travel expense was reduced by more than 50%. And the application paid for itself in a matter of days.