Data Centric Vs. Document Centric Part Two

Data Centric Vs. Document Centric Part Two

Posted by: Mark Fuqua



Final Thoughts on Document Management

(If you have not read Part One, please do so first.)

Before we go any further, before we deal with Data Management, some important, final thoughts on documents (and by extension, Document Management Systems):

  • Documents are necessary for all businesses
  • Documents serve an important function
  • Managing documents is a worthwhile endeavor

Document is one of those strange English words that can be used as both a noun and a verb. One way of determining whether you are using documents correctly is if you can use both versions in the same sentence when describing the document. As in, "This document (noun), documents (verb)     Blank    ". Correspondence, contracts, invoices, estimates, receipts and reports are all good examples of necessary documents for most every business.

Another way of describing a document is as a snapshot of data at a specific point in time. If you have an invoice and the prices change next week, you don’t want the data contained in your invoice to change, you want the invoice to reflect the prices charged at the time the invoice was created. If you want your document to change when the data changes, it shouldn’t be a document. It should instead be a view of data contained in a database, which will automatically change when the data changes.

Document Management Systems are only a problem when they use documents as databases: if they are being used to update, manage, delegate, filter, sort, store and share data, then the documents are actually data silos, and as described in Part One, this is not good.

The Solution: Data Management

Let’s take a look at the picture above. It is a representation of five applications we are developing for Seamless Walls. All five applications create, update, delete, view, manage, delegate, filter, sort, store and disseminate data…most importantly, the same data. That’s because, all five applications share the same database, in the cloud.

Whether the application is a desktop app or a phone app or designed to run on a tablet, it creates, updates, deletes, views, sorts and filters the same data. To get a better understanding of what this means, let’s follow a typical Seamless Walls job (Seamless Walls does drywall and painting) around this circle of apps, starting at the Company Portal Application and working our way around.

(For a quick and concise video presentation of this information GO HERE.)

First App:  Seamless Walls Company Portal

For any company looking to adopt a data centric approach to business, the portal or extranet and the relational database are the first steps. Once set up, the extranet or portal is easy to expand, adding new module or functionality and the relational database is available for other desktop, phone and tablet apps as well.

For Seamless Walls, this is where the customer information and job information would initially be entered.

 

Second App:  Seamless Walls Mobile Estimating App

The Seamless Walls Estimating App is a mobile application designed to run on a small tablet, like the Galaxy Tab or a smart phone. If you’ve been following along, you might have guessed, the customer and job information doesn’t need to be entered here, it is already in the database and the application just reads it…all jobs in the database with the status of "Appointment Scheduled" or "Appointment Run" automatically show up on the home screen as estimates that need to be worked on.

As data is entered in the Estimating App, it is also entered into the database, where it is available for creating the proposal package and for other apps. When the estimate is submitted (which actually occurs through the portal application) the job status is automatically changed to "Estimate Submitted", which automatically causes it to no longer show on the estimate application's home screen…no fuss, no muss.

 

Third App:  Job Planning App

This is the Job Planning App, it is an Adobe Flex application, which means it is great at presenting a large amount of information in a graphical manner and also allows for manipulating the data in a visual, drag and drop, sort of way. It is designed to be used by the project manager to schedule the various jobs and their associated tasks in a big picture sort of way.

All the jobs are broken down into their associated tasks and placed on a calendar grid (a Gantt chart if you’re familiar with the term). Because it is a Flex app, the user can grab tasks with the mouse and drag them to a new date or increase/decrease their duration. Most importantly, not only does it give the user instantaneous, visual feedback as to the changes they’re making, since it is tied into the database, every time the mouse is released, the new start and end dates are updated on the database. This application is very intuitive, very easy to use and very powerful.

 

Fourth App:  Daily Task and Crew Assignment App

This application is also a Flex app and follows the same basic structure as the Job Planning application, except it is not a big picture type application, as each chart is dealing only with one day at a time (you can navigate to different days with a calendar widget at the top, but each chart only deals with one day) and is used to assign tasks to the different crews.

Almost all the data that is needed by this application is already in the database. What the user is doing is “dragging” crews onto the left hand side of the chart and then dragging tasks (which already have an estimated completion time from the Estimating App data) onto the appropriate crew.

This is a very easy, visual and informed way to assign tasks to crews. There is even a module on the bottom of the application that creates travel tasks (estimated time to travel from job to job) using the Mapquest mapping service in the background.

 

Fifth App:  The Crew Leader's Daily Planner

Well, we’ve come full circle, so to speak. This last app is also a mobile application designed to run on either an Android or iPhone. When the crew leader opens the app on his phone, all the data is pulled from the database (This data was set up by the Project Manager, using the Daily Task and Crew Assignment App). This app shows him all the tasks for the day and how long they are estimated to take.

This is an important point to get…no one spent time entering information in the phone app itself; it is just reading the same data, from the same database and presenting that data in a different way, for a different audience, on a different device.

Now, just as importantly, as the crew leader goes through his day, he records his start and end times (by simply pressing “Start Task” and “Task Completed” buttons) and, you guessed it, the data is recorded in the database. So the actual start and end times show up on the Daily Task and Crew Assignment App as they happen and in the end of day reports, when they are run…all automatically.

Recap

Taking the time and effort required to move your company to a data centered paradigm, with custom mobile and desktop software, all sharing a database in the cloud, will transform your business and position it for growth. Not only will your company experience immediate benefits, but adding additional business processes or new mobile apps down the road is pretty straight forward.

For a quick and concise video explanation, GO HERE.

Part 2 of 2 12