Monday, May 23, 2011

Xact Software Exposed, Part 2

This is part 2 of our on-going Xact Software Exposed series where we show you how we operate as a business and how we've utilized technology to our advantage, Part 1 of this blog series can be found here

In Part 1 we spoke about job management and how we moved from a paper based job tracking system to an integrated online job tracking system and how this change helped us save hours upon hours of admin time every month.

Today we will be talking about project management and how we managed to put together a project management system that works for us without having to sell our organs on the black market!

First, lets talk about project management. The term can mean different things to different people, when some think about project management they start to envisage , Gant charts resource availability sheets , man / hour lists and all sorts of bells and whistles. For us, project management is about seeing the big picture and knowing who is doing what , when and what the outcome was for completed tasks.

When we started taking on bigger and bigger projects we came to realize that we needed a way to track the work we were doing, we already had shared calendars and our CRM system could track tasks and record their outcome, what we didn't have however was the glue which puts all of these pieces together.

So after sketching together a few concepts on a piece of paper we came up with the solution, as mentioned before we try and run our front office operations from within our CRM system, we decided that our project management system should be part of the CRM system (just like our Job tracking system).

After a couple of days of work we had our first prototype , we built version one of our own project tracking tool, it is very simple (intentionally) and it does exactly what we wanted to, it allows us to have a full view what is happening within any of our projects at any given moment, we can drill down on the details of open and closed tasks and update these tasks as necessary.

One might wonder, why are we talking about this? the answer is simple, part of what we're trying to do is to show that technology can be used to enable the implementation of any business process , we're also trying to demonstrate that a small business can have all the tools they need to gain a competitive advantage without having to pay an arm and a leg!

One of our goals is to provide small and medium businesses with the tools and knowledge that can be used to make their lives easier , by that we mean saving time , streamlining workflow and eliminating unnecessary admin work!

We believe that if something works for us then its bound to work for someone else out there , if you are running a small or medium business and think that you we could assist you in any way then make sure to contact us

If you would like to know more about Xact Software or if you would like to talk to us about how we can help you improve your business then make sure to visit our website and to also follow us on Twitter

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Xact Software Exposed , Part 1

At Xact we don't just write software!, we also work very hard to ensure that whatever we build has a purpose and can be used to improve our daily lives at work! In today's post we're going to talk to you about how we do business and how we utilize technology to help us operate efficiently in today's competitive market!

So grab yourself a drink and come join us for the ride!

First a short overview about us as a business. we are a small Sales / Service based company, so we cover both sides of the coin, our operations include Sales, Consultation , Business Analysis, Technical Support , Training and Software Development.

Based on that here is a sample list of the business functions that we utilize:
  • Job Tracking and Scheduling
  • Project Management
  • Business Intelligence 
  • Accounting and Back Office Operations
  • Internal communication

As with any business these functions require an overhead and in some cases there are multiple systems and databases used by the staff in order to do the day to day and strategic tasks, as a result there are cases where duplicate entry is involved and there is a lot of going back and forth between multiple systems which ends up costing the business a lot of time , time which can be utilized better somewhere else!

Keep in mind, at the heart of our operations is our CRM database (at the time of writing we use ACT! 2011 Premium in our business) , everything within our business is connected to our CRM database and information flows from one end to the other as required.

So here is some of what we have done in order to minimize (or even eliminate) this overhead , In Part 1 of this series we will be talking about how we manage and track our jobs , later parts will cover the rest of the items mentioned above in order.

Job Tracking

As a service company we do a lot technical support work , in the past our consultants used to come to the office at the end of the week with a pile of hand written jobsheets which then needed to be processed and re-entered into our database manually! our accountant used to spend 3+ days on average a month and sometimes even longer just to get these jobs sheets processed.

This was an issue which we decided to tackle head on, instead of using a manual paper based system we designed a job tracking portal which runs as part of our CRM database , our admins schedule jobs for our consultants and from there our consultants can review these jobs then update them as required.

The consultants don't even have to have access to a PC , a smart phone or a tablet is all they need to access our job tracking portal and from these they can update the results of their jobs or even enter new jobs on the spot.

At the end of every two weeks our accountant pull a list of all the jobs which have been completed and since everything is electronically recorded it is very easy for them to convert these jobs into invoices , this simple process has turned a task which used to take over 3 days to one which takes a couple of hours at most.

Further more, since all the data is in one place it has become very easy for us to track our performance and to know the outcome of jobs in real time , when a customer calls to discuss a specific job we are instantly prepared and we can provide our customers with all the details they need.

The idea here is to provide our staff with the tools they need to operate regardless of where they are, being able to do your job efficiently is very important since it frees up time which can then be utilized where needed.

So to recap, this is what we did to improve the efficiency of our job tracking process , instead of relying on a paper based system , which was cumbersome and time consuming we setup an online job tracking system which is integrated into our database, this new job tracking system is easily accessible, streamlined and efficient. As a result we managed to improve our operating efficiency greatly!

In this day and age technology has made it very easy for everyone to build solutions to help in improving operational efficiency, having said that technology alone is not enough. Having a proper set of operational processes and staff members who are committed to improving how they do business are deciding factors when it comes to adding to your competitive advantage in today's business world.

If you would like to know more about us and what we do or if you think there is anything we can do to help you with your business then make sure to visit our website and drop us a line!

Part 2 of this article can be found here