Every small business I know uses at least 3 software packages. Each package uses a different information format and software. They don’t always talk to each other or play nicely. And they all need to be constantly updated. My solution? The Rob’s Open Business System (ROBS) project. ROBS will produce a well-designed, standard framework to synchronize and maintain separate business software packages.
Consider Joe and his search for curried chocolate lizards. Joe finds Mocha Gecko Extra Hot at Mary’s online store where he adds half a kilo to his shopping cart, enters his contact and credit card information, and settles back to await his Gecko goodness.
For Mary, the fun has just begun. Now she:
– Downloads the orders and selects the unshipped ones including Joe’s
– Puts together her product pick list and shipping labels. Her product inventory is in an Access database so she looks up the product by product number in that database and pastes it into a Word document. Joe’s address is pasted into another Word document with a shipping label template
– Prints off the product pick list and labels.
– Picks the products from her inventory, then packages and ships them.
– Changes the status of the order in her e-commerce package to show that it has been shipped.
– Subtracts 1 from the number of Mocha Gecko Extra Hot packages in stock in her inventory database.
– Generates a list of online sales orders, combines them with orders she’s taken via email and in person, and enters the daily sales numbers into her accounting system.
– A box of Extra Hot Mocha Geckos is soon winging it’s way to Joe, the money is in Mary’s Paypal account, and her sales records and inventory have been updated.
Assuming everything went smoothly.
In this (very) simple example there are 3 databases to be updated and 4 steps where Mary has to move data from one place to another. Each step takes time. Each is prone to error (and hard to fix). None can be scaled up unless Mary clones herself. And most of it isn’t necessary.
Every one of these steps except picking, packing, and shipping the product could be done without human intervention. From Joe entering his order and contact information to Mary tearing the pick list and shipping labels off a printer, the data could flow through without anyone putting their hands on a keyboard.
Automated methods to update packages, synchronize and aggregate data, make backups, notify people about problems, and locate problem areas already exist. But they need to be organized, tested and made part of a framework with a common configuration and control interface and clear documentation. All the craziness Mary is coping with could be reduced to installing a package, telling it what software you’re using and where, and letting it set things up. That system is ROBS. ROBS will take care of data synchronization and the many software updates required to protect that data. It will save time. For small to medium size business systems, it’s the missing link.
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