Monday, March 23, 2015

Breaking radio silence

It's been quiet here for the past week and a half, primarily because I've been busy at work but also because there hasn't been anything new to write about. After I exhausted myself with linked reports, I entered a period of 'solidity' when I didn't do anything new but certainly improved all manner of things.

Today I made a 'field trip' - as part of my pilot study, I went to visit a company which uses Priority. As opposed to my company or even the other company where I have been consulting, this 'company' has only two and a half users of Priority. They use the limited 'zoom' version of the program which is more than sufficient for their needs, which are basically a program to create price quotations, receive customer orders and issue invoices. They don't even use Priority for their purchases.

This is quite legitimate although slightly surprising that they use Priority as opposed to any other simple management program. The answer to this question is that one of the co-owners had previously worked in a company which used Priority. The 'zoom' version has a web interface and connects to a server maintained by the company that develops Priority; thus the required infrastructure is minimal.

I'm sure that I will encounter other companies that use Priority in such a minimal manner, although I suspect that they use the purchasing module more than the sales one (for example, an investing house might use Priority to manage its purchases, but it doesn't issue bills to its customers, otherwise known as investors).

One of my informal questions for the company is what data do they maintain in Excel. I was shown a spreadsheet which contained data about all their current projects - project number, date it was started, current status, target date, etc. I pointed out that this data could easily be managed in Priority; the reason why they don't do this is that the data is very simple (thus a relational database doesn't bring much to the party) and that they are comfortable with the current solution. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. At least the spreadsheet is stored with Google Docs; thus it's backed up, always available and shareable.

This last sentence shows the value of conducting the pilot study with companies that have different ways of working than mine. One of the questions in the questionnaire asks about how people share their spreadsheets, and one of the answers is 'save the spreadsheet on a shared network disk'. This company - with its minimal infrastructure - has no shared network disk; it has no network! So the answer had to be amended to include the possibility of saving the file to external storage such as Google Docs.

I want to find one more company for the pilot study before I conclude this stage. It's just a question of finding the right person and getting him/her to agree to my proposal; most people whom I have approached don't even return my calls.

[SO: 3866; 3,15,36]

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