About This Podcast Episode
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Jason Bittner (CEO): Hello, this is Jason Bittner from Triple Helix Corporation. And welcome to our Helix Insider podcast. I’m joined today by two of my team members, Andy Webster, senior developer here at Triple Helix, and one of my other developers, Pedro Lopez, is going to be joining us today. So today we’re going to be talking to you about data management one on one, why it what it is and why is it important. Companies that have a product or service, they have customers and they may sell something to them that are going to naturally generate data in the course of doing business. And here are triple helix. We understand that the importance of data management and information management is so very, very important because if you don’t have good systems to store this data and work with it, it prevents you from being as efficient as possible and ultimately can create barriers to growth because you’re spending more time working in your data, in your systems as opposed to working on your company. We know this thing to be very, very important because data management really is the lifeblood of a company. If you’re not working efficiently with these systems and you’re basically fighting against yourself. Pedro, I’d like to turn to you first and love to hear your thoughts on what would you recommend for for automation and some of the pitfalls you’ve seen for companies that have not fully automated their data?
Pedro Lopes: Well, I think it’s, you know, do an analysis and see if there is any way to connect to those systems that might be in place. I know that I worked in a long time ago working in the accounting department of a big oil and gas company that you use a lot of Excel spreadsheets. And, you know, that creates a lot of points for failure, you know, wrong data entry and the Excel spreadsheet being passed on into various hands. And when you are able to create a system or integrate, you know, different systems into one and maybe do some automation where necessary that goes down, you know, a lot of time and it frees up a lot of resources as well, making the business flow a little better. So it’s definitely something that is very valuable for a company nowadays and it can definitely have an effect as well.
Jason Bittner (CEO): So Andy, what what’s your experiences in that same area?
Andy Webster: I’ve, I, I worked for a company that had large spreadsheets to manage testing data. And in general, a spreadsheet is not really useful for collaboration. I would say just because you, I mean, in the large scale of a spreadsheet isn’t useful for collaboration because you can have problems like the spreadsheet crashing for shared spreadsheets, for example, if too many people are trying to log in at once. I have a in particular an example that really had a really large spreadsheet that just would crash if too many people were logged into it. You know, you’d have people hollering around the office like, Hey, who’s logged into that? Or, Hey, that crashed for anybody else, you know, yelling across the office.
Jason Bittner (CEO): And you lose all your data, right?
Andy Webster: Yeah. And then you lose whatever you put in and, you know, potentially the file could get corrupted. There’s all kinds of things that could go wrong.
Jason Bittner (CEO): Yeah, I have a very similar example. Like, I worked at a large department and there was like a collaborative spreadsheet. About four or five people were in it. Obviously you can’t work in it if somebody else is in it. So it would lock the spreadsheet when somebody was working on it. And then the challenge we ran into is that whoever was in the spreadsheet locked it. No, we can work on it. But sometimes somebody would go in, lock it, and then they go on vacation for two weeks. And then we’re like, Now no one can work on it until they’re back. And you know, you can force the free the lot, but then they lose all the data that they were working on, which can be quite cumbersome and catastrophic. So it’s it’s not a good scene.
I’d like to talk a little bit about, you know, what we understand to be, you know, data automation relating to systems so many times different types of data reside in different systems and quite honestly, for very good reasons. A CRM, a customer relationship management software is where you put your sales data and your interactions. That could be one system. Another system could be the operations. You know what’s going on in maybe a factory or a plant, and then you might have your financial system somewhere else, like a QuickBooks or Peachtree accounting, but necessarily these systems all at some point do have to talk to each other. You know, when we talk about our manufacturing customers, these companies that have invested in software products call it ERP systems, enterprise, resource planning. It’s very powerful piece of software that those types of companies use to run their organization. And quite commonly, all of the data is in one place. So that’s a very good thing. But very frequently in organizations that don’t have any a or maybe they don’t have the all of the pieces of a ERP or even those companies that are beholden to that type of software data resides in different systems. And so if they’re moving data between one another, they have to export it, re-import it. In some cases, hand keying it back in creates a huge amount of effort. And honestly, the ability to connect those systems does exist. And, you know, our recommendation is that if you’re going to have different systems because sometimes you have to find ways to connect the two through what they call APIs that stands for an application programing interface or some other way, because lots of these systems are so commonly able to link now. But the key is to actually see where those gaps are happening and try to make those links happen. Pedro, do you have an example of that where you saw some workflow automation and some systems that can be pulled together that in your experience?
Pedro Lopes: Yes, we recently finished up a project that, you know, this particular client had a very old system out of data and support to note that, you know, once you go that route, it’s very important to keep up with the technology so you don’t let things, you know, go out of date or basically lose your investment, your initial investment for not keeping up with it. But, you know, this particular project, this client had, you know, old database that we had to migrate the data into a new database. And I believe it was a sequel and there was a component of a SQL Server on that as well, that we brought everything in and remodeled the interface with a new look and optimize for, you know, optimize the UI UX so that it’s easier for the users to access that data and work with the data. And so that that makes for something that’s very valuable for any given company.
Jason Bittner (CEO): As I recall in that particular example, we actually made the new application talk directly to one of the other databases. Prior to that, they would be hand keying the job data into this older system and then having to redo everything. But this new system, I recall you were able to actually connect to the other database account directly and actually pull that data in automatically so no one had to repeat everything, is that right?
Pedro Lopes: Right. So they had a component of data that we had to migrate to a database in the server. But a second component of that was connecting to outside database and pulling in that data and making it work with the new system. And so it was very important to have that all in one place, for people to be able to see the data in real time and work with that data in real time.
Jason Bittner (CEO): I remember that was quite a huge lift for them. So yeah, nice. Andy, talk to me about that example of that company up in Springfield. It was a job shop and what we did for some automation for them.
Andy Webster: Yeah. So the ERP that they had existing had, you know, it was a good ERP in general but it didn’t have all of the capabilities that they needed to predict and forecast when their stuff would be done for their clients. So, you know, they’ve got their job that they’re working through and in some steps of manufacturing a product, they have to send it out to an outside vendor or et cetera. And every step of that has like a time that it takes. And so what our solution does is basically take all their jobs that they have in a queue and sort them according to when they’ll be done and provides forecast dates for them. So in a sense, it gives a really good kind of pulse on where they are in the manufacturing process for everything across their whole company as a whole. So it’s a very helpful tool for them that really helps them report accurately to their customers and keep on top of their operations.
Jason Bittner (CEO): Talk to me a little bit about the priority that they set to like. As I recall, they were doing their by department departments didn’t know what the priority sequence was. They had that on paper and very often that was wrong. How did this help them actually manage that?
Andy Webster: Oh, yeah. So what we did is actually so as well as having this whole system, it’s and it’s a web application, so we can actually have it post it up on a touch screen in their actual manufacturing facility. So they have a display that everybody can see. You know, the administrators back in the office can log into it and see it there, too. And. Some and they could filter it based on which department they’re into. So if you want it only in that department and see only the jobs that are applicable to them. So very helpful for keeping everybody on track with each other.
Jason Bittner (CEO): Nice. Yeah. Many of the times we’re meeting these companies, you know, we find that they have these systems. In that particular example, they have one Common Core system, but it was hiding information from the rest of the departments. Management knew what the overall priority was, but in those individual departments, they didn’t. So they were able to share that priority with them and basically push that data downstream into the department level. We find that still very common, right, guys? And that, you know, all of the work that we do is about data consolidation. You have data sitting in a pile of spreadsheets. You have data sitting on paper in whiteboards or buried in systems. The whole thing about siloed data and, you know, trying to make sense of the data and actually make it talk to each other is a huge undertaking for some of these firms just because their systems are not connected. And the obvious having that connection made makes the overall efficiency of the department and the company that much more efficient. Just because their data is is embedded in connected to each other as opposed to being spread out. I wanted to bring up one example too. You know, very often we do these things called digital conversions. So, you know, we have companies that do have databases and but they’re not factored well. So one company that was a distributor for wire and cable, as I recall, they had three databases, one for customers, one for orders and one for inventory. And the monumental task of basically copying the data back and forth when an order was placed was astronomical. Now, those databases were actually factored. Well, so if you were in the customer database, you actually had everything you needed and it was in one place. But just that enormity of converting the data when you had to like get a new order are it goes into the customer table for a new customer. What are they buying? Oh, we got new inventory and it’s this constant push pull of typing in the data. So a digital conversion project for a company like us would be to just consolidate and put everything into one common database. And another example, they were using access so they didn’t even have it accessible. So the nice thing about these web applications that we write can not only improve the efficiency of the group that data consolidation, but when it’s in a web app, you can then access it. One of the funny things about these guys was that they could never work remotely because all of their data is in an access database and a file system inside the internal facility. No one could access it, but with a web app you can get to it from anywhere. So that’s kind of the nice thing about consolidation is that you can actually make accessibility very, very easy… with reason, of course.
Pedro Lopes: I remember one particular client, this database in access, but when we converted weren’t even able to create a application mobile application for them so they could when they have technicians out in the field, they could, you know, seamlessly put their notes and sync back to the database in real time so that the people in the office or however the well, whatever they working from, they could access the information instantly and do what they need to do.
Jason Bittner (CEO): So I really like that example that you gave page because I remember in that particular account, the technicians in the field, all of their measurement data is paper, so an egregious amount of paper and the prior system, they would hand them laptops with a big stack of paper with their jobs. They would go on site, they would fill in all the data, and in some cases they had to physically paper mail it back to the facility depending on how far out they were. And then someone would be taking that paper and hand transcribing it back into another system. So with this system, we actually gave it so that the techs would have all of the paper instead of in paper actually in their tablets. But the nice thing was that the tablets, because they don’t work in the basements of some of the facilities these technicians have to go into. Everything works offline. They run the tablet, they type in their notes and their measurement data, and then they hit submit. The tablet has the data and then when they come back into Internet land and they can actually transmit it to hit submit and then all that stuff is translated back to the office. So no more paper mailing, no more manual transcriptions of data, which a lot of data was getting inaccurate that way. But just the speed of the execution, being able to get all that data back to the office instantaneously and of course billing because as soon as the paper is there, the billing can happen and the customers can get billed and this company gets paid faster. So, you know, that ripple effect of just something as simple as a technician suffering through paper, and now we’ve automated into a tablet both offline and online. That’s a huge deal. And I was really, really happy with the work you guys have done on that project. It’s really had a huge impact on those guys.
Andy Webster: Every time that you reduce the amount of manual intervention between steps, you also reduce the potential for error. So your data is in general better and more usable for recording in the future. Figuring out a lot of different kinds of things like taxes. Things like that. Like when tax season comes around and you need to report on all the different stuff that happened throughout the year, you can query a system like this to really save you some time.
Jason Bittner (CEO): So getting to kind of near the end of our talk here, I just wanted to offer some final thoughts and hear your guys’ final closing comments. You know, so just overall, you know, information and data management, we find it to be extremely important for companies that are growing fast and need to, you know, do things quicker and better and easier. I mean, who who who wouldn’t want that? And, you know, in our world, the key is the systems that the data resides in and then how how well those systems operate. And lastly, how well they communicate, because in some cases, if you can’t consolidate them into one, which is what you should do as your first option. Second option is just to make sure they can talk to each other so that you’re not manually re-keying data and causing more effort. Andy, final thoughts?
Andy Webster: Yeah. I just think that in general that the more you hook things together, also just the less work your employees have to do to accomplish your goals. And that equals more efficiency in your company. So in general, you get more done for the same amount of money.
Jason Bittner (CEO): Time. Time is money. Exactly. Pedro, final thoughts?
Pedro Lopes: Well, I think companies have to take a step back and think about the last time that they thought about their data and how that, you know, the data, the data integrity affects their business and see if there is opportunity here to improve things, to integrate things and free up resources. Right. Because this whole process, you know, the consequence of this whole process is, you know, freeing up resources so they can like Andy said, be more efficient and go do something else. And so I think it’s important for people who are listening to do just that. And if they have any questions, reach out to us, because we’ve done this many times and we can definitely help out.
Jason Bittner (CEO): Absolutely. Thank you for that. Yup. And you know that just as a reminder to our listeners, too, that, you know, this is, you know, the core tenet of triple helix is that, you know, we understand that the data of a company is really its DNA, that the business data and that to be able to be more smart and more intelligent Triple Helix actually, we add that third strand of DNA to make the company more intelligent. That’s where Triple Helix comes from. And we recognize the strength of the company is how well they manage and operate with their data. And if anyone is thinking that that’s been a challenge and, you know, oh, my god, how would you possibly actually solve my challenges? Well, that’s the as they say, the devil’s in the details. We’d love to chat with you and and understand more about how we can help. But for now, I hope this conversation was helpful and enlightening. And until next time. Thanks, everybody.