Author Archives: David Martin

About David Martin

Dave is the owner of I/O Technologies Inc, a software development company providing tailored software solutions to businesses across the United States.

Introducing a New Doc Management Module

Thanks to everyone who responded to my last e-mail, asking for your input about document management.

We’ve taken your feedback to heart, and developed a new document scanning module. It’s designed to be incorporated into existing applications with very few modifications.

For a quick demo of the features and benefits, check out this 2-minute video:

 

(By the way, if you want to take advantage of the scanner feature, you’d need to buy and set up at least one desktop scanner. Here’s one we really like: Brother ADS-2000e).

If you’d like to discuss incorporating this module into your software, please let me know.

Get 10% Off Custom Programming

A wonderful opportunity to hire US-based programmers for less.

When you need custom programming and tech support, are you getting your money’s worth?Get 10% off our custom programming rates

Many of our customers buy prepaid blocks of programming hours from us—discounted 10% off our standard rates.

With a prepaid block of time, you stay completely in the loop:  Whenever we log hours, we e-mail you a report.  This report describes exactly what we did, and how much time we spent.  Plus, it gives a running balance of time remaining in the block.

This isn’t for everyone.  But if you’d like to give it a try, just contact us.

Custom Desktop Software Example

How custom desktop software can save a lot of time.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth even more.  So rather than reading a lengthy post on how to speed up data entry, today let’s look at a quick example.

Suppose your company receives Purchase Orders via e-mail.  Watch how you can drag and drop those e-mails from Outlook into a data entry form.  Instead of manually copying and pasting each field, you can import the whole PO into your order entry system with the flick of your mouse.

Does this still demand too much user interaction for you? Well, we could take it up a notch.  How about automatically scanning your inbox for e-mails from senders at somecompany.com?  The logic could check whether each e-mail includes a purchase order.  Then it would import every PO in one fell swoop.  Next, it would move the emails to an archive folder (just in case you ever need to check the original e-mail).

What if you don’t deal with purchase orders, but you do receive shipping manifests via e-mail?  No problem:   Same principle—different database. We could even write code to reconcile manifests with matching orders, if that would be helpful to you.

Or maybe you have a different need altogether? That’s the beauty of custom desktop software development. We can tailor the logic to meet your specific business needs.

Contact us to discuss your project.  There’s never a charge for the initial consultation.

Eating the Software Elephant–One Byte at a Time.

You’ve probably heard the question, “How do you eat an elephant?”  And the typical answer:  “one bite at a time.”

What does this have to do with software development?   Actually, it’s a great analogy.   Because over the years, we’ve met many business owners who run their companies on really old code.   (Some might even call the software ancient, by today’s standards.)  In fact, we often find programs written back in the 1980’s, still hard at work today.  But even when better solutions have evolved, some companies still hang on to the legacy system for as long as possible.

Managers have their reasons to sit tight

But why would business owners entrust their core business processes to old software, when so many improvements and innovations have become available?  They do so for several reasons.  And we hear these most often:

  • “Our custom software has been a wonderful asset for many years. It’s tailored to the way our company does business.  And it has run well for a long time.   Why fix something that ain’t broke?”
  • “Our software application is huge.  It has many modules and contains hundreds of thousands of lines of code. So, migrating to newer software would be a colossal challenge.”
  • “Our people are very comfortable with the existing software.  Training them on a new system would take time.   And change always upsets the normal flow in our office.”

Migrating to a newer software platform can present real challenges.  It often involves a review of how the current software meshes with today’s business operations, and how it could be improved.  So it’s not surprising when companies hesitate–even when yesterday’s software no longer meets today’s demands.

But folks, this doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition.

What’s a good manager to do?

Software Development Life Cycle

Let’s rephrase the first question slightly:  how do you migrate a huge software application?   In my opinion, the best answer is:  one byte at a time.

Yes, you could tackle a migration project all at once.  But migrating smaller, manageable byte-sized chunks often makes more sense.  And there are several reasons you might go this route:

  • Rolling out incremental changes allows you to see results more quickly.  And smaller updates won’t upset your business operations nearly as much as larger ones could.
  • Small updates will introduce change to your employees at a slower pace.  As a result, they’ll have time to get comfortable with the change.  And hopefully, they’ll recognize the benefits as well.
  • When you migrate gradually, you’ll spread the cost over a longer period of time.
  • Taking smaller steps gives you a chance to evaluate a software developer.  It lets you see how well they understand your needs.  Plus, you’ll find out how well they implement your programming specifications right away–rather than months later.

Because we all have lives outside the workplace, it’s understandable why some might postpone adding yet another project to our busy schedule.    But hardware and operating systems continue to evolve.  And the day will come when 30-year-old software won’t support your core business applications any longer.   So it’s wise to start planning now, rather than waiting until you have fewer options.

Not ready for any changes just yet?

What if you’re not ready to begin the process today?  At the very least, you might want to find programmers who can support your application in its current state.  Not only will you have someone to call if anything goes wrong.  They’ll also be more knowledgeable about your business processes when migration time finally arrives.

If you’d like help evaluating how best to migrate your software application, give us a call.

Beware this email hoax

This morning’s e-mail included an “Urgent Server Warning!” message from Notification-email@upgrade.com.

Looks pretty serious, doesn’t it?

But I can tell you with 100% certainty that this is a complete and utter hoax.

How can I be sure?  Well, I’m the administrator for iotechno.com’s mail server.  So I’m the only one who can disable or remove email accounts from our domain.

No, the goal of whoever sent this email was to lure gullible recipients into clicking the hyperlink–which would launch a web browser and drag you onto their site.   The page you land on would probably attempt to sell you something, steal information off your computer, implant a virus, or worse.

(I won’t repeat the full hyperlink here, but the site starts with  ‘cinematic’ and ends with ‘ter.com’)

The moral of the story:  it’s highly unlikely that your email server administrator would ever send an email like this.  After you hover over the hyperlink, if you don’t recognize the site, don’t click the hyperlink!  Just delete the email and carry on.

 

 

 

Update to Prepaid Invoice Synopsis Reporting

No doubt, you’re familiar with the Prepaid Invoice Synopsis reports you may receive in your e-mail. These reports document how many hours you started with, and then list all work performed, along with a running balance of hours remaining. In the past, we e-mailed them once per week–on Fridays.

But there was a potential problem in this connection. What if your block of hours was exhausted early in the week? We do our best to monitor every balance, and contact you when hours are running low. But now the process has been enhanced to help keep you better informed every step of the way.

Effective tomorrow, January 11, 2018, you should receive a Prepaid Invoice Synopsis any time one of the following occurs:

  • One of our programmers logged time to your prepaid block of hours the previous day.
  • You authorized a new prepaid invoice, creating a new block of hours.
  • It’s a Friday (in other words, you’ll still get a copy of the report at least once per week.)

Since this is a new process, we may need to iron out a few kinks along the way. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to contact me. My direct number is 414-847-9481.

And if there’s anything else we can do to improve our level of service, I’d love to hear from you!

Thinking of a software update? Let us write the specs.

Writing Software SpecificationsFor many of our customers, writing software specifications can be a huge challenge.   Where can you find time to pull together all the details for even a simple software enhancement?  How can you document exactly what you have in mind?  Assembling screen shots, drawings and written instructions can become a massive hurdle for business owners and managers.  As a result, many great ideas never see the light of day.

So, recently we’ve installed new remote connectivity software.  It enables us to join you in an online meeting, record the audio and video, then write up specifications on your behalf.  Once you’ve had a chance to review, tweak and/or approve the document, we’ll give you an estimate.

How much does this service cost?  For now, we’re offering it free of charge on small- to medium-size projects (involving one or two screens/reports).  My rationale:  if this process helps clarify the scope and streamline the programming process, then our time will be well spent.  (I reserve the right to revisit this, depending on how future projects turn out.)

Have a project you’d like to test drive using this new approach?  Please contact us to schedule a meeting online.

The Perils of a Neglected Schedule

And One Possible Remedy

Has this ever happened to you?

You arrive at your office an hour early–determined to get in front of the demands of your job.  You check today’s schedule and make a mental note: “don’t forget to attend that important meeting at 2pm!”

Then, as more employees arrive, the pace at your office grows more hectic. A coworker drops by, asking for help with a project she’s working on. A lengthy phone call temporarily derails your train of thought.

And the morning races past.

You work through the lunch hour-so engrossed in the flurry of activity that you lose track of time. At 1:30pm, you’re summoned to help put out another fire.

Finally, it’s time to leave for your 2pm meeting. But you’re so caught up in the urgency of the immediate that it has slipped your mind entirely. You miss the meeting.

The Trouble with a Neglected Schedule

Maybe your life is so well-organized that this never happens to you. Mine sure isn’t.

In fact, this very scenario has played out in my professional life more often than I’d care to admit. Oh, I’ve read several time-management books-and vowed to implement every suggestion they offer. But then, another urgent crisis drowns out the ticking of my schedule clock, and I fall short on my commitments once again.

The problem isn’t with my schedule. It clearly identifies every meeting, every appointment, and every upcoming conference call. The problem is that often I neglect my schedule. I don’t give it the attention it deserves.  But what to do about schedule neglect?

Many time-management books advise you to shut down your e-mail program, so that inbound messages don’t distract you. Thus far, I haven’t figured out how to close Outlook and still see appointment reminders. Even when Outlook is open, that reminder dialog appears to play hide-and-seek, ducking behind other windows.

If only my schedule were able to call out to me, “Dave, come back! Look at me! You’ve got some important items on your docket!” If it could do this, I would have a better grasp of where I’m at, and where I need to be next.

One Solution

That’s why recently, I decided to devise a way for my schedule to seek me out. Several minutes before each meeting, my schedule actually calls me on the phone, giving a verbal reminder of each appointment. I won’t bore you with the programming details. But here’s a brief explanation of how it works (after the software has been configured to work with your schedule).

The process is simple. Just open your e-mail program, and create a typical appointment:

After setting the date and time, set a reminder as you normally would.

There’s just one difference: in the textbox below, type the word Cue: followed by 1 or 2. This cues the phone system to dial either your primary or secondary number (eg, office phone/cell phone).

With the new logic in place, my phone delivers a recorded message at just the right time: “This is a friendly reminder that you have an appointment 5 minutes from now.” And out from the fog, back to reality I come.

So here’s my question for you: Would you find this useful at your office? Do you think people might even be willing to pay for a service like this? For me, a reminder service that ties directly into my schedule is a priceless asset.

To paraphrase JFK, “Ask not how often you should check your schedule. Ask how often your schedule should check in with you.”

I’d welcome your feedback.