Not Your Average Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, in a town not far from here, there lived and worked a young office manager named Goldilocks.

Goldilocks needed to find a better way to manage the ever-increasing amount of data as her business continued to grow.

So Goldilocks called her local BigSoftwareCompany rep, who jumped at the opportunity to lease their Premium CRM solution to her, starting at only $1000 per month.

Sounded a little too big for her needs.

So then, she hopped on the internet, and purchased her very own copy of a popular Off-The-Shelf program. But she found it wasn’t quite what she needed either. It was just too small.

Then she called I/O Technologies, who sat down with her and designed a custom solution that was JUST RIGHT.

If you’re an office manager like Goldilocks, give us a call. We write software to help companies like yours live happily every after.

The End.

Totally Off-the-Shelf, Totally Custom–or Somewhere in Between?

Over the past 65 years, productivity in the US has increased by approximately 100%. On any given day, US workers now produce twice as much than their counterparts did in 1947.

Computer software technologies have certainly helped significantly along the way. Can you imagine running your business today without your laptop, GPS, cell phone or internet?

But over the years, not everyone has embraced technological advances with open arms–at least not right away. Many managers consider the cutting edge to be the bleeding edge. They’d rather let others endure the pain and scar tissue that new technology can inflict.

For others, the choice has been just too difficult: do we buy an off-the-shelf software application–paying for bells and whistles we’ll never use, or hire a programming company to write custom software? And then, how can we successfully introduce change into our system without hurting productivity–even if it’s for the short term?

You can understand why the typical office manager or production supervisor doesn’t jump up and down in breathless anticipation of the next software upgrade. How to deal with the ensuing rebellion that might occur? Some business owners just don’t have the energy to combat the “we’ve always done it this way” mindset. They’re afraid they just might kill the goose that’s laid so many golden eggs over the years. There’s something to be said for the comfort level afforded by the status quo.

What about this approach? How about introducing changes on an incremental basis? Instead of ripping out the old software and forcing employees to adapt to new software, consider implementing helper applications–ones that take the multiple manual steps down from five steps to two. Not only are they less disruptive–they’re also smaller in scope; thus cost less. With a little planning, these helper apps can gradually morph and merge into a completely new system–one step at a time.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time, to be sure. But don’t bite off more than your people are able to chew.

Software Review – FreeMind

FreeMind is a cool Open Source mind-mapping software application that works the way your mind does. The premise behind the software is that our human minds don’t organize thoughts in lists so much as it organizes in clusters of related thoughts.

Remember when you had to type your first term paper, and your instructor suggested that your write each thought on a notecard–then organize the notecards in logical piles? That’s akin to what FreeMind does: When you launch it, you start by creating a blank slate (or “mind map” using FreeMind’s lingo). You add a thought (or “node”) by pressing the Insert key and adding a descriptive label. Labels can be very short, or fairly long. Here’s a screenshot of what one of my recent mind maps looks like:

There’s no limit to the number of sub-nodes and/or thoughts you can add within a node–just pop open the node, press the Insert key, and type away.

I prefer to assign a different background color to each node, but you could choose to skip specifying background colors, if you prefer. For that matter, you can choose to not envelope nodes with a border. For me, the cloud shape around each node helps keep me focused. Here’s what a node looks like when you expand it…

To minimize a node, just click on the node label again, and it’ll shrink back down to its original size. You can also set up nodes as hyperlinks–so that when you click on them, they’ll pop open PDF files, spreadsheets and the like.

For more information, or to download and install FreeMind, visit http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page

If you’d like help getting FreeMind installed on your workstation or network, feel free to contact me.

Making data Input more fun, and data Output more valuable.

Do you host your own web server inside your office? Probably not.

Our customers’ web sites are often hosted on servers hundreds or thousands of miles away–not running inside their office.

If the only purpose for your web site is to EXHALE, i.e., advertise products and list your store locations, then there’s no problem.

But what if you want to collect data from your visitors (and that’s always a good idea)? How does that data get from the web server running thousands of miles away, to you in your office?

Many web developers send the data to you in an email. But then you’re forced to copy/paste the data from the email and manually rekey it into your systems inside your office.

We can make this process more fun and easy:

  • First, we can write an interface where users just drag the emails from Outlook and drop them onto our software. The software reads the emails, then pushes the meaningful data into your internal database.
  • Or, even better– we can install a little engine out on the web server that will let you download the data directly –without using email at all.

If the prospect of having to re-key data from your web site into your internal system makes your skin crawl, give us a call!

I’m Dave Martin from I/O Technologies, where we make data Input more fun, and data Output more valuable.

Bringing Function to the Dysfunctional Office

Have you ever had a friend or family member confide in you–“you know, I sure hope Mary never decides to leave our business. She’s the only one who knows how to run the computer systems. If she left, we’d be in serious trouble.”

If you’re the manager of a dysfunctional office–one where everybody knows that if one or two key employees walked out, the business would be in jeopardy–we should talk.

We can write software that addresses the dysfunction head-on: First, we can simplify things, so if it takes 14 steps to generate invoices, we can often reduce that down to one or two steps.

Second, we can incorporate context-sensitive help. So if you don’t know how to do something, press F1 and there are the step-by-step instructions, right where you need them.

Our programmers love bringing function to dysfunctional office environments.

Boat Sales Software

I’m Dave Martin with I/O Technologies, a software company based in Germantown.

Our main focus is writing custom software applications for business. But over the years, we’ve also developed several commercial software applications—where we license the same software to multiple customers.

One of the most successful so far is called BoatQuote. Boat dealerships and marinas use BoatQuote to keep track of their customers and boat inventory.
If you’re a boat dealership or marina manager that’s looking for a better way to track their customers and generate more sales, please contact us!

Offer An Alternative to Snail Mail

During this prolonged economic downturn, many companies are looking for ways to reduce costs while continuing to offer great customer service.

Here’s one way to do just that: rather than spending money on paper, envelopes and postage, smart companies offer their customers the option of receiving their invoices and statements via email instead of “snail mail”. Some even take it one step farther, by offering statements and invoices available for download on their web site.

This approach not only reduces the cost of labor and materials. It also can reduce the number of support calls because customers can help themselves. So everybody wins!

Looking for a Competent Programmer? Ask for Free Samples!

I’m Dave Martin with I/O Technologies – a software company in Germantown, Wisconsin.

When you meet with someone to talk about your custom software project, one of the questions you might ask is, “Are they any good? — Do they provide a quality product or service? Would I be comfortable referring others to them?” You ask these questions because you know that some folks in your own industry are experts and professionals. And then there are all the rest.

So let me speak to your concerns. Over the years we’ve developed several software programs that we use in our office every day. Recently we uploaded them to our website, to share with our friends, neighbors and anybody else who might benefit from using them. These applications are totally free—we’re giving them away to showcase what we can do. If you’re interested, please visit our web site   (iotechno.com) and click on the Free Stuff link for details.

At I/O Technologies, we write custom software that’s good for business.

How To Make Mileage Tracking even LESS of a Chore

Several great mileage-logging applications are readily available, although I’m partial to the one we created (check out OdoLog, a mileage-tracking application you can download for FREE).

But one simple fact remains: someone still has to do the data entry. Somehow all the trips your people are making in their various cars, trucks and SUV’s need to get entered into whatever software you’re using.

How about leveraging an additional piece of technology–the cell phone? Rather than expecting your drivers to fumble around in search of pen and paper, why not instruct them to dial an 800 number, stating their current odometer reading and relevant details–and then hang up?

This approach makes mileage logging much less of a chore for your salespeople and drivers. It doesn’t require smart phones–any cell phone will do.

Another big advantage: all mileage logging gets funneled into a single voicemail box. Your data entry person will appreciate not having to hunt down log books and deciphering ink-smeared scraps of paper.

If you’re interested in hiring us to log your mileage for you, please touch base with me. We can set up a system that’s tailored to your unique way of doing business. We can automatically email your reports to you in PDF and Excel formats on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis.

Please contact us if you’re interested in learning more.