3 examples of how forward thinking business owners eliminated manual data entry
More from Inbal Steinberg
simPRO is a powerful tool that revolutionises how businesses track, schedule, bill and analyse their jobs. Sometimes, however, a bridge needs to built to communicate with third-party applications or existing infrastructure.
‘Bridges’ between software applications are called integrations, and they are built using APIs (Application Programming Interface).
In this article, we’ve shared three examples of how smart businesses chose to streamline their workflow using the simPRO API.
1. The cleaning contractor: PDF orders into simPRO
Imagine a cleaning contractor who receives dozens of work orders every day from the city councils around them.
The orders are emailed through in PDF format – each order in a separate PDF. Their staff create the relevant jobs in simPRO one by one.
This takes precious time and doesn’t do any good for staff moral.
Ideally, they would like to develop a process that monitors the incoming email system, retrieves the PDFs, reads them, and automatically creates the jobs in simPRO. Simple, and elegant.
People often think that PDFs are not machine-readable. That is a misconception that was true at some point but is no longer accurate. Specifically, if the PDF was originally created by a software such as Word or Excel by simply saving a document as PDF, it is in fact machine readable. Of course, if the PDF is a scanned, handwritten page, the story is very different.
With this automation in place, orders that are received as PDF are automatically added to simPRO as jobs without any manual intervention.
Staff are free to deal with other, more rewarding tasks like looking after customers or ensuring that jobs are delivered on time.
From the technical perspective, this is a relatively simple program.
Development should take around two weeks from specification (when we discuss the details of exactly what item in the PDF should go into each field in simPRO) to User Acceptance Testing (where we play with sample PDFs to make sure that you are happy with how the new program works).
2. The NBN contractor: job files in and out
NBN contractors receive hundreds of installation addresses and descriptions a day, and they have to quickly get the details out to the field staff with accurate addresses and installation details.
Traditionally, the contractor received the information in Excel spreadsheets and has to return similar updated spreadsheets at the end of each day.
This is a lot of manual work.
One contractor I visited had a room full of admin staff dedicated to handling these spreadsheets. They were entering the jobs into simPRO and updating their status from simPRO back into the spreadsheets all day long.
This contractor asked that we help to free up staff and reduce manual overhead.
“We have the information in electronic format all the way, we just need to make things talk to each other”.
This is the perfect scenario for using APIs.
If the information is available in electronic format in every step of the way, all we need to do is transfer it from one system to the other using APIs (Application Programming Interface)
To automate this we developed a simple web application where they uploaded their daily incoming file. The program either created the jobs in simPRO or updated them if they were already in the system.
The processing time came to five minutes overall, for hundreds of jobs.
Then, at the end of each day, an updated file was generated to be sent back to the NBN with the up-to-the-minute information from simPRO’s users on the field.
Processing time, again, about five minutes.
Integrations eliminate the time and error factor from handling large amounts of data.
3. Glass contractor: quotes from a specialised system
Certain functions will always be handled by specialised systems.
This is the case with quoting on glass solutions based on accurate measurements and designs. Once quotes are accepted, a job has to be created, which means copying customer details and job specifications from the quoting system into simPRO.
This manual data transfer adds no value at all, and in fact, introduces delay and errors into the process.
Ideally this glass manufacturer would like orders to automatically flow through from the quoting system into simPRO when a quote is accepted.
In this case, it was actually the vendor of the quoting system that used the simPRO API to push across customer and job information once a quote is accepted. Having done that, they virtually eliminated duplicate data entry and the potential human errors that come with it.
This is a fantastic example of a software vendor taking the initiative to link their solution with other systems and so make it a seamless part of the users’ eco-system of software apps.
simPRO’s API, the layer responsible for software integrations, allows for automation of data coming in and out of simPRO.
The options are endless and it all starts with an open minded exploration of your options.
Don’t shy away from fully automating your processes.
A back office that is efficient and nimble, allows your business to focus on what really matters and to scale.
Inbal Steinberg is the founder of ConvertworX, a cloud advisory firm that has been working with simPRO since 2011. Inbal can work with you to ensure that you are using the best systems for your business and that all your systems talk to each other efficiently.