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The End of Data Entry: Liberate Your Organization Through Automation and Integration

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This session provides an overview of several different approaches to integrated IT operations and effortless, organization-wide data sharing.

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The End of Data Entry: Liberate Your Organization Through Automation and Integration

  1. 1. The End of Data Entry Liberate Your Organization through Automation and Integration Technology in the Arts Conference October 10, 2008
  2. 2. What we’ll talk about • Custom software • Systems integration • Outsourcing data entry (for free) • Case study: Fractured Atlas’s fiscal sponsorship program • (No ERP, sorry)
  3. 3. But first… Nice to meet you! • Fractured Atlas • Adam Forest Huttler • Arwen Lowbridge • Who are you?
  4. 4. Two kinds of software vs. ?
  5. 5. Custom software is… • Written for a specific “customer” • Developed in-house or by contractors • Designed to specifications • Majority of software written • More prevalent with the rise of web apps
  6. 6. The Good Stuff (Custom software rulz! Off-the-shelf drools!) • Designed around natural business processes and workflow • Everything’s integrated • Easy to make changes • Security (maybe) • Total cost of ownership • Shrink-wrapped alternative may not exist
  7. 7. Here Be Dragons! (That’s geek-speak for BE CAREFUL) • Up-front costs can be substantial • No such thing as a finished product • Need internal capacity & competence • Security (maybe) • High risk, high reward
  8. 8. So how do you prevent boondoggles and maximize the likelihood of success?
  9. 9. Guidelines for Success in Custom Software • Know what you want to build and invest in upfront design that involves the end users • Build modular components and minimize dependencies • Practice iterative development • Save time for testing and bug fixes (more than you think you’ll need) • If your needs really are the same as everyone else’s, buy the shrink-wrapped version
  10. 10. “We’ll build the plane while we fly it!” - Anonymous client
  11. 11. Guidelines for Success in Custom Software • Know what you want to build and invest in upfront design that involves the end users • Build modular components and minimize dependencies • Practice iterative development • Save time for testing and bug fixes (more than you think you’ll need) • If your needs really are the same as everyone else’s, buy the shrink-wrapped version
  12. 12. Guidelines for Success in Custom Software • Know what you want to build and invest in upfront design that involves the end users • Build modular components and minimize dependencies • Practice iterative development • Save time for testing and bug fixes (more than you think you’ll need) • If your needs really are the same as everyone else’s, buy the shrink-wrapped version
  13. 13. Let your software evolve, because if you try to do everything at once…
  14. 14. End-users also like incremental change
  15. 15. Guidelines for Success in Custom Software • Know what you want to build and invest in upfront design that involves the end users • Build modular components and minimize dependencies • Practice iterative development • Save time for testing and bug fixes (more than you think you’ll need) • If your needs really are the same as everyone else’s, buy the shrink-wrapped version
  16. 16. Guidelines for Success in Custom Software • Know what you want to build and invest in upfront design that involves the end users • Build modular components and minimize dependencies • Practice iterative development • Save time for testing and bug fixes (more than you think you’ll need) • If your needs really are the same as everyone else’s, buy the shrink-wrapped version
  17. 17. Cost to purchase Microsoft Office: $399.95 Cost to build a new office suite from scratch: $??,???,???
  18. 18. But what about legacy software or outside systems? Redundant data storage Manual processing/messaging Inconsistent data General misery
  19. 19. Systems Integration a.k.a. Enterprise Application Integration Getting different programs to share information and/or trade instructions even when they don’t know anything about each other
  20. 20. Two ways to approach this • Source code modification – Only works with open source software – Can sabotage upgrade path and complicate maintenance • Application Programming Interface (API) – Published protocol for communicating with a software application – Most modern software has some kind of externally accessible API
  21. 21. What non-geeks without giant IT budgets should know about APIs • Plugins – Open source software often provides “hooks” – Override/add functionality without modifying core source code • Web services – Mechanism for exchanging structured data over the web
  22. 22. Example of a Plugin • Fractured Atlas website needs a blog • Our blog is nothing special • Install Wordpress and call it a day • PROBLEM: Wordpress expects to use its own user account system • SOLUTION: write a plugin for Wordpress that makes it use existing user database
  23. 23. Web services, on the other hand… • Exchange data between remote systems • Traditional data format is XML, but other formats are emerging • Examples: – RSS/Atom syndication (simplest form) – Weather data – UPS/FedEX tracking
  24. 24. Getting Web Data into Quickbooks • Fiscal sponsorship transactions have financial implications • Custom software lives on the web server – Hosted in Michigan data center – Runs Linux operating system – Software written in PHP • Accounting data lives in QuickBooks – QuickBooks server is in New York office – QuickBooks only runs on Windows – Server not web-accessible (security)
  25. 25. QBWC and qbXML • QuickBooks can be made to act as a web service client to periodically request data from a remote web service • qbXML is the structured data format specified by Intuit for this communication
  26. 26. Example of qbXML <?xml version=quot;1.0quot; encoding=quot;utf-8quot;?> <?qbxml version=quot;7.0quot;?> <QBXML> <QBXMLMsgsRq onError=quot;stopOnErrrorquot;> <CustomerAddRq> <CustomerAdd> <Name >John Q. Public</Name> <IsActive >1</IsActive> <CompanyName >Acme Manufacturing, Inc.</CompanyName> <Salutation >Mr.</Salutation> <FirstName >John</FirstName> <MiddleName >Q.</MiddleName> <LastName >Public</LastName> <BillAddress> <Addr1 >1 Main Street</Addr1> <City >Anytown</City> <State >KS</State> <PostalCode >12345</PostalCode> </BillAddress> </CustomerAdd> </CustomerAddRq> </QBXMLMsgRq> </QBXML>
  27. 27. Near real-time synchronization • New fiscal sponsorship transactions are queued for import in QuickBooks • QuickBooks server in Fractured Atlas office contacts the web server every 20 minutes to exchange data • New transactions/entities are imported – New donors added as QB customers – Donations queued for deposit – Fund release checks ready to print
  28. 28. We still haven’t eliminated data entry altogether, though… • Data creation occurs as a natural consequence of doing business • Not all of it naturally happens via software (e.g., offline sales) • How do we process “offline” data without dedicating human resources?
  29. 29. Outsource it to your customers and vendors! • Co-participants in the data events • They’re doing the data entry anyway • Design processes so that you share in the fruits of their labor – Push transactions to your website – Create incentives to use your systems
  30. 30. Donation Reporting: The Old Way 1. Member records donations on paper form (20 minutes for batch of 10) 2. Member mails form with checks to FA office (5 minutes) 3. FA staff records donations in database (20 minutes for batch of 10) 4. FA staff deposits donation checks (5 minutes)
  31. 31. Donation Reporting: The New Way 1. Member records donations in online form (20 minutes for batch of 10) 2. Member mails only checks to FA office (5 minutes) 3. FA staff confirms donations upon receipt (1 minute for batch of 10) 4. FA staff deposits donation checks (5 minutes)
  32. 32. Donation Reporting: The New Way • Big deal… saves 2 minutes per donation • But… Fractured Atlas receives over 10,000 donations per year • 2 minutes x 10,000 = 333 hours • That’s 7 hours each week that the employee now has free for HUMAN work
  33. 33. Where to begin? • Start small • Focus on low-hanging fruit • Conduct cost-benefit analysis and persuade your funders to invest in infrastructure

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