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Mr. Wiggles
Dec 1, 2003

We are all drinking from the highball glass of ideology.

Hello, goons. I come to you because we seriously need a solution.

My wife runs a small business (like 50 people) which does service of process and other legal document things. Her parents started the business back in the 80s, and for a couple of decades they've been using a very modified version of filemaker pro as the only database for the company. Unfortunately, the system is terribly slow (since everything runs off a server at the central headquarters, no matter where in the country employees are accessing it, and because every time you pull up a record it tries to reload the entire database, among other reasons.) Nevermind that the interface is garbage, support from filemaker is non-existent, and a zillion other little issues. Soooooo what we need is a new database solution, but we're not sure where to turn.

Abilities we need:
- Customer-facing portal for clients to request services as individual work orders, including the uploading of document files
- Ability for workers to interface with those work orders using a large number of custom fields, including via mobile device through a simple app, with data entry tracking (essentially, who entered what when)
- Ability to create internal documents (not client generated) for internal processes
- Ability to automate customer communication as various stages of the work order are completed.
- Work order -> billing integration
- Cloud based
- Cost effective

My first thought was Salesforce, but I don't have any experience using those products in this particular application. Other systems that I work with aren't really applicable, as they either have revenue models that won't work for this business (outsourced document creation with a fee per submission) or they're super old tech that won't do anything that we want anyway.

Any ideas are super helpful here, as a major new client has just been picked up and filemaker can't even figure out how to code a request form. Ugh.

Thanks!

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Bruciwayna
Apr 2, 2011

by FactsAreUseless


first question: mac or pc

Mr. Wiggles
Dec 1, 2003

We are all drinking from the highball glass of ideology.

PC windows 10 across the company.

chaosbreather
Dec 9, 2001

Wry and wise,
but also very sexual.



A mate of mine makes and runs Bluetrait, which sounds pretty much what you're looking for. His company does IT support for a poo poo ton of companies, too, and it's really grown based off the needs of his clients, so it really battle-tested for small business, and you'll get really great direct support. If the terms of art and capabilities seem off, give it a try, and if something's missing, reach out. He's super friendly and responsive and totally attuned to the small/medium business space.

I've worked with a bunch of companies that use Salesforce and it quickly turns into an expensive disaster.

HorseLord
Aug 26, 2014


It sounds like you need to work with a developer.

StabbinHobo
Oct 18, 2002

by Jeffrey of YOSPOS


four figure solution: pick an off the shelf saas crm and live with its limitations (NOT salesforce)

five figure solution: hire a development shop/agency, argue with them over specs and implementation details and pricing for six months eventually producing something 80% good enough

six figure solution: hire a medium tier laravel or rails developer that you can work with, have them incrementally chip away at automating and improving things over the course of a year or two

seven figure solution: same as above but hire 3 - 5 devs, and ops person and a product/team-lead person. deliberately use your existing business as a seed and test ground for a new SaaS version of the business.

good luck. most companies that are really just a glorified yarn ball of very specific business processes do not survive this transition. the act of forcing a UI and workflow change on the customer makes them realize that if they're gonna change what they're doing they might as well go shopping for someone who's doing the seven figure thing (and up).

StabbinHobo fucked around with this message at 16:29 on Jul 6, 2019

revmoo
May 25, 2006

#basta


HorseLord posted:

It sounds like you need to work with a developer.

It kinda does but it depends on the budget. OP what is your budget?

Mr. Wiggles
Dec 1, 2003

We are all drinking from the highball glass of ideology.

No budget established yet, but it's still basically a mom and pop style business despite offices in multiple cities and a bunch of employees. A four figure solution as mentioned above is probably the most realistic.

HorseLord
Aug 26, 2014


Well you're going to have to get your data from a 40 year old modified format into a modern one. The four figure solution is going to be a hell of a lot of copy and paste.

revmoo
May 25, 2006

#basta


StabbinHobo posted:

four figure solution: pick an off the shelf saas crm and live with its limitations (NOT salesforce)

five figure solution: hire a development shop/agency, argue with them over specs and implementation details and pricing for six months eventually producing something 80% good enough

six figure solution: hire a medium tier laravel or rails developer that you can work with, have them incrementally chip away at automating and improving things over the course of a year or two

seven figure solution: same as above but hire 3 - 5 devs, and ops person and a product/team-lead person. deliberately use your existing business as a seed and test ground for a new SaaS version of the business.

good luck. most companies that are really just a glorified yarn ball of very specific business processes do not survive this transition. the act of forcing a UI and workflow change on the customer makes them realize that if they're gonna change what they're doing they might as well go shopping for someone who's doing the seven figure thing (and up).

I'm the medium tier laravel developer.

This is good advice. You probably want to go with option 1. Pick a solution and tolerate its shortcomings.

Bob Morales
Aug 18, 2006


Just wear the fucking mask, Bob

I don't care how many people I probably infected with COVID-19 while refusing to wear a mask, my comfort is far more important than the health and safety of everyone around me!



Is it a big enough industry where there is already existing software you can buy and use?

Doh004
Apr 22, 2007

Mmmmm Donuts...

Bob Morales posted:

Is it a big enough industry where there is already existing software you can buy and use?

Odds are yes, or at least a collection of 2-3 services that can basically serve those needs. There might not be a one-size-fits-all solution out there but not everything literally needs to be in the same database these days.

duck monster
Dec 15, 2004



Avoid Salesforce, its a monster and really does need someone who's a dedicated Salesforce developer to tame the thing. Also $$$$$$

Since you seem to have a whole mess of semi-integrated business processes, maybe look at an all singing dancing thing like OpenERP/ODOO (open source with paid options) and if theres something it cant do perhaps hire a dev to modify it for you. Theres a few others as well.

poo poo, maybe just SugarCRM if you want something more CRM focused.

Honestly though, hire a coder with experience in whatever the specific stuff you need. Cheap gets you half baked.

But start with documenting *everything* about what that DB does and how its used, and possibly try and draw diagrams of how the business processes work. Everything in business can be thought of as a flow of money, resources, or information through a set of processes and rules. identify those and your half way there.

Nystral
Feb 6, 2002

Every man likes a pretty girl with him at a skeleton dance.


duck monster posted:

But start with documenting *everything* about what that DB does and how its used, and possibly try and draw diagrams of how the business processes work. Everything in business can be thought of as a flow of money, resources, or information through a set of processes and rules. identify those and your half way there.


For this step Iíve seen good results by stepping through the process using a screen capture app and talking through the flow. Then giving a tech writer the video and have them develop the documentation. Itís an added cost but doesnít overly burden the staff with additional work.

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Methylethylaldehyde
Oct 23, 2004

BAKA BAKA


Nystral posted:

For this step Iíve seen good results by stepping through the process using a screen capture app and talking through the flow. Then giving a tech writer the video and have them develop the documentation. Itís an added cost but doesnít overly burden the staff with additional work.

And when the technical writer makes a huge list of questions that are non-obvious to someone outside that specific business role, it lets you more completely document things. Iterate through it a few times and you can get a pretty solid process diagram and business ruleset out of it.

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