For this particular blog post I would like to use a light-hearted approach to a major problem. The problem is lost productivity and user frustration around populating data into Line of Business applications via Manual Data Entry versus Automation.
To illustrate my point let’s take one of the most popular Software as a Service (SaaS) applications ever, Salesforce.com. And while the application is absolutely simple to use and easy to manage, what lacks is the ability to take information from paper and/or an image and put it directly into Salesforce.com database fields.
1. Let’s take a moment to go through the steps to import data into Salesforce.com and follow the steps Frankie-the-frustrated worker must take to get this task done.
2. Commentary of Frankie-the-frustrated worker:
“Frustrating! Step 1 of 7????”
3. Commentary of Frankie-the-frustrated worker:
“MORE FRUSTRATING!!! WASTING TIME!!!”
4. Commentary of Frankie-the-frustrated worker:
“MORE THAN EVER FRUSTRATED!!!!!!!!!
WASTING TIME, MONEY, AND ENERGY!!!!!!!!!!!”
5. Commentary of Frankie-the-frustrated worker:
“FORGET IT!!!!!!!!!!!! THIS WILL NEVER END!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHY IS IT LIKE THIS????? ISN’T THERE AN EASIER WAY????????????????”
Education and modern technology reduce Frankie’s frustration
Are we still living in the stone age when it comes to data entry into computer systems? Isn’t there a more efficient method to automatically populate data in your software application instead of costly manual data entry? It’s 2012 after all, not 1912. Why do we accept such primitive methods of data entry?
Answer: Because we need to educate the market on the capabilities of capture technologies. We also need to strive to make integration and usage as easy as possible. If you build it, they will come.
Eliminating Frankie’s frustration with Ubiquitous Information Capture
Realizing the dream of Ubiquitous Information Capture directly into applications is much easier than you might think but we must educate the market on current capabilities. The idea is simple, yet highly effective. Embed the ability to take photos with a smart phone and/or capture paper documents from a scanning device directly into your software application. Note that all I’ve done in the screen prints below is add a small icon of a camera and scanner directly into my CloudConnectMashup software application.
Now, I can offer my users a truly great user experience because contributing information is nearly effortless and removes pain associated with manual data entry. This translates directly into reduced operational costs, improved efficiencies and an overall better work environment.
Think about all the lost opportunities to drastically reduce labor costs, most likely in the billions if not trillions of dollars, associated with manual data entry in just the use cases below:
Transportation applications with Bills of Lading, Proof of Deliveries, Trip Sheet or Scale Tickets
Field Service applications with Proof of Work delivered, Vehicle Identification Number, Work Orders or Assessment documentation
Contracts Management applications with Amendments, Terms and Conditions or License Agreements
Invoice Management applications with Invoices, corresponding Packing Lists or Proof of Performance
Sales/Contact Relationship Management applications with Business Cards, Agreements or Correspondences
Do you know a Frankie in your organization? Do you have a story, good or bad, to tell? We’d love to hear your feedback.
Why is the word “solution” so difficult for some to digest? True, I’m sure the word means different things to different people but to me it’s very straight-forward. Let me explain.
A “solution” is when the sum of parts collectively comprise a product or service that can be used or consumed without the need for additional parts. A car, for example, is a “solution”. Sure it needs gas and occasionally other consumable parts such as tires, oil changes or new wiper blades but the point-is that you can drive this “solution” off of the auto dealers lot ‘as is’. As technology relates, a computer is an example of a solution. It already has all the parts put together where you can go into your local computer shop and buy a computer, boot it up, and immediately begin using it. The hard drive, video card are all integrated and the operating system is already installed. All you do is some customization of your desktop and add services such as an internet provider or additional software packages. Simple and easy!
This concept of ‘piece-parts’ vs. ‘solutions’ is the irony of “the cloud”. Software as a Service (SaaS) applications are the dream of “solutions” realized. To non-technical persons they would not think anything of all the ‘piece-parts’ that were put together to create something that you just ‘drive-off-the-lot’ as my car analogy in the previous paragraph illustrates. And this is EXACTLY how it should be, in my humble opinion. All the technology involved to make a solution should be completely transparent to users and they should not care. It should just simply work.
I think far too often people fall in love with their ‘piece-part’ and think the world revolves only around their product or service when this is not true.
*Thinking to myself ironically* I guess Cloud Is A Fad and people won’t continue to demand “solutions”. I guess ease of use and simplicity will never work. Naw, never, not in a million years *more irony*. Microsoft Windows with simple point-and-click functionality will never catch on. Apple iPad’s with large touch screen interfaces and big buttons will never be adopted by the masses. And, of course, “the cloud” will never be used in the enterprise because it’s just for personal use like Facebook and G-Mail. It’s just a fad.
It’s ON folks. The opportunities within the emerging cloud marketplace are tremendous. Whomever delivers the winning formula of offering “solutions” which are highly-effective, yet easy to use and digest will win. Plain and simple. ‘Piece-parts’ will remain just that, ‘parts’ with unrealized true potential just like a hard disk drive has no value without software. And software has no value without processing and storage.