Custom Application Development

Jan 29 2009   2:07PM GMT

Application Value

SJC SJC Profile: SJC

Earlier this week I was speaking with a client for whom I had developed a custom solution for tracking and maintaining records of truck use mileages.  The company has multiple locations scattered within a 200 mile radius or so, and crossing state lines.  The project started out specifically as the result of an increasing difficulty in getting the individual logs and information back into the corporate headquarters in a timely manner to create the reporting required by the governing agencies.  The existing process required significant time to assemble, organize and prepare reports from the existing logs (…which more often than not were not legible!).  In fact, the person whose task it was to prepare the reports figured they spent somewhere between 8-12 hours preparing the reports each month.

From my developer perspective this was an excellent demonstration of need which could easily be developed.  The goals desired from the program were to establish:

  • Timely reporting
  • Increased accuracy
  • Accessibility
  • Painless Operation (read that as EASY) to use

To accomplish these goals a multi-user database application was created to collect log information on a daily basis — a key element of which was an EXTREMELY simplistic user interface for entering the log information by employees without typing skills.  This was accomplished by extensive use of selection lists, calendar date pickers, combo forms and checkboxes – mostly it was odometer readings to be entered with the keyboard.  (i.e. Start/Stop readings).  Validation was built into the program to check the “reasonableness” of the entries.  (i.e. an entry showing a truck doing 1000 miles in a day would not be accepted!).

As (I believe) with any application, the “real” value of the application has come with the variety of reporting now immediately available.  The system is “real time” so a quick report run to the screen any time during the month can easily show “missing” or errant entries which can be followed up on while memories are still fresh. 

As for the “value” of the application (…which by the way has been running for about 5 years now!),  it’s difficult to quantify the accuracy gains, but certainly there is much more confidence in the current data (which looks quite different than previous data, probably because of inaccuracies with previous methods).  As for the time spent preparing reporting – a savings of hours per month has added up over 5 years!  Value of information availability again is hard to quantify, however as a sidebar, using the log has enabled better tracking of preventive maintainance for vehicles — certainly a benefit!

I love hearing reports like this where the value of an application shows such clear value!  (Especially when it’s a piece of my work!)

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