Google Calendar synchronisation

You can now sychronise any report that contains date-based data into your favourite calendar application, for example Google Calendar, a phone or the iPad calendar. Here’s an example screenshot.

Next on the horizon is

better dashboard KPI charts

You’ll soon be able to narrow down to show only recent data, expand out to the long term or do a year on year comparison.

We’ll keep you posted! In the meantime, have a great festive season.

Video: Think Drinks adopt agileBase

We thought we’d highlight the most recent company to adopt agileBase because they’re a great demonstration of the decision-making that goes into choosing a lean and agile platform to run IT systems on.

Here’s a video of the owner Tom Collins describing the background to his business and requirements.

When he heard about agileBase, Tom immediately saw the potential of a system that’s so fast to develop with that staff can be brought in on the process. The most important things for Think Drinks were

  • the ability for staff to propose changes to the system and have them immediately implemented, promoting a continuous improvement culture
  • the low initial investment in time and money before seeing working applications
  • having the staff who work with clients in the field be responsible for recording that work. Higher quality data means more accurate and timely invoicing, less administration re-work at later times and freeing up admin staff to concentrate on helping grow the business

Since this video was taken a couple of weeks ago, a complete system has been built in collaboration with Tom and the team, the basics being put together during meetings. It’s now being used on a day to day basis and we’ll follow up soon by revisiting and asking them to describe their experience. Stay tuned!

Major new features

Recently added at client request:

  • iPad compatibility: to allow Think Drinks engineers to record data without having to visit the office to log in to a PC
  • external logins: requested by Castell Howell Foods to allow key clients a limited view of data on their system about products and suppliers – i.e. opening up the supply chain
  • numerous minor improvements, too many to mention here. www.agilebase.co.uk/docs is up to date with the latest information

Top agileBase tips

The latest agileBase version out this week includes some great little ideas from inside and outside the company so I thought I’d compile them into a tips newsletter along with a few other useful general tips – the kinds of things that are really useful if you know about them. So, new stuff first…

1. NEW – tooltips on column headings

For numeric fields, when you hover over a field name in pane 2, a tooltip appears calculating the sum and average for the column. This works when filtering as well – you’ll get just the figures for the filtered data.

For lookup and some other text fields, agileBase lists all values in the report and shows how many times each appears with a little graphic – useful for a quick overview.

These are a couple of examples from our timesheet.

Thanks to Bread Art Collective for some initial inspiration.

2. NEW – chart exporting

Emailing, printing or sharing charts outside outside agileBase is now easy – just click the little ‘download’ button at the top right of a chart which will download an image of the chart that can be easily emailed or shared.

3. Document versioning

When you upload a document to agileBase, it’s kept for the life of the record. Even if you upload another version to replace it, any old versions are kept and can be retrieved from the ‘view’ tab.

But how do you delete a document (without deleting the rest of the record)? Simply clone the record and all other information will remain but the document and document history won’t be copied.

4. The relation picker.

The relation picker’s used for choosing an item in a related table. For example, if editing a contact, you may choose the organisation they belong to. Simply start typing and a dropdown will appear allowing selection of the item. So what’s the tip? Well, you can use * when typing to mean a wildcard, exactly as you would do when filtering. Here’s an example of adding an address to a record: I know it’s somewhere in Bristol…

5. Simultaneous reports

Sometimes it’s good to be able to look at one report in one window and a different one in another, so you don’t have to keep flipping back and forth between the two reports in agileBase. To do this, open each report in a different web browser, e.g. the first in Firefox and the second in Google Chrome. If you do this, the browsers won’t get confused!


Well, there are lots more tips to be had but I’ll save the next five for another post. In the meantime, things keep improving and I hope agileBase allows you to keep improving your business. As Cardinal Newman said, “to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often”.

Continuous improvement in agileBase

agileBase is a platform to allow continuous iterative improvements to back-office business systems. We are so convinced of this iterative approach that we also follow the same logic in developing the product itself. Basically if we come across a problem that a client has, rather than trying to solve it in a one-off fashion, we try to about think how we can build in improvements into agileBase itself so that similar issues in future will also be addressed.

One example of this approach is the new ‘merge import’ facility.

We could see there was a need to merge data from a spreadsheet into an existing database as clients had asked for this a couple of times, so we devised an automated facility to allow that. Matching spreadsheet data can now be merged in, overwriting when necessary, leaving alone when there’s no new value to import. This update also takes care of some common data-cleansing issues, for example stripping excess spaces from before and after values.

This continuous incremental approach has been ongoing for over 4 years. You can see from the ‘impact’ graph below the number of lines of code added and removed from agileBase over the past couple of months.  So let us know if there’s anything you’d like to see!

Click to Zoom!

Introducing online A3 reports tool

Over the last 5 years we have worked with numerous service sector SMEs helping them to not only solve problems but to also think about how they could solve problem in a Lean way. We have found clients really like the simplicity of the A3 report process that was developed by Toyota. (For some background on what an A3 report is, have a read of the A3 reports blog).

But we believe there are some issues with this paper based system, and we have begun building a simple tool on agileBase that addresses these issues. An early release will be available in a few days. In the meantime, why not read around some of the books and videos referenced in this post?

Analysis: The link between operations and strategy

Why analyze? And why now?

The IT press is currently full of stories about a recent trend; the increasing using of data analysis to built competitive advantage.  Analysis is coming into its own as service sector organisations realise that they can get real time answers to fundamental questions such as, what efficiency improvements are possible in my internal systems? How quickly are we handling customer complaints? Or what exactly are customers responding to in my marketing campaigns?

agileBase has caught this zeitgeist and now allows SMEs to visualise their data in the same way that larger organisations take for granted.

The new agileBase dashboard has operational, tactical and strategic charting features with highlights including:

  • automated reporting of unusual data, to aid data cleansing without requiring additional staff time
  • automated reporting of missing data in key fields
  • simple visualisations for any relevant metrics
  • side by side viewing of charts from different data sources to aid decision making
  • utilisation maps to show which areas of the business are important to users and which under-utilised, to help in evaluating investment strategies

agileBase Dashboard helps executives “see” their organisation in full, using data that’s traditionally been spread across a myriad of spreadsheets and other software tools. Where agileBase is already used for

  • CRM
  • marketing
  • learning/training systems
  • managing assets
  • customer complaints
  • etc.

then all of this data is already collected and shared amongst relevant staff. Just get in touch to enable a free dashboard evaluation and find out about the new features that allow insight into your own data.

New for April/May

Despite certain staff being incapacitated abroad during this month’s volcano ash flights shutdown, we’ve still managed to get out some major feature releases and updates requested by clients.

First is our executive dashboard, available as an addon – it’s now ready for initial users to play with.

The second is the ability to set any field in agileBase as mandated – i.e. a user has to fill in a value when editing a record. If they don’t, the effects are

  • the record is locked until the field is filled in
  • an exception will be shown in the new dashboard visible to managers

The third is an improvement to summary charts. You can now create charts that show cumulative totals and counts, e.g. running totals of a value as time progresses.

Of course, all these and other updates are immediately available to everyone using agileBase and remember, there’s no charge for adding additional users. You can share your company information with as many staff and selected outside users as you need to without additional purchases or the need to install software. Think of the comparison with other software you may have tried!

Here’s to a sunny and busy May!

Dashboard preview

The agileBase dashboard has entered internal beta testing and barring significant problems will be released next month as an add-on. We think this will add a lot of value for executive level staff or anyone who might benefit from a complete overview of the whole system.

It’s not production quality, there are still features to tune and issues to resolve, but if any clients are interested in getting an early preview and giving feedback on direction, please contact cliff@gtwm.co.uk to be set up.

v2.6 charting video demo

Release 2.6 of agileBase introduces some new ways to chart data. Here’s a five minute video that shows how to make the most of the new features for tactical analysis, creating, filtering and manipulating data charts.

agileBase

What’s new?

GT portalBase has a new name, agileBase. The working title ‘GT portalBase’ was overdue for replacement and the new name simply reflects the nature and purpose of the product, an agile development platform – development with agileBase allowing back office software to be

  • just in time (that is, this week and $ rather than next year and $$$$$)
  • just enough (rather than being swamped by bloatware and complex user interfaces)
  • just for us (customisable to business needs and processes)

Log in at www.agilebase.co.uk/start (the old domain will continue  to work as well)

What else?

Today’s release of version 2.5 also adds the ability to create as many summary charts as you like per view – more details in the docs

And coming up

We’re not just changing things on the surface, there are exciting things in the roadmap for the near future. The next development will be a custom addon that adds an executive dashboard covering the entire set of modules in your organisation’s setup, to give a ‘helicopter view’ of all the data as well as automatically highlighting likely exceptions and recent changes. More news on this blog soon…