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OASIS Best Practices (Whitepap…»Going Paperless?
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Last modified on 1/14/2015 1:05 PM by User.

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Going Paperless?

Overview

This paper presents ideas on going paperless with OASIS. Many of the tools are already available for the OASIS user. However backups and other considerations are presented to provide the user with the best possible experience. This document covers:

  • OASIS Paperless Features

  • Using Dual Screens

  • Backups!

  • Real life examples

OASIS Paperless Features

The features in OASIS were designed from the start to enable companies operate more efficiently and “going paperless” is one element. With less paper, simply finding answers to customer questions is easier. Here are some examples the paperless features in OASIS:

  • Agency orders with optional customer orders (rep only)

  • Creating transactions from a bill of material using “New Like” and “Create POs”

  • Automated Submittals

  • Email integration

  • Price lists

  • Electronic integration

 

Agency orders with optional customer orders

Most sales agencies these days send the OASIS order to the factory or use electronic integration to send order information directly to the manufacturer’s data system. This has not always been the case. Even today, a few sales agencies will literally take the customer’s order, manually write in the commission terms and send the resulting document (fax or email) to the factory. The few remaining groups that have this business model say that it relieves them of the liability of getting the order wrong and during training; I often ask, “Does it?” But the bigger question is: “Shouldn’t we be trying to get the correct product ordered – regardless of whose order is sent to the factory?”

 

Step one in going paperless, is to eliminate the need to print or even electrically stamp the customer’s order in any way. For those of you that remember this process, the OASIS order form is essentially the old “commissions stamp” many companies used to “stamp” the commissions and overage terms on the customer’s copy of the order before faxing to the manufacturer. To be honest, most manufacturers look at the sales agencies copy of the order as it is consistent and easier to read than the order documents created by most distributors.

 

It is possible to take the customer’s copy of the order, attach it to the OASIS order and send both the OASIS order copy and the customer copy of the order to the manufacturer. This allows the manufacturer to compare the two and keep the official order document (the distributor’s order) for later reference.

 

Before a group can “go paperless”, printing of orders to annotate commissions or changes has to stop. The OASIS order forms were created for this very reason: eliminate the need to print.

 

Creating transactions from a bill of material using “New Like” and “Create POs”

Most features in OASIS have a “New Like” feature. This allows one to create a new quote “like” the bill of material you are working with already. The quantities, fixture types, catalog numbers and much more is copied into a new quote. Using these features, it is possible to take all or part of a bill of material and create a “new transaction like”:

  • A new quote

  • A new submittal

  • A new order

  • A packing slip

  • An invoice

  • And much more.

 

Additionally, there are many copy/paste features in OASIS allowing you to copy data from one part of the system to another – much like using a spreadsheet. And yes, you can copy/paste data between OASIS and most spreadsheet applications.

 

Creating transactions like and order or submittal from another is important for many reasons. Reducing print is one, but the bigger reason is to reduce keying errors. Once a fixture is approved on a project, it is important to key the manufacturer and catalog number for that fixture into the active OASIS quote. This ensures the next person will start with correct information.

 

Business process aside, OASIS was designed to help users by not forcing them to re-key information already in the system multiple times.

 

Automated Submittals

Creating a submittal in OASIS is very easy. Over time, OASIS learns the different catalog numbers for a cut-sheet and how your organization annotates the cut-sheet for the given catalog number (including when to annotate “Please select finish”).

 

Many of our users simply email the finished submittals out of OASIS. Now we are getting reports from our users where the specifiers are “approving” the fixtures electronically as well. The approved email and “stamped” submittal may be “dropped” into the OASIS project for the job and saved for others to view.

 

Email integration

For years, OASIS has had integration with many email systems used by our clients. Some email systems are easier to work with than others, but the two important features in OASIS are:

  • Emailing a transaction from OASIS

  • Dropping email into OASIS attachments

 

Email integration allows OASIS to create a complete email and send the email using your business email account. The OASIS transaction (e.g. quote, order, invoice) is automatically added to the email as an attachment and previewed before the user presses the “send” button. Remember, it is possible to add one or more attachments to these emails before they are sent. The attachments may already be in OASIS, or they might be accessible to the computer OASIS is running on.

 

When a customer sends a response (or any email about a project or order), the subject line of the order may often be “drug from” the email client you are using and “dropped on” the attachments tab of any OASIS transaction. This allows anyone in the office to view the email and not “hack” someone’s email account to answer a customer question. If your email client does not allow for this drag and drop, try saving the email to your computer’s desktop. Anything saved to the local computer may be “dropped” into the OASIS attachments tabs.

 

Price lists

For the most part, price lists and pricing data has moved from the hard-bound books of the past to Adobe PDF and Microsoft XLS documents stored on a shared server drive.

 

However, many OASIS users have taken the next step and copy/pasted the pricing data into OASIS as an OASIS price list. This forms a drop down as you type the catalog number, helping users get the catalog number correct. This in itself is a big boost in eliminating errors. However, when selected, the catalog number will add in authorized pricing and in some cases customer specific pricing. What would have taken ten or more minutes to price manually is automatically priced in OASIS.

 

More and more OASIS users are placing nearly all of their pricing data into OASIS. This is true for small and large groups. It does take some setup time, but the result is fewer errors, rapid pricing and more of a focus on selecting the proper product.

 

Electronic Integration

OASIS was designed from the start to integrate with other data systems. This has allowed us to adopt and develop a number of different technologies to move data from one business partner to another without re-keying the same data. This saves errors, and increases productivity. This is a large topic, but discuss with your trading partners the following:

  • More and more sales agency direct integration with the factories

  • Using O2O exchange, quote, order and order status between sales agency and distributor

  • Using EDI, OASIS is able to exchange data with other data systems.

  • Some distributors link OASIS directly to their ERP system

 

Electronic integration really helps productivity, reduces errors and enables a paperless office.

Using Dual Screens

Early on, OASIS users found that two monitors allows the user to have OASIS on one screen and their email (or web browser) on the other screen. This allows the user to quickly move data from one system to another using drag and drop. It also allows the user to quickly answer a customer question about a quote or order in OASIS.

 

Today, monitors have become wider than tall and the resolution is much better than what was available. To take advantage of this, Microsoft Windows 7 (or later) and other computer software vendors have adapted their operating systems to take advantage of these new monitors. Try dragging the title bar of any application in Windows 7 to the far left or right side of the monitor. This will cause the application to fill exactly one half of the screen – as shown below. Instant dual screens!

 

 

Backups!

Using OASIS to “go paperless” is fairly easy. The question I get from users is, “What happens when the computer is down?” This is exactly the question I want and the answer is easy: backups!

 

Using computers, we can focus on the reality that they will someday fail. But the other reality is that all the data on a server may be saved to a small backup device. Or the data may be copied “to the cloud” – which is just storing the data on a server somewhere else. The result: today our valuable data can be accessible after something as bad as a natural disaster.

 

Here are some backup options:

  • USB Drive Backup

  • Local server backup

  • 3’rd party cloud backup

  • OASIS Cloud Backup

 

REGARDLESS OF SOLUTION, WE RECOMMEND TESTING YOUR BACKUP AT LEAST ONCE PER YEAR! See the information below about validating a backup.

 

USB Drive Backup

The OASIS database may be instructed to create a backup anywhere. This includes a full copy of the database file, plus a secondary “log file” that may be used to recover the database in the event of a failure.

 

If using USB or “External” drives, we recommend purchasing at lest two of them. The OASIS database is instructed to make a copy to the drive every night. Weekly, we recommend swapping the drives, taking one drive home or placing in a safety deposit box. This process not only guards against computer failure, but also guards against theft, fires and other local disasters.

 

ISSUES: Some users quit checking this backup after a while. We have received calls after the server crashes to find out the external backup is not useable. See validating a backup below.

 

Local server backup

Many of our users already have a backup plan for their server. One thing to tell your IT group about the OASIS database is that the database is a true relational database that often can not be “read” during the backup process. To allow for a backup, the OASIS database may be instructed to make a copy of itself to a location where the backup software is able to write a copy of the OASIS database to the backup media.

 

ISSUES: Some users never verify that the local server backup is actually working. We have found this a couple of times when the users call after a server failure to find out the backup solution they are using quit working months ago. See validating a backup below.

 

3rd party cloud backup

We have seen some nice 3’rd party cloud backup solutions come out recently. These backup solutions are able to backup gigabyte size files to the cloud effectively. Additionally, theses backup solutions are able to backup the local server and even other PCs on the network.

 

Like the “Local server backup” above, the OASIS database must be instructed to make a copy of itself to allow the cloud backup software to make a copy of the database to the cloud.

 

ISSUES: Some users never verify that the local server backup is actually working. We have found this a couple of times when the users call after a server failure to find out the backup solution they are using quit working months ago. See validating a backup below.

 

OASIS Cloud Backup

Some OASIS customers are businesses with sales well over $100M/year. In dollar terms, this is about $380K loss for one day without OASIS! A database recovery with a GOOD backup is about one day. Without a good backup, the company could be down for a week or more. For this reason, we created the OASIS Cloud Backup solution.

 

The OASIS Cloud Backup solution is based on our OASIS Cloud Sync technology being used by some customers to keep two different databases in two different offices “in sync”. This allows a quote or order in one office to be created and then automatically copied to our Cloud Backup server and then to the other database. Here are the advantages of OASIS cloud backup (without sync):

  1. The backup is automatic

  2. The backup happens throughout the day, copying each transaction to the backup server – often within minutes of the save.

  3. (Each quote transaction revision is available for users to manually recall.)

  4. The database is backed up on the OASIS Cloud Backup server

  5. The database is periodically validated automatically

  6. You continue to use your database without any of the inherent Internet bandwidth limitations.

 

The most important part is that if your local database fails for any reason, you are able to have the OASIS Cloud Backup of your database moved to our OASIS Cloud Host. The transfer time varies. The result: you are able to access your data on the OASIS Cloud Host hours after your server quits. Additionally, you are able to access the data (at Internet speed) while you resolve your local hardware issues. When ready, we will send you a copy of your database on the OASIS Backup Server and help you restore your server to normal operation.

Validating a Backup

More than once, the OASIS support team has received a support call associated with a failed server only to find the server backups were not useable.

 

At least one time per year, we recommend that the OASIS database be validated. The process is easy, but may take time to process. The steps are:

  1. Select a computer to run the validation on. A workstation class computer or better.

  2. Recall the database from the backup media and copy to the validation computer.

  3. Install the server version of OASIS.

  4. Using the ASA Configuration tool to validate the database.

  5. Using the ASA Manual start, login to the database to be sure the backup contains current information.

 

Please call OASIS support for more information.

Real Life Examples

The following examples actually happened and show the power of at least partially operating the business as a “paperless office”. Each example is not about saving the environment (although that is a nice side-effect), it is about operating faster, at a lower cost and making fewer mistakes.

 

Why did we get billed twice!”

While out training, one of the OASIS trainers was instructed to stop training because one of the company’s biggest customers was upset about being billed twice on an order. The trainer passed the keyboard and mouse to one of the owners who searched for the order the customer was asking about. After looking at the attachments and invoices in OASIS, the owner picked up the phone and was able to help their customer remember there were two releases on the order and the two invoices added up to the total of the entire order. Training resumed within 5 minutes and the owner never got out of her seat.

Conclusions

 

We now live in a virtual world with powerful computers on every desk. Using OASIS moves your computer from a fancy typewriter to a powerful data system and paperless office. Add in a cloud backup and it is possible to operate the business even after a natural disaster. Little of this is possible with paper files.