Replacing a 30-year-old Access database with a cloud-based SQL system
About the Client
Fast Fixx Catering Engineers are a staple of the catering industry in Scotland. For years, they provided top quality catering equipment installation, repair and maintenance services. Their engineers help private businesses and council-run properties (e.g. Glasgow City council, local schools) repair and maintain catering equipment.
When Fast Fixx director of operations Jim Reid approached Tentacle, they were running all their operations from a single Microsoft Access database in their Glasgow office. Understandably, it turned into a huge problem for their business. They had three major issues:
1.Administrative: If there was any emergency work or enquiries outside of business hours, Fast Fixx managers couldn’t access the system outside of the office. Their workflow depended on Sage accounting and invoicing, which had migrated into the cloud and was no longer compatible with their database system’s limited functionality.
2.Operational: Their engineers live all over Glasgow and their clients are all over Scotland. However, before heading to work, all of them had to waste time to go to the head office to pick up the job sheet, request parts, contact suppliers, request relocation etc.. Instead of working with clients, they wasted resources on traveling to the head office to work with the old database.
3.Infrastructural: As was said before - their Access database was 30-years-old and looked like a patchwork blanket - little patches and bug fixes everywhere. Due to the system being overburdened, it took a long time to perform the simplest tasks and easily crashed under the strain. Fast Fixx employees were resourceful and developed their own, unique shortcuts and workarounds. It was a problem in and of itself - if any of the experienced employees retired or left - the new staff had to find their own way around the system. To make matters worse, the only specialists familiar with their system had retired and others were reluctant to take on this enormous task.
Finding a developer that would dare take on their system was a challenge and Fast Fixx were understandably afraid that a new developer would not understand the system.
The Tentacle Solution
Tentacle’s team spent six months analysing the client’s business model, day-to-day operations, and then designing and developing a bespoke database system that would tick all the points on the client’s wishlist and more.
Tentacle’s approach was divided into two parts:
During the first month, Sadia led the Tentacle’s analytical team to learn how the old access system worked, how all the various job roles in Fastfixx operated day to day, what “wishlist” improvements Fastfixx wanted in the system. Identifying all the possible potential security risks in the current system was an integral part of the analysis.
Design and Development
Once the team had completed the analysis, designers and developers devised a functional spec that would solve the issues and bring Fast Fixx into the modern technological era. In the next couple of months, Tentacle Solutions completely revamped a vast and complicated mess into a sleek, cloud-based web SQL system. The new SQL cloud-based system provided all the functionality of the old one - including Sage invoicing, except now it actually worked. Our developers went an extra mile and provided an HTML5 mobile system for their engineers which allowed them to quickly collect their day sheets on their mobiles. It allows for flexibility to quickly and smoothly transition into working from home for the engineers.
To put the end product in real life context: Fast Fixx’s office staff have a fast and efficient admin system capable of working anywhere in the world and on any device. The entire daily operations, including engineers’ movements, part requests and reports can be tracked in real time.
The engineers’ workflow has been drastically optimized - they open their apps in the morning to get their job assignments along with a map detailing the best route to each job. When engineers detect they need a part for a job, the system will instantly alert the parts team in the office:
1.The order is then sent to the supplier
2.When the order is delivered the engineers are then tasked in their daily jobs to visit the parts department and pick it up
3.They will then be scheduled to visit the location and continue with that job
To the joy of Fast Fixx’s management and accountants, the new system easily integrates with their Sage accounting system and also some larger clients (e.g. Glasgow City Council) web portals for invoicing.
"With Tentacle your business gets more than you expect and definitely more than with any freelancers or other development agencies."