Front Range Data Management Services, Inc.

Custom Program or Commercial Off the Shelf software (COTS)?

Visual Basic

  Microsoft Excel
  Microsoft Access
  Custom Reports
  SQL Server
  Visual Basic
How much will it cost?

Many business school graduates probably share a common theme from their school days: Never develop a custom software system, always buy commercial off the shelf software. We certainly acknowledge the point being made, that every company does payroll and has an accounting system; creating a payroll or accounting system is not practical when there are so many options out there. We agree with that, and we don't build accounting or payroll systems. However, every business (or government) entity deals with unique and (in the case of businesses) proprietary data processes. In these cases, you probably don't do something that someone has developed an application for. We believe that, especially since you probably already have a SQL Server, custom programming is an excellent tool to leverage your unique data needs.

Consider two systems we have developed. First, a work order system for a janitorial company, and second a custom time and attendance system for a fire department.

Work Order System

A Denver janitorial company desired a system to capture customer and supervisor requests for work to be done in relation to their cleaning contract. They also desired the ability to schedule recurring tasks, such as quarterly floor care or annual carpet cleaning.

The company went through an evaluation and selection process twice. First was a very hasty selection, as they had won a contract requiring a work order system. Since the need was urgent to have a system up and running within a few weeks, an off-the-shelf or subscription system was the only choice. Very shortly thereafter, the company realized that this system was both expensive and had a significant gap between what the company needed and what the system delivered. After suffering through this system for two years, they undertook an effort to replace it. After searching the Internet, they found three web-bases subscription systems and two systems for sale. After evaluation of the systems, and comparing it to our estimate for a custom built system, they opted for a subscription system. Within a few months, they were very dissatisfied with the new system. At this point, they had been paying subscription fees for more than two years, and did not have the capability to capture and efficiently process their data.

A significant need for their work order system was the ability to create customer-required reports on cleaning performance. Since neither system provided reporting that was needed, the company spent 12-16 hours per month collecting and manipulating data in Excel to provide the reports. So, in addition to the expense of the system and the labor to move data from one failed system to another, they spent a considerable amount of resources to overcome reporting deficiencies. The time spent by mid-level manager on customer reporting along was worth more than cost of the system we built for them in the end.

After these two failed attempts, the company agreed to have Front Range develop a custom solution in Visual Basic. We don't like to pat ourselves on the back, but the system was far easier to use than either of the commercial systems they had suffered through, provided the capability to customize work orders, and the reports were built into the system.

The kicker: This system that did everything they needed, cost them less than six months worth of subscription fees for either of the other systems. And, to conserve money with the first two systems, the company had bought limited licensing, so managers did not have access to the system for operational reporting; with the custom solution, they own it and need no licensing fees. Every manager can have the system on their desktop.

Time and Attendance system

Our second example was a time and attendance system for a fire department. This system extracted data from a records management system that had an excellent interface for indicating the duty status of all employees. By creating a system that extracted those records, and provided an interface for payroll specialists to apply factors like family medical leave that is beyond the scope of reporting managers, and exported the results to a Lawson Human Resource Information System.

Having done our "homework" before coding the system, we built an interface that was very easy to use. The system calculated and color coded the duty days for each shift so the payroll specialists could easily determine if there was no time reported for a particular employee. The system reduced what had taken two payroll specialists to process payroll for 700 employees into a half time job. The system was developed in approximately 80 hours, and has been in service for more than ten years.

You, too, can expect substantial savings from custom developed systems. See our page on programming costs to see how inexpensive it can be.

We develop Visual Basic systems from our Denver office that make working with data easy, and it is cheaper than you think! Call us at (303) 403-0386 or request estimates or assistance by e-mail.

Copyright 2012 Front Range Data Management Services