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Newsletters – July to September 2007

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  • Newsletter – July 2007

    Editorial

    July has rolled in with high winds and cold fronts.  Everyone in the office looks like huggy bears all wrapped up in scarves and other woollies!  However, productivity is high and so are our spirits!

    Labby is maturing as a product for Soils Laboratories.

    As I drive around to meetings, I can't help but notice how busy the construction industry is all around Gauteng.  It seems that the economy is going into overdrive at last.  The Gautrain is firmly underway and so is the FNB soccer stadium.

    And, crime in the Sandton policing area is down where the communities are truly working with the police! Sector Forum meetings, Domestic Watch meetings are the backbone of crime prevention and help build a community network of information.

    Put Your Business Processes into Software

    A reader asked us to explain the item in our Newsletter: "Unable to find good staff?   We can write you a custom database or custom program to embody your business rules and processes in software:  Low-level employees just have to 'join the dots' on time, while you monitor for exceptions".

    The idea here is to de-skill work where possible.  Do jobs at your company require a lot of training?  Are the procedures complicated and have to be remembered?  Can they be broken down into a series of steps with key decisions along the way?

    If we put these rules into a computer program, the PC can create a list of tasks to be performed to complete the job. It can then display the next task on the job to the person who is supposed to do it, with suitable instructions.  When the worker ticks that task off as complete, the PC displays the next task in the job, and so on.  Meanwhile Management can monitor job progress and see reports on worker efficiency, time to complete tasks, future cash flow, etc. or just look at the exceptions e.g. Jobs that are falling behind schedule –and catch them before they become a crisis!

    Because the computer "knows" the job, you can employ cheaper staff to do the same job.  If an employee leaves, the expertise stays behind, and a new employee can take over easily.  The computer shows how far each job is: If an employee is absent, someone else can take over.  Tasks in the job can be routed to the most suitable person or department, and Management can at any time get a view of the state of the business.

    A small example may help: A mining company in the Delmas area wanted to establish an employee share scheme.  A lot of steps are involved in the process.  Six documents have to be printed, routed for signatures, and copies thereof made and filed.  There can be legal complications if, for example, some qualifying employees are accidentally omitted from a share offer.  It is important to know where documents are at a given time.  Our solution was a share issue database with workflow routing.  The filing clerk is responsible for managing the documents.  The program prompts him with the next thing to do with them, selects qualifying employees for the share offers, and handles the process of partial or full re-sale of shares.

  • We also did a much more complicated workflow database for Fusionry, a company that occupied a niche between insurance companies and insurance brokers: They used the system to manage group schemes and monitor claims.  (Fusionry was later bought out by Hollard who have their own systems.)

    Can we help you make your business easier to run and more profitable?  E-mail Rick now!

    Quick Windows Tip

    Need to see your Windows desktop in a hurry?  Hold in the "Windows" key on the keyboard (ÿ) and press M to Minimize all windows.
    To restore your windows as they were, press the "Windows" key and Shift and M together.

    Scam Warning

    During June, we were approached by a Zambian company, "Katanga Technologies", with an order for 70 copies of Windows XP Pro.  Our little red lights went on immediately, but we did invoice them.  They faxed us a page purporting to be an Internet transfer from Nedbank for the full amount.  Simphiwe went through this with sharp eyes and picked up discrepancies in the dates and reference number.  Needless to say, the money never reached us and we cancelled the invoice.

    Moral: Unless you know with whom you are dealing, do not let go of your goods until your bank has cleared the transaction!

    Remember that a yahoo, gmail, webmail, or similar e-mail address is most likely to indicate a fraudster.

    Excel Tips #44 – Unusual but Useful: FLOOR and CEILING

    Syntax: FLOOR(number, multiple)
      CEILING(number, multiple)

    FLOOR truncates "number" down (toward zero) to the next lower multiple of "multiple".
    CEILING truncates "number" up (away from zero) to the next higher multiple of "multiple".

    Unlike other rounding functions, these two allow you to use any multiple, so you are not restricted to whole numbers.  You can "round" to multiples of 0.065 or 100 000 (the latter is useful if you run a shop in Zimbabwe).  Bear in mind that this is not really "rounding", since the result is always down for FLOOR, or up for CEILING –it does not go to the nearest value as ROUND would do, and it is taking it to a multiple.

    Example: You need 11.03 square metres of tiles, but they are sold in boxes of 0.4 m².  How many square metres must you buy?
    Answer: =CEILING(11.03, 0.4)  =11.2
    (A pundit might say, obviously these are CEILING tiles, not FLOOR tiles!)

    One quirk: Both "number" and "significance" must be of the same sign.  =FLOOR(-23, -2) works (-22), but =FLOOR(-23, 2) gives #NUM!

     

    and version 9.5

    Why CRM? –and a look at the options

    Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a much maligned and underutilised tool for staying close to your customers.  When it first came into South Africa in the early 90s, it was purely a sales tool.  Today, that same product has grown into a customer service and marketing tool as well as still performing its sales function.

    Even more than that, it can be used as a fully fledged system sitting on a web server and hosting an eShop; driving your sales through the Internet and increasing your reach.  The cellphone synchronisation feature makes your sales force truly interactive using the tool that they know best!  They leave the office with all their client details on their phones and update the records as they talk to clients.  Then they return and update the main database, collect their new appointments and put through their orders.

    Please note that Maximizer 9.0 (the non-Enterprise version) also has the cellphone capability.

    The laptop interface through MaxExchange is still a strong feature and has improved greatly over the years.  In these days of wireless connectivity - any time and anywhere - users connecting to a web server can update on the fly.  Management can draw incisive reports from the system, pointing them clearly to incoming sales and problem products.

    Because integration with other solutions is vital, Maximizer has a number of accounting packages that it interfaces with including Pastel, Accpac, Quick Books and SAP.  The backend Knowledge Sync Server solution means that virtually any other form of integration can be done and special alerts can be worked into it.

    Want to know if your best customer has just placed an order or encountered a product problem?  Alerts in Knowledge Sync can put the information at your finger tips.

    Next month – What is the difference between the Maximizer versions and which one is for whom?

    More "Humour" from the Programming Department...

    Have you heard about the internet-enabled US President?

    – George WWW Bush.

    Remember:  We can Help you with:―

    • Solving your Maximizer, Access, Excel, Word, Visual Basic, and Lotus 123 problems.

    • Training your company on Maximizer, Excel, Word, Access and Windows.  We do all levels from beginners to Programming.

    • Software: We re-sell and support various CRM, timesheet, scheduling, and productivity programs.

    • Your corporate image with a coherent set of templates on Word or Excel.

    • Replacing good staff: We can write you a custom database or custom program to embody your business rules and processes in software:  Lower-level employees just have to "join the dots" on time, while you monitor for exceptions.

    All the Best from the team!
    Judith and Rick

    Directors, Communication in Action (Pty) Ltd t/a Software Africa
    PO Box 987, Gallo Manor, 2052 South Africa.
    Tel: 011 802-2685.  Fax: 011 802-4576.  Cell: 082 389-3481/2.
    E-mail: info@softwareafrica.co.za

    This entire newsletter is Copyright© 2007 Communication in Action (Pty) LtdPlease share it with your friends or post it on your site as long as it is left intact with all links unchanged and includes this notice.  To Subscribe to the newsletter, Click here and SEND the resulting e-mail. Your data will not be sold, rented or given away to any third party without your express permission.  To unsubscribe, Click here and SEND the resulting e-mail from the address to which this newsletter was sent.

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    Newsletter – August 2007

    Editorial

    It is so good to see South African companies coming back to the forefront in software solutions.  It seems that we are regaining the ground lost after 1994, when so many of our best people were enticed overseas.  Why?  Because we had some amazing people at that time with skills that more than matched the rest of the world!

    Now it appears that a passion for IT is so powerful that more highly skilled people are coming to the fore.

    The really worthwhile implication of this is that we are producing world class products, which can easily be marketed over the Internet.  I smell a growing export impact here!

    With the arrival of August, we can also smell the coming of Spring and warmer weather plus the dawn chorus is back practising at 5am.  One achievement has been made as well.  Our Labrador that we donated to SA Guide Dogs graduated successfully and is working with a student in Potchefstroom.  They both walk out strongly and will probably win prizes in walking competitions!

    Tips from the "Microsoft At Home and At Work" Newsletter, July 24, 2007

    Set up and maintain your PC - How to survive the worst PC disasters:  Can't get your PC to boot? Or forgot your Windows password? Here's how to recover from these and other potential catastrophes, plus advice on avoiding trouble to begin with:

    • You just told off the CEO in an e-mail and instantly regret it

    • No PCs show on the network

    • Your identity has been stolen!

    • Your Net connection is dead

    • Your device just got doused with water--or worse

    • You're inundated with pop-ups when you boot your PC (adware/spyware infestation)

    • You deleted a critical file--and have no backup

    • Your hard drive has crashed

    • You forgot your Windows password

    • Your presentation just croaked

    See http://go.microsoft.com/?linkid=7163466.

    Bonus: 10 Fast Fixes for Nagging PC Problems - see http://tech.msn.com/howto/articlepcw.aspx?cp-documentid=4944717 (link since discontinued)

    Excel Tips #45 – Unusual but Interesting: EVEN and ODD

    Syntax: EVEN(number) rounds "number" up (away from zero) to the next even whole number.
      ODD(number) rounds "number" up (away from zero) to the next odd whole number.

    Of "EVEN", Microsoft Help says: "You can use this function for processing items that come in twos. For example, a packing crate accepts rows of one or two items. The crate is full when the number of items, rounded up to the nearest two, matches the crate's capacity."

    Microsoft Help doesn't give an example of where you might use the latter function.  Which is odd, if you think about it.

    Our contrived Example: The Odd Fellows Hiking Club hiked upstream on Sunday 7 January 2007, downstream the next Sunday, and has alternated since then.  We want a formula that will give the direction of next Sunday's hike. On a blank spreadsheet, copy these formulas into the indicated cells:

    Cell Formula Explanation
    A2: =TODAY()-WEEKDAY(TODAY())+8 Date next Sunday
    A3: =A2-DATE(2007,1,7) Number of days since first hike
    A4: =IF(ODD(A3)=A3, "downstream", "upstream") Direction

    and version 9.5

    What is the difference between the Maximizer versions and which one is for whom?

    First Maximizer PE 9.0 - this is the entry level product for small companies with a maximum of 10 users.  It is purely a sales management tool, with a mobile component.  Not yet able to synchronise directly in real time, but nevertheless it is a good solution.  Users are loaded individually and then connected to the central database.

    Second Maximizer Enterprise for Workgroups - this product is able to run marketing campaigns and customer service resolution.  Again it takes up to 10 users and allows for laptop and cell phone mobile users.  It is server based and users rollout from the server.

    Third Maximizer Enterprise for MS SQL - this version is scalable for medium enterprises.  The number of users is limited only by the power of your servers.  Dashboards are available for management reporting.

    Fourth Maximizer eCRM - the powerhouse product.  This has a web store and is fully Internet based, with customers and partners able to access via secure log-on.  When powered in the backend by KnowledgeSync Server, it becomes an amazing product with strong workflow capabilities.  It becomes a real anywhere, anytime solution for large companies who have internal and external staff.

    Next month – We'll take a break and look at other products in our stable

    More alleged Humour from the Programming Department...

    What's this: "Which Internet, what Internet, who Internet, how Internet, where Internet"?

    – Answer: Wireless Internet ("why"-less). Groan.

    Remember:  We can Help you with:―

    • Solving your Maximizer, Access, Excel, Word, Visual Basic, and Lotus 123 problems.

    • Training your company on Maximizer, Excel, Word, Access and Windows.  We do all levels from beginners to Programming.

    • Software: We re-sell and support various CRM, timesheet, scheduling, and productivity programs.

    • Your corporate image with a coherent set of templates on Word or Excel.

    • Replacing good staff: We can write you a custom database or custom program to embody your business rules and processes in software:  Lower-level employees just have to "join the dots" on time, while you monitor for exceptions.

    All the Best from the team!
    Judith and Rick

    Directors, Communication in Action (Pty) Ltd t/a Software Africa
    PO Box 987, Gallo Manor, 2052 South Africa.
    Tel: 011 802-2685.  Fax: 011 802-4576.  Cell: 082 389-3481/2.
    E-mail: info@softwareafrica.co.za

    This entire newsletter is Copyright© 2007 Communication in Action (Pty) LtdPlease share it with your friends or post it on your site as long as it is left intact with all links unchanged and includes this notice.  To Subscribe to the newsletter, Click here and SEND the resulting e-mail. Your data will not be sold, rented or given away to any third party without your express permission.  To unsubscribe, Click here and SEND the resulting e-mail from the address to which this newsletter was sent.


    Newsletter – September 2007

    Editorial

    Spring is here at last and everything is flooded with perfume.  The birds are madly nest building and sales people are energised. This means that the roads are busy and defensive driving skills are in order.

    High interest rates are proving to deflate the economy somewhat and growth is dropping.  I am not sure that this is helping anyone and would really like to see some "out of the box" thinking in the Reserve Bank.  Gautrain is giving away soil, so rush out with your truck and collect it for your garden!

    Things are becoming hectic in the stadia development side and I am wondering if we really need all the new shopping malls, when food production is far more critical.  We are losing farmland, increasing our urban food dependent populations way beyond what can be produced.  Water is being polluted with impunity and yet here we are in a water scarce country.  Hang on to your garden - and turn it into a veggie patch.

    A Quick Windows Tip

    Would you like to run Windows Explorer ("My Computer") easily?
    Hold in the "Windows" key on the keyboard (
    ÿ) and press E (for "Explorer").

    Excel Tips #46 – Really Odd Functions

    We looked at ODD last month, but these functions are odder!  We haven't found a use for them but, who knows, you might!  Let us know if you do!

    Syntax: Description Example
    =ROMAN(number) Displays the number in roman numerals.  Various styles are available. ROMAN(1984)  = MCMLXXXIV
    =FACT(number) Returns the factorial of a number. The factorial of "n" is equal to 1*2*3*...* n. FACT(4) = 24
    =PRODUCT(number1, number2,...) Multiplies all the numbers given as arguments and returns the product.  Why not just enter number1 * number2 * number3…?  You might want to use an array:
    =PRODUCT(A2:A8) is slightly less typing than A2*A3*A4*A5*A6*A7*A8
    PRODUCT(1,2,3,4) = 24
    =COMBIN(number, number chosen) Number of combinations for a given number of items. Use COMBIN to determine the total possible number of groups made up from a given number of items.  E.g. Given 15 Proteas in the squad, how many different cricket teams (of 11 members) could you make? COMBIN(15,11) = 1,365
    =PERMUT(number, number chosen) Number of permutations of "number chosen" objects that can be selected from "number" objects.  A permutation is a set of objects or events where the order is significant.  E.g. Given 15 Proteas, how many batting orders could you have? PERMUT(15,11) = 54,486,432,000

    And you thought (national cricket coach) Mickey Arthur had an easy job!

    Green Spot

    Encourage urban wildlife and do your bit for the ecology!  The big problem is a lack of nesting places. You can help by installing an owl box and/or a bat box: Contact Ecosolutions.

    Humour from the Computer Department...

    Question:  What is the difference between a computer and a human?
    Answer:
      You only have to punch the data into the computer once.

    (well, the PC thought it was funny!)

    Remember:  We can Help you with:―

    • "Replicating" expensive staff: We can write your business rules and processes into a custom computer program:  Lower-level employees just have to complete tasks, while you are alerted to exceptions.

    • Solving your Maximizer, Access, Excel, Word, Visual Basic, and Lotus 123 problems.

    • Training your company on Maximizer, Excel, Word, Access and Windows.  We do all levels from beginners to Programming.

    • Software: We re-sell and support various CRM, timesheet, scheduling, and productivity programs.

    • Your corporate image with a coherent set of templates on Word or Excel.

    All the Best from the team!
    Judith and Rick

    Directors, Communication in Action (Pty) Ltd t/a Software Africa
    PO Box 987, Gallo Manor, 2052 South Africa.
    Tel: 011 802-2685.  Fax: 011 802-4576.  Cell: 082 389-3481/2.
    E-mail: info@softwareafrica.co.za

    This entire newsletter is Copyright© 2007 Communication in Action (Pty) LtdPlease share it with your friends or post it on your site as long as it is left intact with all links unchanged and includes this notice.  To Subscribe to the newsletter, Click here and SEND the resulting e-mail. Your data will not be sold, rented or given away to any third party without your express permission.  To unsubscribe, Click here and SEND the resulting e-mail from the address to which this newsletter was sent.

     

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