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Practical software, services and solutions for the small business
and the individual computer user - world wide !
 



 
A general introduction to our approach, methods and supporting applications

Please click and download our comprehensive info pack ( in Word 97 format )



 

Our tools ...
 
have been developed around the practical data processing and information retrieval needs of our target group(s):

Small / medium sized businesses, SOHOs (small office / home office) and individual computer users.

These tools deal with data and information ...

- related to the financial side of a business (costing, accounting, spreadsheets)
- required for querying and reporting purposes
- required to produce other output in printed form (word processing, labeling, bar-coding)
- in address and contact information
- from the Internet and e-mail related
- for processing and reviewing tasks / project management

and will be available in major languages.

Together they form a set of applications dealing with most of the tasks actually performed in a business / office environment.


We are a group of software developers located in the Pacific Rim region but also represented in Europe designing multi-lingual software applications for use in an office / business environment.

Our focus is on the millions of small / medium sized businesses and individual computer users  - also the SOHO - Small Office/Home Office - to help them to manage better their (business) data and the information retrieved from it.

In the item you are just reading we are also dealing with a wide range of  issues related to computing in general and how they impact on the day-to-day running of any business.

It is possible to apply our methods also in larger enterprises because of the generic nature of our applications.  Thanks to "exporting data", ODBC (Open Data Base Connectivity) it is possible to access and further process the data gathered to retrieve "information".

The methods and tasks we are suggesting are actually fairly simple. Some would say we take a "traditional" approach because we do things in principle as we were used to - but we do it more effective by utilizing the supporting power offered by modern computer hardware and software technology (if and where it makes sense).

Our approach is often a combination of the necessary steps to be undertaken manually in an office environment and complementing them by using supporting applications on a computer where it is appropriate.


Our approach brings also more transparency to the end user :

The  installation  of our supporting applications is done in such a way that with a little basic understanding about the file structure on a storage medium everyone can follow this process. It also makes it easier in cases when there is a hardware breakdown to salvage valuable data and information.

The  backup of valuable data is transparent and greatly simplified with the procedures we suggest.

File maintenance and utilizing exporting / ODBC for further data exploration and information retrieval is made as easy as possible with detailed descriptions of all tasks involved. These are sometimes complex procedures - but we think we have taken away many of the hurdles to understand them by applying plain language.
 


Our approach helps to get better organized in any business.

What many first time computer users are not aware of is the fact that changes are necessary how people work in a new environment (after the PC comes in). These changes are costing time and money (also indirect).

There are many estimates about the true costs of having a computer - but there are no clear and reliable measurements. What we are telling our clients is that they have at least indirect costs per annum which are equal to the average purchase price of a PC for small business use (software not included). Some of the benefits can outweigh these costs by far. This depends on  what  your are doing and  how  you have managed your business in the past.

According to studies there is no direct correlation between spending for IT and the profit a company makes. The times are long gone when we have heard about the benefits in terms of actual savings (in monetary terms) when using modern computer hard- and software.

For some time now the trend is to show you the threatening picture of being out of business within a short period of time if you don't have at least a medium sized server in the backroom of your butcher shop allowing your customers to order their steak online. What a nonsense !
 
Some recommended sources on the Internet we are using to get informed about these subjects can be found at:

http://www.strassmann.com
http://www.gartner.com

If you have just purchased the first computer for your business :
 
Don't through your diary away, don't say "Good bye ..." to your accountant, don't fire your part-time typist  ....   actually you shouldn't do anything that would lead to big changes on how you work in your business during the first year or so.
 
Example:
 
It's a good thing to have important information like address and contact data stored on a  computer for further exploration (depending on your kind of business). The problem is how to get it there in the first place: most of this material is in diaries, on business cards, Post-It notes - practically everywhere.

[ We have designed an "Address book Data Entry Form" which is simple but fulfills the purpose to gather all these data you want to store on your PC ( the file name is:  addrdata.rtf  or:   addrdata.txt ) ].
 

Don't forget the human element:  If you have a sales force who is competing against each other then you cannot expect to build up a reliable centralized database of "prospective customers" and maintain them. This would be an illusion to believe.

There are many other things to consider - we try to give you as much help as possible with our supporting applications, the notes and papers which you can also download from our web site. See the "Resources and Links" area.

Please click and download our comprehensive info pack ( in Word 97 format )


If you are totally new to computing then we have also a lot of tips regarding the purchase of introductory literature.

One of the best sources you can find is at :

http://www.idgbooks.com  and there esp. the VISUAL series.

Also recommended - have a look at :

http://www.knowwareglobal.com

where you can download free booklets in .pdf format. Some of them are available from our web site.


Many of our tips in notes and papers should also save you unnecessary expenses often spend for external help (consultants etc.).

We don't recommend to buy introductions to computing in the form of weekly issues (with only some sheets). Together they will form a complete book after a year or so. There is no benefit for an individual user in it.
 



 

Our tool  "MyAddress & Contact Data !"  is a good example for the practical approach we are taking.

Every business has to deal with clients/customers, suppliers and service providers, a charitable organisation has to deal with donors and other supporters; internally they have to deal with  staff, volunteers  ...  etc.  If we recognize data and information as an important factor of production then we see that all of these people / businesses and institutions have something in common: they have to manage "address" and "contact" data in one way or another.

This (basic) information can be structured fairly the same way for all of them and the structure in general is independent from any business purpose or the organisation itself because it has the same data elements / database fields.

We can therefore say that "address and contact data" is a kind of "business object" everyone has to deal with. We have defined this "business object" as a building block supporting our methods. This "business object" can be installed on any PC and the data collated with it can be used with most other applications on the market which are suitable for further processing (by exporting or via ODBC).

It is also important that we can retrieve "information" (based on existing data). To put it simple:

"Information" is just a lot of related data seen in context - important is the picture we get !

In the context of address and contact data we can retrieve "information" by classifying the address material into (business) categories. We can allocate a "map" to a specific address, but also a graphic (plan, image, drawing etc.). It is possible to have for each address an unlimited amount of objects allocated (documents in various file formats, further graphics, reports - in principle everything what has a valid file name). Because you can set up an unlimited number of viewer applications - independent from your data - you will have no problem at all to display or play any allocated object.

We still don't have the convenience of a paper based file/folder; on the other hand: we get a very comprehensive picture about the "owner" of this address / contact.

This approach is different to an application specific address book where for example you can enter your addresses within a word processor application to perform a mail merge.

See also our items about:  "mailmerge" and "printing labels"

Organizers, PIMs (Personal Information Managers) and the so-called Contact Managers are tools allowing the entry of addresses - but there is mostly no further use of the data possible (or the import/export features offered are so complicated that they require a more thorough knowledge).

The (data)structure of these address book files is often insufficient according to our experience. It is necessary nowadays for many businesses to collate address and contact data about people and organisations from many countries and different language backgrounds. We have found no suitable structure which satisfied our requirements in such a case even in products which cost at least ten times more than our supporting applications.


The "business objects" we have developed fit together - they have the same foundation !

Below we have listed some of the "business objects" we have developed. We plan for our registered users that they can create their own "business objects" - which will then work together with the ones we have developed.
 
MyAddress & Contact Data !
MyNet - ANYWHERE !
MyNet - on a Floppy !
MyControlling & Financial Data !
MyProject & Financial Data !
Getting rid of Mess and Chaos - NOW !

Please click and download our comprehensive info pack ( in Word 97 format )

To give you an example how our business objects are complementing each other:

You could have started with " MyAddress & Contact Data ! " to collect data about your customers. On the way you have also gathered e-mail and web site information about them. This information can be easily re-used in "MyNet - ANYWHERE !" where you store all the Internet related data (incl. e-mail).

Vice versa is of course also possible when you are dealing at first with your customers mainly over the Internet but then you need to collate the more corporate data about them.


All this is done without much or unnecessary "computer jargon". If you are running a butcher shop, a dairy, or a garage and have never seen a computer before - you too can work with our tools.


The human element is at  the center of all our efforts. We have designed our applications in such a way that they allow the individual user to gather their data easily and to retrieve information.

Short term cost savings by focussing solely on the supporting hard- and software technology (esp. for repetitive tasks) are often possible. In the long run however - esp. if there is no massive transaction processing involved - any human being dealing with data and information is more efficient and contributes also much more to the overall goal of an enterprise (and society) than a piece of hardware / software could ever do. This is because of human attributes.

We often hear about software tools to manage "our data" better; we are told what amazing things we can do with our data, how valuable our data is and how our data can even turn things around in bad times.

There are excellent tools available from a software engineering point of view - however no one tells esp. the small / medium sized business HOW and WHERE to collect this "valuable data" in an efficient manner  to get at least the basics right. This is exactly the "bottle neck" in many small / medium sized companies !

Our systems and methods focus on the data   itself - allowing the user to gather important (business) data and based on it to retrieve useful "information" (without gaining a degree in computer science first).

We do it the easy way without focussing on the technical aspects of the computer environment. To work with our methods there is NO specific computer knowledge required apart from handling the basic tasks involved with a graphical user interface, using a mouse or getting along with a keyboard.

The PC itself is only the (hardware) tool to apply proven methods and to deal with the tasks common to most businesses: address and contact management, internet and e-mail, financials (income, expenses) , project management  ...  +  many others.

Our supporting applications have been developed on '486 machines and low-level Pentiums (100 and 133 MHZ). To manage your small business you certainly don't need much more power on a single workstation. The development we have done required much more computer power than the daily use of any of our applications. Even if your equipment is older - it will probably be sufficient to run all our applications.

[ Normally our applications are distributed as 32-bit applications - running on all systems under Windows 95, Windows 98 and upwards. We will provide some of our applications as 16-bit applications (for older systems running under Windows 3.1, 3.11 Windows for Workgroups) for distribution in countries and areas with a lesser developed computer infrastructure. ]


All (data) areas are working together and form a foundation as far as "information" is concerned.

The data and the resulting information is whenever possible presented in a "visual" manner in so-called "browse" boxes (with colour coding if suitable) or in easy to manage TREE structures to make the exploration and the absorption of information based on the data presented easier.

Our approach is based on the practical knowledge how to handle data and information the traditional way.  So we have combined this experience with the possibilities modern technology is offering us.  This is reflected in our applications which are different from other software you might use.

Most software performs a specific task only (often isolated and not in the context of business management or what really needs to be done).

Word processing is a good example. Let's stay for a moment with a simple task: "writing a letter". Depending on the subject and the writing style of the author the letter will be a success (or not). Writing the piece of correspondence by hand, typing it on an old-fashioned typewriter, using an electronic typewriter, a DOS based Word Processor or going through half a dozen word processor upgrades during the last decade - the outcome or what we want to achieve with this piece of correspondence solely depends on the subject and the writing style - but  NOT on the word processor application or the typewriter itself. This is a fact - but has been practically ignored for more than a decade and cost companies and individuals world wide billions of dollars every year.

Word Processing and Information in the real world  ...

True "Information" - and getting the full picture - would be to have all documents related to a customer in one (paper based) file. By going through it you will have all the information you need to deal with a problem or to make a decision. It is often sufficient to skim over some pages to see things in context or to recall the details. It is this kind of "working together" between our brain controlling the eyes,  hands and arms that makes the difference.

In our application " MyAddress & Contact Data ! " we allocate other "objects" (files) to an address record. We have done this in an easy and understandable way to create a similar functionality compared with the paper file.

Without using a very good (and probably expensive) document management system there would be no way in more than 99 % of all PC installations to bring in some order and improve how your documents are stored in a structured manner for easy retrieval. If you need certain details from several documents among another ten thousand or so then these systems can be unbeatable compared to our brain - it really depends on your requirements.

Often the software itself is not too expensive but everything around the implementation leads to changes how the business is organized and that can cost a lot more than the software itself.

With our inexpensive solution: "Getting rid of Mess and Chaos - NOW !" (under development) we will solve such problems too - but still: there is nothing better than a "paper based" file.

Yes - we appreciate the traditional way. Just have a look how your local doctor (GP) is working. He has some details about you on his PC and prints out a prescription on his small office ink jet printer (writing it by hand would probably take him a fraction of the time - but anyway ...). If he wants details about your health - there is only one way to retrieve the information: the paper file on his desk with all the reports from hospitals, medical laboratories, all sorts of forms etc.  The idea of a total work-flow solution to get finally rid of the paper file in this case is at this stage not viable - nor economical at all.

Spreadsheet applications are another example: it doesn't matter what kind of sophisticated spreadsheet software you are using, through how many upgrades you have gone. If you are in the "red" from a financial point of view than neither the PC nor the spreadsheet software can help you.

We find these paradigms everywhere in businesses.


Even with object orientated technologies applied during the software development process - the wheel is often re-invented over and over again (not in the software development process itself - but in the business environment). Object orientation means: re-usability of elements and flexibility to improve the software development process itself - but this has not much to do with the business process(es).

All this is also of  little help for the small / medium sized business anyway. They usually don't develop software - they buy software "off-the-shelf".  If they buy an "office suite" for example then mainly the word processor is used - but probably never the database feature(s) of it. What they really want (and need) are supporting applications dealing with their business requirements in a simple manner, which they can use immediately, combine them with other (business) modules, easily mix and match them to reflect the data storage and information needs of their business(es) - but all this without much computer knowledge. Let's be honest: isn't this the way (we all want) to go  ...  ? Forgetting about the computer jargon and all the hype, updates and upgrades - just do "what we have to do" !

Often we hear and read  that for a specific purpose a "data base" is needed (domestic violence, child abuse, crime statistics, accident control and many more ...). We also hear that it would take months, often years to design something suitable - no wonder: everything is often designed from scratch over and over again (not to mention the financial losses for the taxpayer). Depending on the subject often years are gone by until the database is set up and can be used properly - the maintenance is quite a different story.

There is another problem we see: everything seems to be centralized and/or handled on a "national" level. This might be required for real-time systems like transaction processing - but not for statistical purposes.

Instead of the centralization of data we strongly support a decentralized approach whenever possible - data integrity should however never be compromised. Via ODBC summary data can be transferred into a spreadsheet application for further processing and exploration at a central location. This approach is of course not possible with "real-time" and "transaction" data. We have however observed some obsession with "real-time" approaches when they are not needed at all.

Information retrieval in practice  ...

The reason why we still have newspapers and magazines is the easy access to "Information" they offer. They show us things immediately in context, we can take them everywhere, they don't need a connection to a power socket or a phone line for Internet access. We can easily skim through the pages, we can move effortlessly forwards and backwards and the presentation of information is by far superior compared to playing around with the Internet edition of your favourite paper or magazine on a computer screen. It is the perfect fit for human beings.

According to recent studies there is more behind the co-ordination between out body parts (eyes, arms and hands) - controlled by our brain - than we have ever thought. It seems that the movement of hands and arms supports our brain in one way or another - and: even activates it. This could also mean that absorption of  information from a newspaper, magazine or a piece of paper we hold in our hands could be much better than going through the stuff on a computer screen (where our hands are actually passive).

We are not equipped with the underlying knowledge and experience in physiology - but could it be that this is the reason why most people prefer to read a printout (which they actually can hold in their hands) instead of just watching the data / information on screen.

[ The authors personal experience is that it is much easier to review and correct things on paper than on screen. ]

The Internet has of course the big advantage that you have practically all newspapers and magazines of the world in access in real time.


The available (office) suite packages on the market allow for a common interface and the exchange of objects between them (copy and paste, inserting an image into a word processing document etc.). The tasks itself are however isolated in a "business" context. They have not much in common to help you during a decision making process.

A PC is nowadays a universal piece of equipment - we all know about the many uses for it. In many small businesses the PC is however only used as a typewriter replacement to do the word processing tasks.  In larger networks it is often used only for pre-defined tasks without supporting the creativity of the individual computer user.

"Information" - based on data (which is still mainly available in textual format) is nowadays considered as an important factor (of production) in any business and the individual computer user.

Information is necessary to allow us to make well-founded decisions. For the decision making process it is NOT important if the information is presented on a PC or in a more traditional form (on paper, in a newspaper, as a speech). As human beings we are well equipped and capable of processing the information in whatever form it is presented to us.

"Information" itself - based on reliable data - is what counts. Our overall goal is to build  bridges between "raw data" and "information" and to improve the processes how we deal with it.

Thank you for your interest and time.
 
Please click and download our comprehensive info pack ( in Word 97 format )
 



 

Appendix

A short extract from one of our application descriptions ( "MyAddress & Contact Data !" ) to show you how much we have gone into details to provide our users with a well designed database structure   ....

Begin of extract
______________________________________________________________________________________
 

.....   in all applications of this kind there is usually a field SALUTATION :

In its simplest form there is just a tick to be made for "Mr", "Mrs" etc. But this doesn't consider
any use of salutations in foreign languages (Monsieur, Herr, Madame etc.). This fact alone would
make it difficult to modify an address book application for use in a non-English language environment.

We have therefore used a so-called "file drop box" which can contain an unlimited number of
salutations in any language (there is of course a file behind it which can be easily maintained). This
ensures language independence wherever in the world you are using our application. Esp.
important is that you can mix different languages in the address formats for label printing and for
mail-merge. You will address everyone correctly.

[The efforts to modify our supporting applications for other language environments has also been
minimized.]

A   SALUTATION  field alone however doesn't guarantee that we have always the correct data
for further processing. We had to apply some further thoughts  ...

To make practical use of the data stored in our address book application - when using other
applications (word processor, label printing etc.)  - we have defined two additional fields
containing:

-  the form of address in letters
-  the form of address on labels, envelopes

These are two different formats and we have found these two additional fields a big help esp. for
international use of the data collated with our application.

Normally when you perform a mail-merge with a word processor you probably define the following
merge fields in your document:   SALUTATION   and   LASTNAME  -  like ...

Dear <SALUTATION> <LASTNAME>     =    Dear Mr Miller            etc.
                                                                           Sehr geehrter Herr Miller  (in German)

If you print labels based on the same underlying data then you would have printed on your labels:

Attn. Mr Miller
z.H. Herrn Miller

If we have a closer look at the German version we see that there is an additonal 'n' after the normal
salutation in German ('Herr' stands for 'Mr'). There are many such small differences in various
languages - this has made it necessary to have two different formats for letters and labels:

Letter format:              Dear Mr Miller
                                   Sehr geehrter Herr Miller

Label format:  Attn. Mr Miller                   or:     Attention Mr Miller
                              z.H. Herrn Miller                or    zu Händen Herrn Miller

When a mail-merge is performed the correct salutation will always be applied:

Instead of using something like:

Dear <SALUTATION> <LASTNAME>

in your document you would just use the field:

<SALUTAT_LETTER>

when printing labels you would use the field:

<SALUTAT_LABEL>

This approach is unique !
 

End of extract
 
Please click and download our comprehensive info pack ( in Word 97 format )



 
TBSC  -   The Blue Software Company 
 Home Page   Order Information   Partners / Employmt. 
 Products / Services   Freeware / Shareware   More ... 
 Download Products   Resources / Links 
 
Practical software, services and solutions for the small business
and the individual computer user - world wide !