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CASE STUDY: ARKWARE MS ACCESS CRM

INDUSTRY: Plumbing and Septic Services

LOCATION: Minneapolis, Minnesota

COMPANY SIZE: 1-10 Employees

KEY REQUIREMENTS: A low-cost solution encompassing Contact Management, Service Records, Custom Fields, and Centralized Data.

DAN’S PLUMBING AND SEPTIC Implements Arkware’s MS Access CRM

DAN’S PLUMBING AND SEPTIC (DPS) specializes in providing quality plumbing and septic services in the Minneapolis area.  For over 25 years, DPS has expertly managed everything from large-scale plumbing jobs to residential septic system emergencies.    The DPS team includes fully licensed and friendly team members to accomplish projects on-time and within budget. 

CHALLENGE

The DPS Team was managing staff and projects by utilizing many different tools including 

  1. MS Outlook for contacts, interaction history, file storage, scheduling and reminders  
  2. MS Excel Spreadsheets for project management reports and recordkeeping, and 
  3. MS Word for document templates and other customer reporting.    

Although a common method for small companies to conduct business, DPS had outgrown this strategy of recordkeeping.   To avoid the possibility of project communication challenges, the business managers at DPS determined that proper management of internal data would likely lead to increased sales, improved project communication, a more professional image, greater customer satisfaction and, ultimately, increased profitability.   The leadership team believed these factors to be a significant justification to invest in a CRM solution that could be further customized as to their unique needs as their business continues to grow.

SOLUTION

Arkware’s MS Access CRM (Free Access CRM Template) featuring common project data, service history, contact management, and responsibility assignments.

OUTCOME

DAN’S PLUMBING AND SEPTIC was able to quickly deploy Arkware’s MS Access CRM.   DPS has seen a vast improvement in communication related to projects, increased team member accountability and an increase in sales due to timely interaction follow-ups.  DPS implemented the CRM requiring no assistance from Arkware and is interested in some minor customizations in the next year to meet their service needs.   

The DAN’S PLUMBING AND SEPTIC Testimonials

“DAN’S PLUMBING AND SEPTIC Mission Accomplished”  

Aligning around a common approach   

“The staff at DAN’S PLUMBING AND SEPTIC works a broad range of hours and from locations including the central office, project locations and, as needed, other locations where internet is publicly available.  As such, our individual staff members were communicating project details via text, email, and phone.   Due to multiple communication styles, communications were often delayed until a team member could resume working from their desk.   When we evaluated MS Access, we found that it is a tried and true database solution(offered as part of the MS Office package), coupled with Arkware’s MS Access CRM, the cost barriers to utilizing a full working database were all but eliminated.     It was an easy decision and we quickly jumped at the chance to make process improvements in our business.  What we found was we got so much more!  What we got was consistency in the form of organized processes.   In the end, we have achieved important improvements to our communications, better cost control and savings, and customers that felt like we were more professional in handling our services for them.“

“..The transition to Arkware’s CRM was much easier then we ever imagined.   We deployed it ourselves and were able to begin using the system immediately.   I really wish we had done this years ago!”  – Mark Helm – Manager

“One of the most comforting facts is our CRM is a Microsoft product.   So we know that as our needs change over time, there will always be professional solutions and we will always have unlimited visibility to our own data.” – DPS Team Member

 

 

 

 

7 Good Tech Habits All Employers Should Adopt

February 9th is Safer Internet Day, a day to recognize the importance of internet safety. It’s easy to take the internet for granted because it’s such an integral part of our everyday lives and embedded in almost everything we do. But it’s still important to adopt good tech habits that will keep your information safe from hackers. 

Below are seven good tech habits that you and your colleagues should practice daily. 

1. Backup your computer. 

We probably sound like a broken record, but we can’t stress enough the importance of backing up your computer. No one is exempt from data loss, after all. Plus, backing up your files is incredibly easy. You can set it up to have your backups run automatically. This way, if there’s ever a problem, you can revert to your last save. 

2. Keep hard drives and desktops clean. 

A cluttered desktop makes things hard to find and slows down your productivity. It can also slow down your computer. Go through your desktop and get rid of files and folders you no longer need. Or at least condense your folders so that you can stay organized and find information quickly.

3. Avoid getting malware. 

Be sure to install a good antivirus software program on your computer to get rid of viruses and protect yourself from hackers. Even if you’re not getting viruses, you could still be spreading them to others. Here’s a good article on protecting your database from hackers. Aside from antivirus software, also encrypt all data. 

4. Stay safe on public WiFi.

If you have employees working remotely, make sure they stay safe on public WiFi. Chances are, some of your employees will be working from places like Starbucks, but using public WiFi can open up your data to all types of attacks. And, just because your employees use a password doesn’t mean it’s safe. Anyone who is on that network can access your data.

5. Be smart about internet scams.

Make sure that your employees are aware of hoaxes, scams and myths. Scammers are a lot more creative these days, so internet scams are not always hard to fall for. Educate employees on these hoaxes and how to avoid them. If something looks out of place, it probably is. 

6. Know the maintenance your computers need. 

All computers need routine maintenance to keep them in good working condition. Your IT team is responsible for this, but you can do your part as well. Some of the best things you can do include updating software, running antivirus software and backing up your hard drive. 

7. Use secure passwords. 

Even the most secure passwords aren’t that secure. Hackers are much more sophisticated these days so it’s much easier for them to uncover passwords. Also, saving your passwords to your browser isn’t that safe so choose a safe password manager instead. 

Practicing these habits will keep your sensitive information protected. If you’re concerned about how secure your database is, contact Arkware today. We can take a look at your database and make sure that all information is encrypted and secure.

How to Troubleshoot These 3 Common Access Problems

Even though Microsoft Access is easy to use and understand, it still gives users a fair share of problems. Fortunately, most of these problems have a simple solution. And because Access is such a widely used database program, it’s easy to find advice from people who have experienced the same problems. 

Let’s look at three common Access problems and the best ways to solve them. 

1. Normalizing Empty Access Tables 

One of the most important things to do when building a database is building the table structures properly. This process is known as normalization and it prevents databases from having tables with redundant information. Redundancy isn’t a good idea for databases because it can lead to inconsistent data. 

To normalize your database, follow these steps: 

  • Examine each table. Are you repeating information unnecessarily? 
  • Identify duplicate information. Why are you repeating it? 
  • Break the table into two. Where there is redundant information, split that table into two tables. 
  • Repeat these steps until all redundancy is eliminated. 

2. Automatic Rounding 

Automatic rounding can be frustrating, but it’s an easy fix. By default, Access sets all number fields to accept long integers (negative or positive whole numbers). If you want to input numbers with decimals, you have to change the field-size setting so it can accept them. Here’s how to do it. 

  • Open the table in Design view and click the field that’s giving you trouble. 
  • On the General tab of the Properties area at the bottom of the screen, click the Field Size box. 
  • Click the down arrow at the end of the box and select Single, Double or Decimal from the drop-down menu. 

3. Autocorrect 

Autocorrect is meant to be a useful tool, but sometimes, it can be an aggravating one. Databases contain a lot of acronyms, part numbers and unique names that you won’t want changed. In fact, you might not even realize that the Autocorrect feature is changing these words until it’s too late. 

There are two ways to solve this problem: 

  • Turn off Autocorrect entirely. Click the File tab, click the Options button and select Proofing. Click the Autocorrect Options button and uncheck some or all of the boxes. 
  • Undo Autocorrect as it happens. Press Ctrl+Z right after Autocorrect changes your data entry. This will return the entry to the way you entered it. 

Whether you’re facing these common issues or others, it helps to have a team of database experts on your side. Arkware offers Access database programming, development and support. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your database run smoothly!

 

5 Tips for Managing Your Teams While Social Distancing

Managing a remote team isn’t easy, but this is the reality for many businesses right now. Fortunately, there are ways to make the most of your remote teams and ensure your employees remain connected, motivated and productive. You’ll probably have to adjust your expectations and how work gets done, if you haven’t done so already. 

Below are five tips for managing your teams while social distancing (be sure to also read our post on keeping your data safe while working remotely). This is a work in progress, and certainly something that we’re all getting used to, so be patient. It will take time to find your groove! 

1. Reset Your Expectations 

Most teams are used to working together in the same office, under the same working conditions. However, this isn’t possible when you have employees working from home. Rather than stressing you and your employees out, it’s better to reset your expectations. 

For example, you may have to let go of how and when tasks are accomplished. As long as your teams are completing their work on time and according to your standards, it’s okay to grant them more flexibility with their days. 

2. Keep in Touch Daily

Shorter communication cycles are more effective than long ones. Translation: You don’t need hours-long meetings to get your teams working productively. Simply keep in touch to get updates and let them know you’re available. We recommend checking in every day, at least once. Instant messaging is perfect for this. A quick group huddle over video also works well and keeps teams accountable. 

3. Provide Continued Education 

Keep your teams moving forward by providing them with educational tools, short lessons, workshops and more. Focus on shorter lessons that are under a half hour and easy to consume. You can then host a quick meeting or discussion about the relevance of the information and how it can be applied to your business operations. 

4. Assign Buddies and Peer Coaches 

For built-in support, consider assigning buddies and peer coaches to your teams. These leaders can provide your teams with mutual support and ensure that everyone is working toward their goals. You can also rotate this leadership role between several different people. If your employees haven’t had experience with this role, offer them some guidance on coaching

5. Assess Stress Levels 

At the end of the day, remember that we are all people navigating some very difficult times. Check in with your employees on a personal level and let them know that their well-being is your main concern. Opening up these lines of communication also allows for more honest feedback. To gather quantitative feedback, send out a survey or poll. 

Here at Arkware, we know firsthand how challenging these times can be. We are here for our clients, just as they are for their own staff and customers. Let us know if we can help your business run more productively during COVID-19 with an upgraded database, cloud computing or software update.

 

How to Prevent Database Corruption in Microsoft Access

Most users of Microsoft Access have, at some point, encountered the message that their database has been corrupted or placed in an “Inconsistent State”.  You will see a dialog with the message: Microsoft Access has detected that this database is in an inconsistent state, and the software will attempt to recover the database.

Since my start with Microsoft Access 25 years ago, the frustrating aspect of this error is that there isn’t a definitive reason why the database became corrupted.  Error messages in a variety of other software programs are much more descriptive on what to do to prevent violating the software rules.  In Access, for example, there are characters that are not allowed when naming fields in a table.  If you choose a character that is not aligned to the rules, the message that follows is clear.  Select the Help button and then follow the rules displayed regarding table name rules.  

So, what does one do regarding database corruption in Access? 

First, it’s important to know that most Access databases become corrupt at some point in time.  I’ve found the most proven methods to deal with corruption are not to waste time trying to determine why the database got corrupted, but rather focus on methods that prevent the database from getting corrupted in the first place. 

                                                     

Listed below are some things that Arkware consultants do that have helped reduce database corruption significantly:

  • Split your database into a front-end and back-end (two separate files).  All the database tables are in the back-end database and each user has their own copy of the front-end database on the desktop or local hard-drive.  The front-end database contains all the database objects (queries, forms, reports, and macros/VBA). Each PC has the same folder structure such as (C:\WorkingDatabase\DatabaseName). Using the Linked Table Manager, link the tables from the back-end database to the front-end database. Access has a database splitting wizard that can assist with splitting the original database into the front-end and back-end databases.  Look for a future Blog entry on using this wizard.
  • Force the database to be shut down at close of business or other specific downtimes.  This is done because users sometimes leave the system open and the unattended Access connection may get disconnected from the network, which can cause corruption.  The code can be placed on the “OnTimer” event of any database form that remains open. The best database form to use is a main switchboard form. Simply add DoCmd.Quit to the VBA code to close the system down at a certain time of the day (ie 2:00 am). 
  • Make sure all users are using the same version of Access on all computers.
  • Create a MS-DOS command batch file that copies a new front-end database to the local C:\ drive of the user’s computer. This is not mandatory, but it does ensure that everyone receives a clean copy of the local front-end database.
  • Do not have tables from other Access databases linked to your main database that are using different versions of Access.
  • Disable Access auto-correct feature. This can be done by selecting File > Options > Current Database. Under “Name Autocorrect Features”, deselect “Track Name Autocorrect”

These are some of the main preventive measures to guard against database corruption.  If you are struggling with database corruption, reach out to Arkware and we can assist you in achieving a more stable environment for your Microsoft Access database. 

 

Top Ways to Increase Database Efficiency

How well your database performs depends largely on its efficiency. Many factors affect efficiency, including how data is modeled and how queries are structured. If your database isn’t as efficient as it could be, a few small tweaks can make all the difference. Below we’re going to cover the best ways to improve database performance for improved efficiency, accuracy and productivity. 

Check Your Server 

Start by checking your database server to ensure it has the proper hardware available. Evaluate the following: 

  • CPU. If you think your database is underperforming, it’s possible that you need to upgrade your CPU unit. Measure your CPU performance, monitor CPU ready times and make sure you are using two CPU cores.
  • Memory. Check the page faults per second. If you’re having thousands of page faults, you’re running out of memory and need to expand. 
  • Disk space. Databases require a lot of disk space so make sure you have enough space at all times. Run your database on dedicated hard disks for the best performance. 

Optimize Queries 

Most database issues come from poor queries. For the best results, use a query optimizer to optimize your queries. This will eliminate coding loops that can generate hundreds of unnecessary requests that will slow down your database. Query optimizers also save plenty of time, as you don’t have to go through and optimize them manually. 

Update Your Database Version

If you’re using the old version of your database, it’s time to upgrade. While some queries might run faster on older versions, this won’t help the overall functionality of your database. By updating your database and taking advantage of the latest software and features, you can ensure better overall performance. 

Minimize the Use of Images 

We typically don’t recommend storing images in your database because they’re large files that slow down performance. Instead, store references and metadata so that you can easily access the image files when you need them. 

Know When to Use Indexing 

Indexes are used to quickly and efficiently locate data without having to search through every row in a database. As your database grows larger, you’ll find yourself indexing more often. Because indexes dramatically speed up data retrieval, it’s important to assign the correct index for each table as well as understand the differences in index types – clustered and non-clustered.

Remove Unused Tables 

Over time, it’s common to have unused tables that you don’t need anymore. Eliminate them for improved efficiency. Having unused tables puts more stress on your database, as it has to run through all the tables to find the answer to the query. By removing unused tables, you can expect faster queries. 

These are some of the best ways to improve database efficiency for your business. If you need help with any of these steps, or you are considering upgrading to a new database program, contact Arkware today. We have customized solutions for all businesses and organizations.