Category Archives: Software Development

DataPlex Releases Generic Reporter for its AmpUp Platform

DataPlex is proud to announce the immediate availability of its web-based “DataPlex Reporter,” A powerful data reporting tool that integrates seamlessly with any of DataPlex’s AmpUp-based applications. AmpUp is a framework for developing web-based database management systems that many different types of businesses use to manage their unique workflows.

Typically, an AmpUp system contains several database tables that compartmentalize data, for example a customer table, vendor table, or transaction table. The DataPlex Reporter automatically taps into these tables in an intelligent way and presents a user with an organized list of fields and filter functions with which to prepare a report. Reports are first presented on the screen, after which they can be printed or exported to a spreadsheet program such as Microsoft Excel. Reports can be saved with an unique name and later recalled.

DataPlex provides Data Integration for an Energy Company

An energy company had a dilemma — rush a new enterprise application into early service or attempt to breathe some more life into their existing Excel workbooks, utilized as part of the company’s sales workflow. The challenge was to integrate the existing Excel workbooks with disparate data systems located in different places on the Internet include a critical system operated by a financing partner. As most developers find out, Excel is not a good tool when it comes to web communications.

In a matter of weeks, DataPlex engineers devised a new server that the Excel workbooks could interrogate and get a highly structured and therefore reliable view of data from the remote systems. All instances of the workbooks communicate only with the new server, and the server, based on a powerful Microsoft .NET platform, takes the responsibility of communicating with the other data sources. The server itself is a multitasker, able to handle thousands of concurrent workbook connections at one time, more than enough to satisfy the energy company’s userbase.

DataPlex engineers participated as part of the internal team at the energy company put together to manage the project which had company-wide workflow and business considerations. Because of the fast response required, DataPlex used a form of Agile software development with periodic releases and client reviews.

DataPlex engineers are skilled in designing and implementing custom software designs. Let us know how we can help you implement a solution to your custom set of requirements.

Rapidly Deploy Business Systems – Introducing FRONDS

AmpUp logoDataPlex’s AmpUp “Rapid Enterprise Deployment” software platform is being used to implement “million dollar systems” at a fraction of the cost. Each system is designed to enhance an organization’s already proven workflow, further leverage its business intelligence, and make it more productive and profitable. DataPlex AmpUp systems are 100% web-based and come already mobile and tablet enabled for access from anywhere. Example of already deployed systems are:

  • An Electronic Field Reporting System used by police officers to file incident report more quickly and conveniently
  • A Parking Management System that processes parking lot data to provide real-time dashboards with management-oriented charts and reports
  • PlexChex, a web service that constantly monitors and sends alerts based on website and business system performance
  • A Patient Management System with advanced EMR support to reduce the staff workload of medical groups
  • A new Fundraising Organization Network Database System (FRONDS) helps non-profits be more efficient at donor development and membership management
AmpUp-Based FRONDS Now Live at Descanso Gardens

FRONDS logoThe most recent AmpUp-based enterprise system developed by DataPlex is its Fundraising Organization Networked Data System, known as FRONDS, which is now live at Descanso Gardens and enabling their staff to more effectively interact with its membership of 18,000 people. The “back office” of development where all donations are managed went live on June 1st and the “front office” of the Visitor Center with membership and ticket sales went live on July 1st.

Intersection of Enterprise, Mobile and CloudNot only did DataPlex engineers design a custom version of FRONDS for Descanso Gardens called the Descanso Gardens Enterprise System (DGES) but they are hosting it on the Amazon’s high-performance EC2 cloud. DataPlex has become truly a one-stop shop that can work with an organization all the way from concept and design through development and hosting, and offers a suite of already developed modules for integrating enterprise, mobile and the cloud.

FRONDS is based on DataPlex’s AmpUp rapid development enterprise software platform that reduces the amount of time and cost to get a state-of-the-art web-based platform up and running. Many of the standard AmpUp features are available such as flexible searching, Excel/OpenOffice exporting, mail merging and consolidated “one button” month end reporting.

Some of the more interesting capabilities of FRONDS are:

  • Real-time dashboard display of daily activity
  • Print and scan ID cards
  • Point-of-sale (POS) operations: ticket, course and membership sales
  • Automatic letter generation with mail-merge capabilities
  • Track donor gifts by solicitations and campaigns
  • Donor communications Journal
  • Calendar of events
  • Budgets and Actuals: trend analysis and forecasting
  • Accounting Reports organized by General Ledger codes
  • Single-button Month-End Reporting
  • Multitude of workflow reports, document generation and Excel export

Descanso Gardens sample ID card

Descanso Gardens ID card

FRONDS prints membership cards, each one with different information including member name, ID number and an associated scancode. The Descanso Gardens staff decided to print all the cards themselves rather than use a commercial printer. With two printers set up, each of which prints one card every 7 seconds, the entire print job was under 20 hours. While printing, the staff was able to test scan the cards for quality control purposes so as to be sure to keep to their aggressive timeline. Now that the cards have been printed, the staff only has to print a couple thousand cards a month, a comparatively easy task, and has the option to offload some the ID card printing to the Visitor Center when people who sign up can get their ID card instantly.

The system dashboard shows the staff the current weather conditions and real-time visitation and sales figures, and compares them to the same day of the week of the previous year.

FRONDS Dashboard

FRONDS Dashboard

FRONDS also has an interactive POS cash register that is 100% web-based and compatible with all major web browsers including those for iPads and other tablets and which is also touch screen and barcode scanner enabled.

FRONDS Point-of-Sale Screen

FRONDS Point-of-Sale Screen

Descanso Gardens executives report how FRONDS is already proving its value:

  • Instantaneous reporting that will help us manage our enterprise better
  • Tracking member behavior, which improves our knowledge of a key, core constituency
  • Integrates POS with membership management
  • Provides us with much more powerful tools for member fulfillment and satisfaction:
    • instant enrollment and addition to the database
    • near-instant fulfillment of membership cards
    • much faster renewal process (soon to be also web-based)
    • better “member experience” at check-in
    • much better control of entrance gate
  • Much simplified and more user-friendly donor tracking, moves management, reporting system that is also much less expensive than the current systems in wide use such as Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge and DonorPerfect

Even though they had been using a different commercially available web-based donor management package, they will still realize a 25% savings in overall work effort by using FRONDS which aligns more closely with their fundraising and membership management requirements.

DataPlex FRONDS in the Descanso Gardens Visitor Center

FRONDS in the Descanso Gardens Visitor Center

For more information about FRONDS, AmpUp, one of the other AmpUp systems, or to discuss without obligation what DataPlex technical services can do for you, please feel free to contact us anytime.

Personal Computing Comes Full Circle

Revisiting the Lessons of Timesharing

by Warren Juran

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  George Santayana, might have been talking about how today’s Internet-based computing echoes computer timesharing from the 1960s and 1970s.  How can the lessons learned from that early era of computing help us to design better systems and applications today?  The tale of personal computing’s evolutionary path shows what experienced engineers and developers can bring to the design table.

Once upon a time, computers were so large and expensive that hardly anyone could afford to have one.  Computer users punched their program instructions and data into cards and brought the decks of cards to a computer center.  Operators at the computer center fed the cards into the computer’s input device.  The printed results were available after a considerable wait.  This inconvenient system seemed to take forever to debug software because of the delays after each cycle of correction and re-submission.  There wasn’t much ready-to-use software and the benefits of computing were available to very few.

Computer timesharing let more people enjoy the advantages of “personal computing.”  Hundreds of users could use their own keyboard/printer terminals to share the resources of one central computer.  In the 1960s and 1970s, computer timesharing companies spread around the world, operating large data centers and communications networks to provide dial-up services for their users.  Timesharing companies opened branch offices in large cities and employed armies of salesmen to locate and cultivate new customers.  The new customers could do their own interactive programming, or use extensive libraries of ready-to-use software for their computing needs.

The timesharing companies provided the central computers, communications networks, software libraries, customer support and education, printing services, remote job entry for traditional “batch” computing jobs, client data storage, and a one-stop-shop for word processing, accounting, messaging, engineering analysis and other customer requirements.

Developers of early timesharing systems dealt with issues like utilizing limited bandwidth, providing rapid access to large amounts of data, and insuring that individual users didn’t monopolize computer resources. Tools like “linked lists,” “sparse matrices,” “hashing,” and priority queuing helped improve timesharing systems. Today’s computers and communication networks are vastly more powerful than their early counterparts, but disciplines like Information Theory, Queuing Theory, Distributed Computing and Peer-to-Peer computing can still enhance system performance and reduce costs.

Better Business Software

Can Business Software be Better?

We have all heard the horror stories regarding business software systems: The tremendously expensive system. The system that didn’t work. The system that couldn’t grow with the business. The provider who wanted $50,000 a module and five modules would be needed. Critical software changes that take weeks or months.

With fast-changing markets, demographics and new regulations, businesses need to be nimble and fast in their reactions. The last thing a business needs is to hampered by expensive and time-consuming system implementations. Hearing about the bad experiences of others’ raises the question, what are the characteristics of good business software?

Thinking from a business owner’s perspective, better business software should:

  • Work reliably and securely
  • Be adjusted to take into account the uniqueness of the business’ operation
  • Come at a cost that doesn’t break the bank
  • Come with easy access to the software’s actual developers for the best possible technical support
  • Be quickly extendible when new features are desired
  • Not be locked in to a specific platform that doesn’t have a bright future or comes with high monthly expenses
  • Maximize connectivity from anywhere using mobile devices

A tall order, right? Not so with us. With DataPlex and AmpUp – our rapid software development tool for business enterprise applications – you get business software that offers modern capabilities that can easily be altered to meet changing needs, possibly giving your business a competitive advantage.

By leveraging AmpUp, you get:

  • A reliable and secure system that take into account the uniqueness of your business’ operation. We start by doing a free assessment of your current operation and then work with you to develop effective new displays and processes.
  • A system at a fraction of the cost of other commercial systems, including those that claim to be “off the shelf.”
  • Easy access and great support. We are the developers, and you have our direct phone numbers. (Email too.)
  • The ability to add new features quickly and at any time. We’re happy to be your technical advisors on anything daunting.
  • A web-based system that can be easily ported to your favorite cost-effective hosting service including those “in the cloud.”
  • Connectivity from Internet-enabled mobile devices whether they be Android-based, Apple, Blackberry, Microsoft or something else.

We introduced AmpUp six months ago because, frankly, we were shocked at what some of our clients were telling us about what they had to put up for systems and support. We didn’t think that a small business needed to spend six figures for a new system, wait six months for their so-called customizations, and then wait weeks for bug fixes which sometimes added even more bugs.

AmpUp logoAmpUp, it turns out, is a software development game-changer. It is a stable “software as a service” or SaaS platform that is shared among many different applications. In four months, we have been able to implement four very sophisticated enterprise systems. That’s one per month. Yes, you read that correctly – you could have one of our completely customized enterprise-wide systems working for you in a surprisingly short amount of time.

Interested? Feel free to drop us a call or note. We look forward to chatting with you soon.

Wanted: DataPlex AmpUp Beta Testers

DataPlex is taking Beta testers for it’s new AmpUp Version 2 update. Contact us at DataPlex for more information.

Introducing AmpUp, a Cloud-Based Enterprise Platform

AmpUp logo

We have developed a web-centric database tool called “AmpUp” used for rapid development of enterprise systems. Born out of necessity for supporting our customers, AmpUp has successfully demonstrated that it reduces implementation efforts and budgets by more than 50%.

Conceptually, the AmpUp tool is a wrapper between an organization’s data and its website. By providing a number of  high-level enterprise system functions for database access, user security and web page generation, developers are now able to concentrate the bulk of their time on their customers’ unique requirements.

AmpUp follows the cloud paradigm of Platform as a Service (PaaS). This is where AmpUp’s functions are available to a public or private cloud and can be shared across several systems. For customers with more sensitive applications, AmpUp is available for installation on their private Intranet as well.

While there is more technical information about AmpUp on the DataPlex website, in this article we would like to focus on these four features:

  • Automatically taps into existing databases
  • Provides instantaneous web forms and reports
  • Enables static and dynamic field dropdown selection
  • Easily adds data record navigation controls

At the Crossroads of Enterprise, Mobile and the Cloud

DataPlex helps you intersect enterprise, mobile and the cloud

Navigate the Intersection of Enterprise, Mobile and the Cloud

As a disruptive phenomenon in the realm of information technology, Cloud Computing is evolving quickly and driving changes both in the personal space and in the corporate world towards a more portable and web-centric infrastructure, particularly in such areas as sales, marketing, customer relations, logistics and fulfillment.

Back in  October 2008, we said “In only a matter of a couple short years, mobile computing with third party applications will become de rigueur, so it would be wise to plan for that eventuality.” It seems we’re on track.

More important than the introduction of the next generation electronic devices such as the latest iPhone and iPad is the prodigious convergence of enterprise IT with mobile computing with cloud-based services. If you missed it, our previous newsletter article “Exploring Cloud Computing” discusses the current state of personal and corporate services being provided over the Internet. It makes cases for when organizations with existing IT structures should explore moving some of their internal and commercial processes over to the cloud.

While one might understand that the cloud is basically a set of remote software services that can be leveraged to reduce the size and cost of in-house IT support, what he or she should also understand is how the growing shift to the cloud is affecting the types of devices and applications we all use.

Police Field Reporting Enterprise System

We have been awarded the contract to create a police department electronic field-reporting system (EFRS) where officers in the field enter incident information directly into a computer instead of onto paper for later transcription. EFRS taps into the Emergency 911 System as well as the Ticketing System to populate as many data fields automatically as possible, saving the officers time and effort.

EFRS uses our new AmpUp enterprise tool for fast enterprise systems deployment. For this brand new system, we used AmpUp to take the MySQL database schema we created to automatically create data entry forms and reports. We touched up the field placement and substituted some forms based on Microsoft Word.

Learn more about our Enterprise System services.

Learn more about our AmpUp tool.

Learn more about us.

iPhone Development

DataPlex plans to offer some if its classic products for the Apple iPhone and iTouch. Over the past twenty years, DataPlex has provided a number of useful applications for mobile computing including Time Tracker, Mileage Logger, To Do List, Query Tool, and Easy Data Manager. While DataPlex’s exact offerings are still under wraps, long-time users of DataPlex DataKeepers (a custom handheld device built by DataPlex in the 1980′s and 1990′s) can expect the same high level of useful features and reliability.