Best Practices

08
September
2016

Speery Chalet

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This post is not about project management or design. Rather, it is to share with you a wonderful park in hopes that you might consider going there yourself.

The park is called Glacier National Park and it is located in Montana. I'd heard of the park for years, but was overwhelmed by the park's indescribable natural beauty when I visited it last month. We hiked the Gunsight Pass trial to Speery Chalet.

Speery is one of those special places in the world that is in such high demand that you have to take your chances with a lottery every January to determine if you can get in. Our lottery number was 856. We started trying to book when the website went live at 10:00 AM, but it was so swamped that we had to keep trying till our request for lodging finally got through at 10:30 AM. By that time 855 other people had had better luck and registered before us. With such a high number, we didn't think we would have a chance to being assigned a night, but perhaps because we gave a wide date range that we could be there, we were assigned two nights!

 

Categories: Best Practices

14
August
2016

Slanted Foreheads

ernie2There is an old joke that goes something like this: "Do you know why computer programmers have slumped shoulders and slanted foreheads? If you ask them a question the shrug their shoulders and say, 'I don't know'. And when you tell them the answer they slap their foreheads".

My forehead became more inclined last week when I finally got around to replacing the hard drive in my middle aged laptop with a Solid State Drive (SSD). For years I had read that replacing the mechanical type of drive that comes with most computers with a SSD drive makes the computer run much faster. (Solid state drives have no moving parts and are pure, fast, electronic memory.) But for one reason or another I put off upgrading. Then last week when I could no longer ignore that it was taking my Windows 10 computer forever to boot, a decision was required: either take up knitting or get a new drive. So I...

 

Categories: Best Practices

07
July
2016

Doing what you do best

Maximizing designer's productivity

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One of the first questions we ask prospective clients is who in their firm is responsible for creating purchase orders. The answer usually boils down to either the designers or the back office staff like a bookkeeper. Or in the case of larger firms, the purchasing department.

In general, we find that the more efficient firms strive to limit the amount of paperwork designers have to handle so they can maximize the time deisgners have for design. For this reason, in DesignSmart there is a system for designers to simply "flag" the items that are ready to ordered. Then the back office staff can see all the items that need to be ordered and push the corresponding purchase orders into QuickBooks.

It is a simple process that ensures that items are not ordered until the designer is certain that the details are correct and, in the case of commercial projects,  all required approvals have been satisfied.

The main benefit is that this process frees up the designer's time for more productive work.

(End of article)

Categories: Best Practices

27
June
2016

Getting to Yes

34484156 sBecause no two design firms are alike, we customize DesignSmart for each client. Recently a new client asked us to develop an interesting feature.

To ensure control over purchasing, this firm requires that a Purchasing Manager, a Project Manager and a Senior Manager approve every purchase order before it is released to the vendor. If a manager was away from the office and could not view the printed copy of the PO, the approval process would bog down. And there was the issue of the occasional purchase order being denied and having to inform the design team of what needed to be changed in order for the PO to be approved.

The solution? Allow managers to view the POs awaiting their approval in DesignSmart for iPad so they can view and approve them from anywhere. And the issue with letting designers know why a PO is denied? Managers simply enter a note on the iPad, and the design team is automatically sent an email with the manager’s note.

Does your firm have a work flow process that might be made more efficient by DesignSmart? Call us today so we can discuss possible solutions with you.

(End of article)

Categories: Best Practices

24
June
2016

New Weekly Timesheet

No matter how you do it, keeping track of your time is not easy. In hopes of making the process a bit easier, we are pleased to announce a new weekly timesheet entry screen. Here you can enter all of your time for a week and/or review your time entries for a given week. (End of article)

Screenshot 062616 094036 AM

 

 

Categories: Best Practices

17
April
2016

Customize DesignSmart To Work The Way You Need It To Work

Make it yours

woman at desk SmallPeople not in the interior design industry could reasonably assume that all design firms essentially provide a similar service. Namely, they pick out fabrics and furnishings for a home or building so the interior is pleasing to the owner. And at a certain level they would be correct. Where they would not be correct is thinking that at the operational level all design firms have the same work flows.

For just one simple example consider how the "Client Deposit" is might be calculated:

  • Some firms have a fixed 50% or fixed 100%. Or the percent might fluctuate depending on the type of item. So a fabric might be 100%, but a sofa might be 50%. Or the client deposit might be determined by the vendor's deposit when the order is placed.
  • Is sales tax to be included in the Client Deposit?
  • Is freight to be included in the Client Deposit?

There are an infinite number of variations in how a design firm runs their business. The good news is that DesignSmart has been developed so it can be customized to work the way you need it to work.

Please click the "Continue Reading" button below.

 

Categories: Best Practices

14
February
2016

New DesignSmart server option

Fast, easy and affordable - Works with Windows PCs and Macs

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There are many benefits to "cloud" technology and approximatley 50% of our clients run DesignSmart from one of our cloud servers.  However, there are two important advantages to hosting DesignSmart data in your office rather than in the cloud:

  1. It will be faster. Consequently you will enjoy working with the system more. To understand the speed difference, consider that with a cloud server data and images have to travel 1,000's miles as opposed to 100 feet. Even if you have a super fast internet connection, hosting the data in your own office is going to be faster and day-in and day-out you will greatly appreciate the faster responsiveness.
  2. It will be less expensive in the long run. 

If your firm does not already have what is known as a server, then we recommmend the Apple Mac Mini (starting at $499.00) to host your DesignSmart data. It gets the name mini from the fact it is only 9" x 9" x 2". Even if you only use Windows PCs in your office, your PCs will connect and work seamlessly with the mini. 

Getting setup couldn't be any easier. We will purchase the mini online, install all of the necessary software and configure it to work with your network. When we send it to you all you have to do is plug in the power cord and a network cable. No need to plug in a monitor,  a keyboard, nor a mouse. When we need to make tweaks to your program, we'll simply connect to the mini remotely from our offices.

(Click Continue Reading for FAQs)

 

Categories: Best Practices

11
September
2015

Easy way to safeguard your email

For those who use web based email programs

protect-email

In January we posted an article about the importance of using a "password manager" software program to store all of your passwords. You can read the article here

In the article the growing threat of BAD people hacking your online email account and literally holding it for ransom was mentioned. This happened to one of our employee's parents. 

If someone hacked your email account and required $500 or $5,000 ransom to release it back to you, would you pay? Hopefully you won't be faced with that decision, and if you follow our recommendation below, then you won't ever have to decide. You could simply tell the BAD person, "Thank you, but no thank you. I have a copy of my email. Have a nice day!"

The recommendation? (click Continue Reading)

Categories: Best Practices

09
September
2015

Website for finding a local bookkeeper!

Complete with certifications and references!

Hiring a bookkeeper is not easy, but if you use QuickBooks then the task gets much easier. Why? More than 95% of small businesses use QuickBooks so more bookkeepers know QuickBooks than any other accouting system.

QuickBooks even has a website to you help find bookkeepers (or "Pro Advisors" as QuickBooks calls them) in your local area. 

CLICK HERE TO FIND A LOCAL BOOKKEEPER !!!

Keepin in mind that with our QuickBooks Connect module all of the clients, vendors, projects, deposits, purchase orders and invoices that you create in DesignSmart get pushed into QuickBooks with the click of a button. This eliminates double entry and allows your bookkeeper to spend her or his time, and your money, more efficiently.

To learn more about QuickBooks Connect and QuickBooks, please contact us.  [End of article]

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Categories: Best Practices

06
September
2015

Entering Dimensions Just Got Easier!

dimenRecently a designer suggested to us a better way to enter dimensions. We thought it was a such a good idea that we put it in DesignSmart 5.0

Her  idea was that a rug needs certain dimensional prompts (width and lenght) whereas a lamp needs others (height, shade diameter, base diameter). So why not let design firms set up the dimensional prompts for various items? And while we are at it, go ahead and add an icon to make it a more visual process.

To see a 1 minute video of how it works, please visit our videos section.

Categories: Best Practices

08
June
2015

Web Access To DesignSmart Data!

Give your clients more access to the data they need

DesignSmart has newer and better ways for you to share your DesignSmart data with your clients via the Internet. 

How does it work? Your clients will go to YOUR website and click on a "Client Login" button. Then they will be required to enter a login name and password so they will only have access to the data they should be able to view. 

Our optional WebSmart module is a great way for residential design firms to allow their client access to DesignSmart data. Commercial design firms will have unique requirements specific to their workflows.

Last week we finished a custom web application for a commercial design firm because their clients were requiring real time project reports via the web. Previously the design firm had emailed weekly reports, but that was not longer sufficient. Their clients needed all of their staff to be able to look up current and past reports online.

The design firm also needed their clients to be able to enter comments and questions for each project report. These comments were then automatically emailed to the appropriate designer in charge of that project. (Please click Continue Reading)

Categories: Best Practices

06
June
2015

Hyper Custom QuickBooks Reports

We know QuickBooks

Our newest client has over thirty designers, project managers and accounting staff who will be using DesignSmart.  One of their critical management reports is a highly custom QuickBooks report. While you can create filters in QuickBooks to generate your own custom reports, QuickBooks is unable to create this specific report.  The reason is that this report requires pulling data from various areas in QuickBooks, manipulating the data, then outputing the data into the final report format.

Six years ago our client contracted with a firm to develop this report.  The report worked reasonably well, but took 15 - 30  minutes to run. And only one person in the firm could run it.

We are going to develop the same report and expect it will take less than two minutes to run. We should have the report completed by the end of this month and I will update this blog with the actual time. However we have developed similar reports and feel confident that two minutes is conservative.

Added bonus:  any staff person will be able to run this report in real time!

Categories: Best Practices, Technology

06
June
2015

LEED THE WAY!

We have developed our first LEED features!

Recently one of our clients was required to submit specifications that included LEED details, so they contacted us to develop these new features. It essentially came down to developing a a new LEED report and LEED data entry table (see below). We were able to provide all of the required features in less than a day. 

Their client, the developer of the property, even had specific categories that the design firm was required to use.  Since the developer's categories were not the same as the ones the design firm use on their other projects, we came up with a solution for that as well.

If you have LEED projects and would like to have LEED features added to your version of DesignSmart, then please contact us.

 

LEED image

 

Categories: Best Practices

01
March
2015

Two Monitors Versus One?

Is less more?

Would you and your staff be more efficient if you started using a second computer monitor? With a second monitor you can run one program on monitor A and another program on monitor B. When you move your mouse it will float across both monitors as if they were one big monitor. 

Most people would assume that they would be more efficient. A white paper from Dell supports supports this theory (article here) as does this academic paper (article here). External monitors have become so affordable that you can purchase a quality one for less than $200.

However, an interesting article in the New York Times last year (article here) argues that two monitors can provide more distractions and ultimately lower overall productivity. Having used multiple monitors for many years, I cab identify with many of the author's points against a second monitor. 

 

Categories: Best Practices

08
January
2015

Be proactive and protect your computer

You'll be glad you did

A recent article in the New York Times about computer hackers was so frightening it gave me the "he-be-ge-bees" and made me immediately take certain precautions to better protect my computer data.  

The article (read it here) explains how hackers can gain access to your computer, encrypt your files so you cannot open them, then require that you pay them a ransom (in Bitcoins of course) in order for them to provide you with the key to decrypt your files. And these ransoms can be in the thousands of dollars. What a nightmare that would be.

I mentioned this article to my co-worker Robert and he responded that his mother's email account had been hacked this way. We are talking scary stuff here. The good news is that

 

Categories: Best Practices

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