Going paperless is a reality with OASIS. In fact, many of the tools to do so are already available for the OASIS user. However, backups and other considerations that are not included in core OASIS will be presented to provide you with the best possible experience. This article covers:
- OASIS Paperless Features
- Using Dual Screens
- OASIS Backups
- Real Life Example
OASIS Paperless Features
Features in OASIS were designed from the start to enable companies to operate more efficiently, and part of that goal was going paperless. For example, with less paper to thumb through, finding answers to customer questions is easier. Examples of paperless features in OASIS include:
- Agency orders with optional customer orders (rep only)
- Creating transactions from a bill of material using “New Like” and “Create POs”
- Automated submittals
- Email integration
- Price lists
- Electronic integration
Agency orders with optional customer orders
Most sales agencies these days send the OASIS order to the factory or use electronic integration to send order information directly to the manufacturer’s data system. This has not always been the case. Even today, a few sales agencies will still take the customer’s order, manually write in the commission terms, and send the resulting document (fax or email) to the factory. The few remaining groups that have this business model say that it relieves them of the liability of getting the order wrong. In response, we often ask, “...Does it?"
Step one toward going paperless is to eliminate the need to print, or even electrically stamp, the customer’s order in any way. For those of you that remember this process, the OASIS order form is essentially the old commissions stamp many companies used to stamp the commissions and overage terms on the customer’s copy of the order before faxing it to the manufacturer. To be honest, most manufacturers look at the sales agencies copy of the order, as it is consistent and easier to read than the order documents created by most distributors.
It's possible to take the customer’s copy of the order, attach it to the OASIS order, and send both the OASIS order copy and the customer copy of the order to the manufacturer. This allows the manufacturer to compare the two and keep the official order document (the distributor’s order) for later reference.
Before a group can go paperless, printing of orders to annotate commissions or changes has to stop. The OASIS order forms were created for this very reason: to eliminate the need to print.
Creating transactions from a bill of material using “New Like” and “Create POs”
Most features in OASIS have a “New Like” feature. This allows you to create a new quote “like” the bill of material you are working with already . The quantities, fixture types, catalog numbers and much more is copied into a new transaction. The "New Like" feature is available for:
- Packing Slips
- And more!
Additionally, there are many copy & paste features in OASIS that allow you to copy data from one part of the system to another – much like using a spreadsheet. And yes, you can copy & paste data between OASIS and most spreadsheet applications.
Creating transactions like an order or submittal from another is important for many reasons. Reducing print is one, but the bigger reason is to reduce keying errors. Once a fixture is approved on a project, it is important to key the manufacturer and catalog number for that fixture into the active OASIS quote. This ensures the next person will start with correct information.
Creating a submittal in OASIS is easy. Over time, OASIS learns the different catalog numbers for a cut sheet and how your organization annotates the cut sheet for the given catalog number.
Many of our users simply email the finished submittals out of OASIS. Now, we are getting reports from our users where the specifiers are “approving” the fixtures electronically as well. The approved email and “stamped” submittal may be dragged and dropped into the OASIS project attachments and saved for others to view.
For years, OASIS has had integration with many email systems used by our clients. Some email systems are easier to work with than others, but the two important features in OASIS are:
- Emailing a transaction from OASIS
- Dropping an email into OASIS attachments
Email integration allows OASIS to create an email and send the email using your email that is set up in your user account. The OASIS transaction (e.g. quote, order, invoice) is automatically added to the email as an attachment and previewed before the user presses the “send” button. Remember, it is possible to add one or more attachments to these emails before they are sent. The attachments may already be in OASIS, or they might be accessible to the computer OASIS is running on.
When a customer sends a response (or any email about a project or order), the subject line of the order may often be “drug from” the email client you are using and “dropped in” the attachments tab of any OASIS transaction. This allows anyone in the office to view the email. If your email client does not allow for this drag and drop functionality, try saving the email to your computer’s desktop. Anything saved to the local computer may be “dropped” into the OASIS attachments tabs.
For the most part, price lists and pricing data has moved from the hard-bound books of the past to Adobe PDF and Microsoft XLSX documents stored on a shared server drive.
However, many OASIS users have taken the next step and copy & pasted the pricing data into OASIS as an OASIS price list. This forms a drop-down as you type the catalog number in a transaction, helping users get the catalog number correct. This is a huge step in eliminating errors. When a part is selected from the drop-down, the catalog number will add in authorized pricing, and in some cases, customer specific pricing. What would have taken ten or more minutes to price manually is automatically priced in OASIS.
More and more OASIS users are placing nearly all of their pricing data into OASIS. This is true for small and large groups. It does take some set up time, but the result is fewer errors, rapid pricing, and more focus on selecting the proper product.
OASIS was designed from the start to integrate with other data systems. This has allowed us to adopt and develop a number of different technologies to move data from one business partner to another without re-keying the same data. This prevents errors and increases productivity. This is a large topic, but you should discuss with your trading partners the following:
- Using O2O exchange, quote, order and order status between sales agency and distributor
- Using EDI to exchange data with other data systems and OASIS
- Linking OASIS directly to their ERP system
Electronic integration helps productivity, reduces errors, and enables a paperless office.
Using Dual Screens
Early on, OASIS users found that two monitors allows the user to have OASIS on one screen and their email (or web browser) on the other screen. This allows the user to quickly move data from one system to another using drag and drop. It also allows the user to quickly answer a customer question about a quote or order in OASIS.
Today, monitors have become wider than tall and the resolution is much better than what was available. To take advantage of this, Microsoft Windows and other computer software vendors have adapted their operating systems to take advantage of these new monitors. Try dragging the title bar of any application to the far left or right side of the monitor. This will cause the application to fill exactly one half of the screen – as shown below.
Using computers, we can focus on the reality that they will someday fail. But the other reality is that all the data on a server may be saved to a small backup device, or the data may be copied to the cloud – which is just storing the data on a server somewhere else. Today, our valuable data can be accessible after something as bad as a natural disaster or malware attack. Backup options may include:
- USB drive backup
- Local server backup
- 3rd party cloud backup
- OASIS Cloud Backup
REGARDLESS OF SOLUTION, WE RECOMMEND TESTING YOUR BACKUP AT LEAST ONCE PER YEAR! Refer to the "Validating a Backup" section below to learn more.
USB drive backup
The OASIS database may be instructed to create a backup anywhere. This includes a full copy of the database file, plus a secondary log file that may be used to recover the database in the event of a failure.
If using USB or external drives, we recommend purchasing at least two of them. The OASIS database is instructed to make a copy to the drive every night. We recommend swapping the drives weekly and taking one drive home or placing in a safety deposit box. This process not only guards against computer failure, but also guards against theft, fires, and other local disasters.
Local server backup
Many of our users already have a backup plan for their server. One thing to tell your IT group about the OASIS database is that the database is a true relational database that often can not be read during the backup process. To allow for a backup, the OASIS database may be instructed to make a copy of itself to a location where the backup software is able to write a copy of the OASIS database to the backup media.
3rd party cloud backup
We have seen some nice 3rd party cloud backup solutions come out recently. These backup solutions are able to backup gigabyte size files to the cloud effectively. Additionally, theses backup solutions are able to backup the local server and even other PCs on the network.
Like the local server backup above, the OASIS database must be instructed to make a copy of itself to allow the cloud backup software to make a copy of the database to the cloud.
OASIS Cloud Backup
Some OASIS customers are businesses with sales well over $100M/year. In dollar terms, this is about a $380K loss for one day if the database were to go down or the company experienced a disaster. A database recovery with a good backup is about one day. Without a good backup, the company could be down for a week or more. For this reason, we created the OASIS Cloud Backup solution.
The OASIS Cloud Backup solution is based on our OASIS Cloud Sync technology being used by some customers to keep two different databases in two different offices “in sync”. This allows a quote or order in one office to be created, then automatically copied to our Cloud Backup server, then to the other database. Here are the advantages of OASIS cloud backup (without sync):
- The backup is automatic
- The backup happens throughout the day, copying each transaction to the backup server – often within minutes of the save
- Each quote transaction revision is available for users to manually recall
- The database is backed up on the OASIS Cloud Backup server
- The database is periodically validated automatically
- You continue to use your database without any of the inherent internet bandwidth limitations
The most important part is that if your local database fails for any reason, you are able to have the OASIS Cloud Backup of your database moved to our OASIS Cloud Host. While the transfer time varies, the result is the same: you are able to access your data on the OASIS Cloud Host within hours after your server quits. Additionally, you are able to access the data (at internet speed) while you resolve your local hardware issues. When ready, we will send you a copy of your database on the OASIS Backup Server and help you restore your server to normal operation.
Validating a Backup
More than once, the OASIS support team has received a support call associated with a failed server only to find the server backups were not usable.
At least one time per year, we recommend that the OASIS database be validated. The process is easy, but may take time to process. For more information, click here.
Real Life Example
The following examples actually happened and show the power of at least partially operating the business as a paperless office. This example is not about saving the environment (although that is a nice side-effect), it is about operating faster, at a lower cost and making fewer mistakes.
“Why did we get billed twice?!”
While out training, one of the OASIS trainers was instructed to stop training because one of the company’s biggest customers was upset about being billed twice on an order. The trainer passed the keyboard and mouse to one of the owners who searched for the order the customer was asking about. After looking at the attachments and invoices in OASIS, the owner picked up the phone and was able to help their customer remember there were two releases on the order and the two invoices added up to the total of the entire order. Training resumed within 5 minutes and the owner never got out of her seat.
We now live in a virtual world with powerful computers on every desk. Using OASIS moves your computer from a fancy typewriter to a powerful data system and paperless office. Add in a cloud backup, and it is possible to operate the business even after a natural disaster. Little of this would be possible with paper files.