One of the best parts of working with customers of all different sizes, and from all different industries, is that I get to see all of the different ways that businesses approach the optimization of their processes. I have seen some pretty incredible processes with almost no wasted effort, running inside QuickBase apps. The problem is that on the flip side of that, I have also seen customers take bad processes and make them even worse with their apps.
One of the keys I have found for rolling out great applications (and getting to take credit for all of their success!) is to understand the process you are trying to build before you ever even touch QuickBase. You will find that it's never a bad practice to follow these 5 steps:
Everyone has a process whether they know it or not, and the first step to building your ideal application is to map out the current process no matter how ugly it may be. For now, let's forget all about QuickBase, and software in general for that matter. Instead, grab a pen and paper and ask everyone involved what they do. If you write down all the steps people have to perform in order to get something done you can now take that and turn it into a much easier to understand diagram.
If you have never gone through a process mapping exercise there are plenty of guides available online, so I won't bore you with the details but anyone can learn how to do it in just a few minutes because it's literally just drawing out the things you do every day. Ultimately you should end up with something that looks a little like this:
The key is to make sure that you account for each step and person involved, don't leave anything out. At this point you should also be able to start to easily see the areas that are really painful or inefficient. Hearing big run on sentences such as, "I have to email John for that report, and then I wait for 4 hours for him to get me some data at which point I have to check what he sent me for errors, and reformat the whole thing before adding it to the executive report so that my boss, who sometimes uses the wrong version anyway, has a current copy…" are usually good clues as to where things are breaking down, but once it's on a diagram, it should become even more obvious.
Now that you have a diagram that shows you how things are currently done, it's time to devise a more efficient way of doing business. Focusing on the painful points, change the diagram around to what you think would be the ideal process. Hopefully you end up with something much more compact:
The trickiest step of the 5 is to take your ideal process, and translate that into a functioning data model. The best approach is to look for patterns and repeated items. This usually indicates that the item is an object that can be tracked on a database table. Once you have identified all of the tables, you can draw lines between the ones that you know will need to feed each other information.
Here is where the fun part really starts. You may not have realized it at the time, but finishing Step 4 means you're actually done with all the hard stuff, and now you can let QuickBase take all the great work you've done and turn it into something really tangible. Most new users think that this where the real work begins, but using our "Build a new app from scratch" wizard, you can take the model and simply plug in the details.
QuickBase will take your model and turn it into a fully functional app for you, with tables, relationships, forms, and even a dashboard all pre-built. From there it should just be a matter of putting on the fit and finish, adding in your data and deciding how you want things to look for your coworkers. Using the report building wizard and the drag and drop functionality of QuickBase pages, you'll find that this really is the fun part.
As you go through this exercise, I encourage you to get creative and to play around with the possibilities. Once you're done you can use the time you hopefully just saved yourself to pat yourself on the back for doing far more to help your organization than any average employee. Stopping into one of Kirk's webinars is always helpful too if you get stuck.