How Quickbase can make you obsolete
Jun 18, 2018
(In a good way)
Reflecting on many of the workflow improvement projects I've managed in the past... I was enormously ineffective!
Well, sort of.
You see, 10 years ago I didn't have access to Quickbase. It wasn't even a glimmer in my eye. Little did I know one tool would have made 40% (or more) of my efforts completely unnecessary!
How could such a thing be possible?
I was working as the Continuous Improvement Specialist at a Manufacturing company. This particular company was ISO-9000 Certified and employees were required to know the Quality Management System (QMS). To prove this, the employees had to take (and pass) a test each year.
With hundreds of employees now needing to take an annual QMS test, the work to execute was daunting. An initial assessment revealed the following activities:
- Printing and distributing the individual tests based on job function
- Physically grading each test
- Tracking who has not taken their test, who has taken their test (and their score), and who needs to retake the test
- Manually logging the individual answers for later statistical analysis
- Issuing re-testing (for those who didn't pass), including printing distributing, etc
- Following up with the individuals or managers who have not completed their tests
- Scanning graded tests for digital filing in the employees' HR file
Upon realizing the scope of work, the leadership team approached me to ask what could be done to automate the workflow.
Given the limited tools (and no budget) I devised a system using the tools that were available to me at the time. This consisted of: Our company intranet, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Excel, and Adobe Acrobat.
Did I mention that I'm a certified Microsoft Office Master? Can you tell? I used what I knew because I didn't know any better. But, as Maya Angelou said, "When you know better you do better."
So, at the time, through the implementation of automation using Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) I created the following process:
- Tests would be accessed digitally through the company intranet
- A link to the test would launch a Word form where the employee enters their details in the header followed by answers to the multiple-choice test questions
- Upon clicking a 'Submit' button at the bottom of the form, the test answers would be compared to an Excel answer key and logged in a completed tests document stored on the company network
- The test results would then be emailed through Outlook to the employee and his/her manager using a lookup table in Excel based on the employee's ID number provided in the header of the test
- Lastly, the graded version of the test in the administrator's email could be converted to a PDF file in bulk and sent to HR for filing
It took several weeks to code, test, re-code, re-test, and in many cases learn the specific VBA functions I would need.
Ultimately it was highly successful with thousands of tests taken, hundreds of hours saved, and no capital expenditure incurred.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? Have you busted your you know what and felt awesome for accomplishing something no one else could have possibly conceived?
If I hadn't automated this process they'd be:
- printing out hundreds of tests
- manually passing them out
- collecting them
- physically grading them
- individually notifying managers when employees didn't pass
- scanning the completed passing exams
- all while logging and tracking individual tests in Excel
What I had implemented was 1,000 times better, but still far from optimal.
The weeks of effort I spent creating this automation still resulted in a clunky system with dozens of potential failure points and virtually no ability for anyone other than myself to maintain it.
If I only had Quickbase!!!
Today I could recreate this entire system in one day at most. Did you hear that... A DAY... One Single Day!
Now, I do have a ton of experience, so that makes this an easy statement to make. If you're interested in learning more about how to solve business problems with Quickbase check out the Courses page.
Of course, you could also argue "but, you didn't have a budget. You wouldn't have been able to use Quickbase anyway."
While that may be true, we did research the cost of a Learning Managment System (LMS) that would have done most (but not all) of this. The cost of the system was $36k... you can get a lot of Quickbase for that price, AND you aren't limited to using it as an LMS. Amazing!!
Don't get me wrong; I'm all for job security. I just imagine what more I could have done had I not been in VBA hell trying to integrate and manipulate systems that weren't designed for the work I was making them do.
If you're not already using Quickbase, this is an excellent example of what a difference it can make. If you are already using Quickbase, I'm sure this post has already given you some new ideas.
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