Custom Database Design & Development

Most systems we create require data to be stored somewhere. Usually we use a database. As a database development company we often use Microsoft Access for this purpose. So we are also Access consultants and do custom database design. You may need some database help in general or some specific Access help.

When building custom IT solutions, a question we ask potential customers early on is "Does your requirement exist already?" Occasionally they are surprised as they hadn't thought of looking, but more often than not the answer is "Our requirements are too specific to us" or "We've had a look and whilst the one we found could probably do what we want, it also does a lot of what we don't want - and it isn't cheap!"

This comparision may help you decide which direction to take.

Here are some screen shots of custom built systems.

Here are some more examples of features customers have asked for that we have created. They may give you ideas of what can be done:

Web based custom business system

The client has 2 main office locations but also some staff that work from home. They all need to use the data for different purposes so a web based system is ideal for them. Different job functions get different parts of the system made available to them via role based security.

The system comprises data entry screens, wizards for complex processes, reports that can be viewed on screen as well as exported to Excel, an invoicing feature which produces pdf's of the invoices and a dashbord including dynamic charts.

We host the system for the client and use and SQL Server.

Automating Microsoft Word

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We often use Microsoft Word as part of an application. A common use is to create a personalised letter. It's sort of mail merge in reverse! The database sends data to the letter in Word rather than Word pulling the data into it.
Whilst it's true that database reporting tools can be made to do all sorts of things, they are meant to be used for reporting repetitive data that needs grouping and summarising. When the output is from one record and perhaps some related records, Microsoft Word can often be very useful. One of our manufacturing clients now has a system that produces paper forms that machine operators take with them.

Generating emails from data

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Our customer wanted a completely automated way of reminding their staff to book themselves on a regular mandatory Health and Safety refresher course. Our solution runs overnight and generates personalised emails to those people who are due to attend the refresher course in the next couple of months. As well as this we implemented a similar system to generate an email to course attendees on the night following their training. Each email contains a link to a personalised course evaluation form they need to complete. If the delegate "forgets" to complete it, another email is generated 3 days later. All of the data collected in the evaluations is reported against in another web application.

A similar reminder system was designed for another customer in the energy sector. Their application deals with processes and procedures that need annual reviews. We developed automated reminders to the process owners that their process required reviewing before a particular date. The customer is in a highly regulated industry (oil), and need to ensure they review their processes in order to remain compliant with regulations that apply to them. Once again, the reminder then takes them on to a web based application that they needed to complete during and after the process review is completed.

API Interaction

Our customer needed to get data from their business partner via an api (internet connection that bypasses a web browser). We ended up scheduling the pull of the data every 10 minutes and creating an internal web page for users to process the new data.

Excel / CSV processing

Another common requirement is to import data from files exported from other systems in csv format. Our customer processes a file of 100,000 rows every morning and on a weekly basis processes files of customer (40,000 rows) and contract information that is associated with the daily event file. We produce reports of anomalies that our customer can then investigate.

SMS automation (text messaging)

Did you know that it's possible to set up a system to send text messages (SMS) via your computer? We added this feature to an application we built that made bookings. Our customer wanted to reduce the amount of "no shows" and offer an extra service to their customers. The day before their appointment, the system produces a list of customers that are due to visit. The user selects which customers to send a message to and clicks OK! Their customers receive a text reminding them of their appointment. The advantage of texting is that it is unobtrusive, better than a phone call and easy to do. It's actually relatively easy for us to include this feature in your application.

Brochure production

An unusual request we had was for a system to generate a brochure that was going to be professionally printed and bound by a printing company. It was very important that the user couldn't tweak the finished product before printing as any errors at this stage would be costly. We decided to use Microsoft Word as a platform for the output. Access manages the data. After the (very nice looking) layout was designed we then needed to output the data from the application which stores the data into the template. As well as words there are photographs and charts that need inserting. Using Word development skills, our system resizes and compresses them appropriately. When the document is complete the user can save it as a pdf to give to the printer.

The system evolved to enable users to produce customised subsets of the whole brochure.

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Based in Northampton in the UK and working with companies worldwide.

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