What is business automation?

What is business automation?

If you don’t know software, it can be very hard to identify the need for software. But more or less, if you have a repetitive task, it can likely be automated. It’s that simple. And though it might seem like a big leap for your business, we can identify where you might need improvements in your processes and opportunities for better resource allocation.

Some examples of every day automation that we don’t even think about:

  • Point of Service tills and software
  • Electronic Funds Transfer
  • Thermostats
  • Espresso makers (guilty!)

Some ways you might be able to automate processes:

  • Payroll
  • Sales (move online!)
  • Customer enquiries
  • Personnel management (the days of the white board are well and truly over)
  • Employee productivity (automate those internal tasks and save on labour costs)

Getting in touch with a business automation expert is well worth your time. Even if you run a successful and fruitful business, maintaining efficiency where your competitors are—or better yet staying ahead—is one of the best investments of your time you can make as a business owner.

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Our predictions for business in Tasmania

Skyscrapers.

With new STEM infrastructure bubbling in Hobart, the future for Australia’s most southern state looks promising. The University of Tasmania’s $400-million science and technology precinct which would be home to 3000 students and 700 staff will no doubt attract some big names, big tenders and new influx of work for local businesses.

Add to the mix the very nature of Tasmania’s being small in size and easier to make improvements to (hint: optic fibre), cheap on building rent and family friendly, investors are beginning to look to Hobart as a cost-effective place to start up digital spaces and online businesses.

As face-to-face business moves to online businesses aided by increasing internet speeds, communication softwares and big data, geography is set to become less important than where you place in the search engine.

So what does this mean for you as a small business?

It’s time to get on board in the digital realm… And quickly. A CBD shopfront is set to become less important over time than your online shopfront. With business process automation taking over, and you can now wake up to sales made overnight, maximising your time and throwing away the old 9-5.

Loop Foundry are optimistic about what we can contribute to the future of business in Tasmania. If you want to get your business up to speed, get in touch with us today and have a chat about what we can do for you.

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Position Filled: Administrative Assistant

The position has been filled for the role of Administrative Assistant. We would like to thank all applicants for their applications, and welcome you to keep an eye on our Twitter and Facebook for any upcoming vacancies.

Loop Foundry, a software development consultancy based in Hobart, is looking for a casual administrative assistant to join their small team.

Tasks

We provide custom software and web development, and eCommerce software solutions to our primarily Tasmanian clients. To help us achieve this, you’ll need to:

  • Edit (and contribute to) documents such as software documentation, project proposals, website blog posts, and operations manuals.
  • Answer phone calls and respond to emails on behalf of other staff members.
  • Perform software usability testing (if you think you’d be terrible at this because you know nothing about software testing, you’re exactly the person we’re after).
  • Pester staff members (mostly your boss) to get the work they promised to clients done.
  • Follow up with clients via phone and email to ensure they also do what they said they’d do.
  • Perform Internet research and write summaries of findings.
  • Other duties as required.

Basically, we want you to help us provide excellent service to our clients.

Qualities

We absolutely don’t expect you to be able to effortlessly tick off every item above as something you can do, training will of course be provided. However, there are a few qualities we’d like you to have:

  • Excellent written and verbal English communication skills.
  • Excellent general computer skills (experience in Word, Excel and PowerPoint is a must).
  • The ability to learn quickly and follow directions.
  • The ability to work unsupervised.
  • Attention to detail and pride in your work.

Benefits

Lunch Room and Ping Pong Table
The lunch room (including ping pong table)!
  • Total working hours will start around 8 hours per week. Your hours can be negotiable in order to fit around other commitments you might have.
  • You’ll be paid $24.30 per hour ($19.44 plus casual loading) as well as superannuation guarantee contributions of 9.5%.
  • We have a lovely dog-friendly office space in central Hobart (with table tennis table and large kitchen).
  • You can work from home occasionally if needed (though you’re expected to be in the office most of the time).

Applying

To apply to be our new administrative assistant, please email your CV (or a link to your LinkedIn profile) to jack.scott@loopfoundry.com.au. Cover letters are welcome and encouraged, but you will be disqualified if you attach the cover letter as a Word or PDF document rather than put it in the email body.

Applications will close on the 15th of September. Applicants will be notified via email within two weeks as to whether they have an interview.

August Service Changes

Ha Long Bay

One of our project managers, Jack, is going on holiday between the 29th of July and the 13th of August, and unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on whether you’re the one spending two weeks lying on beaches in Vietnam) he will be unavailable to respond to any urgent support queries.

Whilst he’s away, you will still be able to reach other members of the team by emailing info@loopfoundry.com.au (for non-urgent matters), or by calling (03) 6287 6964.

New Office 365 Products Available

We are delighted to announce that we are now a Microsoft Cloud Solutions Provider, which means that in addition to providing Office 365 online services as we always have, we can now offer you the complete range of Microsoft cloud solutions products:

  • Exchange Online
  • Office 365 (includes Exchange online and Office desktop applications)
  • SharePoint Online
  • Dynamics CRM
  • Skype for Business
  • Azure
  • And many more!

Using cloud services such as Office 365 allows you to free yourself from the shackles of your desktop computer, giving you the freedom to run your business from anywhere and at any time.

In addition, the support of Loop Foundry allows you to rest easy, knowing that any support requests and configuration changes are performed locally, and by people you know and trust.

To find out more, to enquire about pricing, or to sign up today, please get in contact with us or read more details.

Free Internet Marketing Training from Google

Google CertificationEver feel like you want to get started bringing your business into the 21st century, but aren’t sure how you should go about it?

Google are now offering a free course introducing the basics of search engine optimisation, search engine marketing, web analytics, eCommerce, and social media. They want to help business owners learn what it is they need to succeed, and we think it’s fantastic!

If looking through this course piques your interest, get in touch with us and we can give you more personalised advice to get you and your business started on the Internet marketing path.

Lessons Learned: Migrating Access to SQL Server

Recently we’ve been involved with transitioning an internal business database from a split Access database (one Access file holding the UI, another Access file holding the data tables) to a Access front-end with an SQL Server back-end. The purpose of this is to eventually migrate away from Access to an ASP.NET web application, but still providing backwards compatibility and an easier migration path. In the course of doing this, we’ve learned a few things:

  1. If set up correctly, the SQL Server Migration Assistant for Access (SSMA) is your best friend and will save you hours. If set up incorrectly, it’s your worst nightmare. In particular, we had a lot of trouble migrating straight from Access 2013 to SQL Server 2016 (as the software is built for SQL Server 2014). Our workaround was to migrate to an Azure SQL database (which is supported) and then move the database to our local server. Note that there are some data security concerns doing this compared to a straight local migration (as your data briefly goes off-site), but in our situation it worked really well.
  2. SSMA also defaulted to using DateTime2 as the SQL Server data type to replace Access’ Date/Time type. Unfortunately, Access doesn’t recognise DateTime2 and treats it as a text field instead, meaning you have to rewrite a lot of queries and code if you stick with that. However, there is the option to use DateTime in the migration, which Access does recognise. DateTime2 does have some added accuracy compared to DateTime, but DateTime should be sufficient in 95% of cases.
  3. After migrating, our second new best friend was the SQL Server Profiler, which allowed us to see what Access was requesting from the server. What was it requesting? e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. There were some badly written queries in the Access front-end where the query ended up pulling every row from every related table, one row at a time. Very slow even run on the server. Over the local network, it took literal hours to complete a reporting run. Which brings us to our next point…
  4. If you have a complex query in your front-end, rewrite it as an SQL Server View. Because Views are executed on the server, and only the result set is passed to the client, it can hugely speed up processing on large datasets. It also means you can write queries in standard T-SQL rather than Access SQL. The one downside to this is that if you have a form in Access that is backed by a query, you’ll need to rewrite parts of the form, as an Access form cannot (easily) be backed by a View.

One we realised and adopted these techniques, we were able to complete the migration with much less pain and a lot more fun. Bringing 1990’s technologies and business processes kicking and screaming into the 21st century gave us a lot of satisfaction, and laid the groundwork for the ASP.NET website to come.

New Website Theme! (Available On GitHub)

This website’s new theme is a slightly-modified version of WordPress’ built-in “Twenty Seventeen” theme. We’ve modified the footer and front page to be a little simpler than the base theme.

We’ve just released our changes to the theme as a child theme, and made them available on GitHub as “TwentyFoo“. This public repository will track the website’s theme as it undergoes any code changes.

It’s also our first public (and very small!) WordPress contribution. Whilst we’ve done a lot with WordPress for our clients in the past, we haven’t been able to make any of it public yet, and that made us a little sad. So with this, we’re making the first forays into the world of open-source CMS contributions.

Check it out!

My Six Months With The Foo Project

Martin Henschke spent six months with Loop Foundry in late 2016 (back when it was still known as The Foo Project) during the final months of his PhD. This is his experience working with us.

Coming to the end of a PhD presents students like myself with something of a dilemma. Although the experience had been extremely valuable and I am, in as modest a fashion as can be permitted, proud of my achievements during that time, I can’t earnestly say I’m interested in continuing an academic career. Research has been now the focus of my professional life for 7 years, and it may well continue to be but the lack of a concrete objective has sometimes made the work difficult and, rarely, unsatisfying. Some of my colleagues have found the same, and moved out of research into engineering, software development and other fields.

To fund the last few months of the writing up process, I signed on with The Foo Project, a one-man business software company. The owner, Jack Scott has been running the company since 2012 (around the same time I started my PhD incidentally), and I joined up to work as a software engineer and where necessary lend a little UX expertise to the work.

When I first started, the company was a bedroom operation, and I worked from home and communicated via Slack, although after a month we moved into a small office on Elizabeth Street. The project I spent most of my time on here was the ‘VAS Reading Echo’ system, a piece of business software designed to test a child’s VAS, or ‘visual attention span’, a metric designed to help quantify and explain early-development reading skills and suggest solutions. For my part, that meant learning web programming effectively from scratch and working with a large pre-existing code base across two platforms and five languages.

The work has been an extremely refreshing change from my previous experience; web development is the polar opposite to blue-sky research. A day on this project would typically involve adding additional functionality per a spec, identifying issues with existing functionality and resolving them; each step discrete, concrete and solvable. Working with an existing code base is challenging but for someone used to the fruit of their work being a publication, watching a website come together is pretty satisfying.

It’s been a great six months here. I’ve learned a lot about commercial software development, and rather pleasingly another little bit of the internet now has my mark on it.