System Failure……. and recovery

19th August 2015 by

It is over at last! The past nine months since we switched computer systems on November the 8th 2014 have been a technological “annus horribilis” for us here at Animal Aunts HQ.

For the past 25 years we have had a fantastic little database which was quick and easy to use and had evolved over the years. My husband, Patrick Tuite built it and developed it as the business grew and apart from a few things that were a bit clunky, it was fantastic.  It quickly searched for Aunts available and with the right experience for the animals involved and we could pinpoint every Aunt on a map and find where they were on a particular day.

In 2013 we found out that the language, FoxPro in which our old system was written was soon to be unsupported by Microsoft, so we were obliged to find a developer to build a new database on Microsoft CRM. We found a company who said they could build a bespoke system and that it would do everything we needed. I have learned a lot since and I should in fact have put tenders out to several companies, taken up references, asked to see their past three years accounts and get a full quote and project plan. We waited, but I presumed that the CRM developers were beavering away building this fabulous new bespoke system which would super modern and have all of the features of our old system and many more. We waited and waited some more and there was little or no communication, until I wrote to them asking why there had been no obvious signs of development. There were apologies and assurances of best endeavours. I did not realise that the developers were in India, which did not help communication. We had delayed launch date about 5 times by a total of 7 months at this stage and it was now June 2014. This went on until November there were countless problems but we made the worst decision and went live on November 8th.

It has been a nightmare, the system was slow, oh so desperately slow. Slow to search, slow to load, slow to switch between screens and generally terrible performance. It was like stepping back 25 years!   It doesn’t cease to amaze us how many features were so wrong and affected the way we work. As you started typing in any field, the cursor leapt around, booking forms could take 20 minutes to load!  The old system was linked to the phones and when Clients and Aunts phoned, we were able to greet them by name and have their record pop up in front of us! Now we were like swans, calmly floating on the surface but paddling away madly underneath to find who you are! All of this time, we were unable to put new Clients on the system whilst on the phone, we had to write it all down on pads of paper and then put it on the database which was incredibly inefficient, we were always playing catch up.

It was so bad, that we decided as early as February this year that we had to cut our losses and run, ditch the CRM and find another developer.  Needless to say we did it properly this time, with the help of the wonderful Edmund Probert (Solicitor) and  found Linear Blue and their team amongst several other companies all of whom would have been infinitely better than the CRM bunch!. Well, what a different approach! They have visited and kept in touch throughout the project. They started on our new system  (now with Filemaker) at the beginning of May and we had more communication with them in the first week than we did a whole year with the other firm. (I shall name no names but they let us down very badly)

Linear Blue have created something amazing which works!  We are now able to find our old Clients quickly, we can search for and allocate Aunts quicker and get back to our previous speedy selves! The girls in the office have been amazing.  Gill and Donna, Sam and Seonaid (who has magnificently handled all of the registrations whilst Maggie has been off sick. Maggie is, I am happy to say on the mend, but it is a slow process) have battled the system and put a calm face on for our Clients and Aunts even though it drove us all crazy.

The developers of the CRM system were unapologetic and actually did not believe us that is was an unusable system. They entirely blamed it on our slow internet, but we tried it in many other locations with high speed broadband and it still took 15 minutes to load a booking form for emailing if at all!

It is now nearly the middle of August and we have come on in leaps and bounds, we have all searches and templates in place, the emails are now working and attaching all the right paperwork, pretty much all of the features of our first system are now working and even better than our old system.  The wonderful Simon Ward is here again today and fine tuning lots of little bits to make the system completely smooth, it really is fantastic, we are ecstatic to finally be able to keep up. He is so patient as we bombard him with lists of little tweaks that will make it super efficient. We don’t yet have the phone integration as before, but that involves dealing with BT so that could take some time.

So we enter a new era at Animal Aunts with a brand new Filemaker Database. Thank you Rachel Stanley, and your fantastic team of developers at Linear Blue, particularly Simon Ward, you have  saved our sanity! Linear Blue have achieved in three months what CRM could not in over 18 months! Zinger particularly liked to sit on Simon’s lap when he was working here.  A huge thankyou also to all of our Clients and Aunts who have been so patient on the phone, waiting while we madly tried to find your records, or no booking forms attached, it has been a struggle, but we are back in full working action now!

Goodbye and a resounding good riddance Microsoft CRM… hello Filemaker!

Filemaker GO!