As simple as pressing a button…

That’s what my client said to me: “I need my financial process as simple as pressing a button…”

She was joking, of course. But it really got my mind whirring. And then came one heck of a side project!

At the time, I was working on a long-term project, helping smooth out the financial reports process for one of our largest clients.

The project had many moving parts and required frequent and painful meetings with the different departments involved: Accounting, Production, Field Operations, Reservoir, Management…

We were kept busy.

It involved:

  • creating a data warehouse from scratch
  • creating custom integrations for applications (like OGSYS, Aries, OFM and Productioneer)
  • converting manually created Excel reports into data-driven dynamic reports
  • automating a dozen processes into one cohesive operation that can be executed on demand

It was no cake walk. But then it wasn’t our first rodeo either.

We’ve solved this kind of problem before. It’s meticulous, painstaking work. It’s not exciting, new or challenging.

And I thrive on challenges. They keep me sharp and focused.

So why not create a challenge out of this back-breaking, arduous work?

You want this to happen at the push of a button? Well OK then.

Let’s rewind back several years when we started solving problems for this client. The accounting department, and specifically the manager Carol, had a laundry list of things they had previously been told were unsolvable. Things they would have to tackle the hard way. By hand. In Excel.

We solved one of their biggest problems, and the floodgates opened. They kept giving us more and more tasks. And we continued solving them, one after another.

At first, we were met with doubt: “Are you sure this is working like we asked? I mean behind the scenes and everything?” But these were accounting reports, and the numbers spoke for themselves. They were checked and double checked. And because they were working, our clients’ confidence grew.

Project after project, doubt turned into amazement: “I can’t believe you got it to work!” and gratitude “You guys are a god-send”.

After several great wins that maybe made things look easier than they really were, the phrase “pressing a button” became a running joke. Whenever they needed a new solution we would hear someone, usually Carol, say: “Can you press a button and get all these things done?” or “Can you make me a button that will solve all these problems?”

Hence the button idea. It did start out as a joke. But as I’ve already mentioned, I thrive on challenges.

Fast forward to the financial accounting project that I wrote a post about here.

I like to think that I have outgrown my prankster days, and I’ve pretty much given up on ever becoming a stand-up comedian. But I still like a good laugh every now and then, as much as the next guy.

So, when the idea of an actual button came up, I couldn’t resist. I mean, wouldn’t it be funny if I actually gave Carol an actual physical button she can keep in her drawer?

Enter the Texxmo IoT button:

Not much to look at, but it’s the only Azure-Certified button as of this writing and it’s made in Germany, not a bad deal for about $45 plus shipping. http://www.iot-button.eu/

I won’t get into the geeky details of the button and all its inner workings – that’s for another article, coming soon.

But, in a nutshell, here’s what this button does and how we programmed it to work:

  • Step 1: You press the button and go to lunch
  • Step 2: The automated process runs, giving you blow by blow updates of all the tasks as they are finished
  • Step 3: A couple of drinks (of ice tea!) later you get the ‘all done’ notice and you can go back to business as usual

When we handed the button over to Carol, she was overjoyed. Here’s what she had to say:

“This latest feature that Mi4 has added to the mix is a real game changer…

…using a simple button Talal has programmed the entire string of commands for our monthly backup, restore and transfer of data from OGSYS to Productioneer into one simple click!

What used to take half a day of processing time with monitoring by Talal’s group has now been reduced to less than an hour with the incredible ability to be able to start the job from any remote location by using a secure iPhone Personal Hotspot and the tiny IoT Button.

This new feature has freed us from being in our physical office location in order to close the accounting month and transfer the data for our reports! We are also able to monitor the process remotely which has not only given us more flexibility, but it has also reduced our closing time, allowing us to run our management reports a full day earlier.

Carol K. Financial Reporting Manager, TPIC

Thanks Carol!

I had a lot of fun with the button project. It was a nice change of scenery from my daily grind of C#, SQL, and SSRS. I knew Carol would like it. But I think the icing on the cake was that I got to present it to her in a pirate’s treasure chest.

Since receiving the button, Carol’s confidence in the automated process has soared. She used to call us to start the process every month, now she simply lets us know she’s about to press the button (old habits die hard, I guess).

From a running joke to a time, energy, and stress-saving gadget, the IoT button project turned out to be a huge success, not bad for a total cost of under $50

Watch this space for more fun projects…