Category Archives: Business

Technology doesn’t matter (to customers)

Technology doesn’t matter (to customers)

Last week I wrote about my first solution for my new business, Simple Integrations. Even though I'm still primarily focused on getting an important feature out the door for Moraware and training my replacement, I'll have this tiny solution in production for four customers by the end of the month! It solves such a clear problem that I don't even have to sell it – word’s just getting around. I look forward to building many more solutions like that – and selling this one at least a dozen more times.

There’s one notable topic I didn’t discuss last week: HOW I built that solution. The thing is – my customers don’t care. I certainly have a valuable “bag of tricks” that I reach into to solve problems, but my customers just want their business problems to go away. They’re actually pretty flexible about how it’s done.

In a foundational way, technology does matter, of course. I wouldn’t be able to solve these problems effectively without the emergence of cloud platforms like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure. Over the last decade, these platforms completely changed what’s possible for a small company like mine to achieve.

For example, before “serverless computing” (such as Lambda from AWS or Azure Functions from Microsoft), I would have had to run my own (virtual) servers, keep them patched with security updates, and figure out how to scale them up and down as my customers’ needs changed. That’s expensive. Realistically, I would have had to invest in an infrastructure costing hundreds of dollars per month if I were doing this work a decade ago.

Now, Amazon handles all those important details for me, and I barely have to think about them. I just got my monthly bill from AWS: 51 cents. Recognize that I have multiple serverless functions being triggered every minute of the month for a handful of customers. That’s literally costing me pennies right now. Yeah, I think I can scale that.

So yes, the cloud does indeed change everything – but you don’t have to know about the details to take advantage of it. If it involves making a couple of systems talk to each other, I can take advantage of it for you! Feel free to reach out.

A simple integration (example)

A simple integration (example)

As I mentioned last week, I’m starting a new business – Simple Integrations – to help companies stop retyping data from one system into another.

Today I’ll show a simple example. This was a request from a Moraware customer and friend that ultimately led me to start my business.

A little context: Moraware’s customers are countertop fabricators – the companies that cut beautiful stone and attach them to the top of your kitchen counters.

Below is a job in Moraware (Systemize to be more precise, but the same concepts apply to JobTracker and CounterGo). Moraware provides a place for the Job Address – where the countertops will be installed (in this fictional case, my parents’ old home on Willis) – as well as the Account Address – the location of the customer who pays the invoice (in this case, a specific Home Depot on Alpine).

My integration calls the Moraware API to get the Account Address and the Job Address for the job and then calls the the Google Maps API to calculate the distance between those addresses. Then it stores the results in a job custom field (miles from account):

I use Moraware and Google Maps APIs to calculate and save the distance between the Account and Job

Simple, right? Indeed. While there are a surprising number of technical details in the solution, the goal itself is simple.

So why is this simple integration between Moraware and Google Maps valuable? That’s where things really get interesting …

Lots of Moraware customers do at least some work for “big box” stores (Home Depot, Lowe’s, Ikea, etc.). In order for a big box store to provide countertops to their customers, the store needs somebody to make and install them. In their terms with these fabricators, big box stores typically include a provision that if the customer is more than 20 or 30 miles from the store, the fabricator can charge for that mileage.

Now imagine you’re a countertop fabricator doing 50-100 jobs/week for various big box stores. Depending on your geography, you can charge mileage for maybe 5 of those jobs each week. But in order to find which ones you can charge for, you have to do the calculation for every job. After you enter the job in Moraware, you have to open Google Maps, copy and paste the Account Address (for the store), then copy and paste the Job Address (for the homeowner) and see if the distance is over the threshold (I’m simplifying slightly, but this is the gist).

Maybe 5-10% of the time, you can charge the big box store an extra $100-300 on the job for the mileage. That adds up quickly! But you’re busy, of course … it’s a hassle to take 2-3 minutes on every job to find the distance, especially when only a few of them matter. Think about it – for 100 jobs, it literally takes a couple of hours each week to calculate this distance manually.

Until now. Thanks to my simple integration, nobody has to retype the addresses into Google Maps. In fact, they don’t have to go to Google Maps at all. Instead, I’m doing work behind the scenes to get the distance for each and every big box job.

This eliminates a couple of hours of work each week and has allowed my first customer to recapture hundreds of dollars each month from a big box store that already agreed to pay them for the mileage. He’s paying me a slice of that money each month. That’s an easy win in my book – for both of us.