All posts by Daniel Krentz

Does pay per transaction make sense?

Custom and semi-custom software can solve problems off-the-shelf solutions just can’t do. The reason is obvious: off-the-shelf software is meant to appeal to broad audience while custom solutions are tailored for a specific set of solutions.

The downside of custom solutions is cost. While off-the-shelf software effectively spreads the cost over a large user base, custom code has a targeted scope. Companies must balance the cost savings of going with a pre-packaged program plus consider the additional cost of swivel chair and manual processes required to make up for its lack of features. This incremental cost of making up for the lack of functionality of a canned software package may far outweigh any savings in the software itself. It could end up costing your company more in the long run.

To help overcome the initial development costs of a custom or semi-custom software solution, companies should consider a transaction-based or pay-per-use model. These pricing models are becoming widely embraced, particularly by those with low volume needs or those whose usage fluctuates in and out of peak periods.

While every pricing model has different impacts, a pay per transaction model has compelling advantages:

  • Cost of initial development
  • The amount you pay is tied to the number of transactions placed, and ideally, the revenue being made
  • The system provider is equally invested in the success of the system
  • No need to manage user licenses

Obviously, there are things to consider when pursuing a transaction-based model, such as:

  • The amount paid over time could end up costing a lot more than a traditional licensing model
  • The incremental cost can become a financial burden if other operational costs are not in line with revenues

If your company’s transactions are tied positively to revenues, then the transaction model likely makes sense. It also reduces the exposure should transaction levels not achieve anticipated results.

If revenue and transactional volume are not positively related, you may have larger problems than a transactional model can solve.

Obviously not all software providers offer a pay per transaction pricing model. At WDS, we pride ourselves on providing the exact solution our clients require. This includes pricing our solutions in a way that helps our customers achieve their operational and financial goals. That could be transaction-based pricing, perpetual licensing, or a hybrid of both that enables manageable startup costs and balance flexibility with predictability. The important thing is that we partner with our clients to achieve mutually beneficial goals.

If your company is facing challenging software and support costs, a transactional model may be the way to go.

Leveraging GPS in Tracking Critical Assets

Most of use GPS in some form or another every day. Whether it be navigating to your destination or tracking your ride share, the Global Positioning System has enhanced our lives. However, many organizations are not utilizing GPS to their maximum benefit.

GPS powers vehicle location and in-vehicle navigation systems that are widely used throughout the world today. By combining GPS position technology with systems that can display geographic information or with systems that can automatically transmit data to display screens or computers, a new dimension in transportation and asset tracking is realized.

In addition to longitude, latitude, and altitude that we are familiar with. (GPS provides a critical fourth dimension – time. Each GPS satellite contains multiple atomic clocks that provide very precise time data to GPS signals. GPS receivers decode these signals, effectively synchronizing each receiver to the atomic clocks. This enables users to determine the time to within 100 billionths of a second, without the cost of owning and operating atomic clocks.

Precise time is crucial to a variety of economic activities around the world. Communication systems, electrical power grids, and financial networks all rely on precision timing for synchronization and operational efficiency. The free availability of GPS time has enabled cost savings for companies that depend on precise time and has led to significant advances in capability.

Precise Location + Precise Time = Cost & Security Advantages

WDS is leveraging GPS technologies into our TSX™ systems and mobile applications. With an accuracy down to 10 centimeters and precise atomic time, you will be able to track where and when critical assets have been transported, delivered, and transacted. For additional security, integrate geofencing and be alerted when an asset is moved beyond an authorized location.

WDS recently launched a Proof of Delivery (POD) mobile application for Elections. With this app, elections departments can track critical polling assets, ballots, and election-night dependencies in real time. The app supports full integration into TSX™ Elections or can be used as a standalone app for smaller elections operations.

With the continuous modernization of GPS, we can expect even more beneficial features to come. WDS is committed to GPS technologies and will continue to provide the best-in-class solutions that benefit our customers.

Advanced Shipping Notice (ASN) Technology with Your Partners

A critical aspect of managing your election infrastructure properly is an efficient and accurate process for receiving and recording new inventory and equipment. As such, a pre-shipment alert often referred to as an Advance Shipping Notice (ASN), is essential to helping with speed and accuracy during the inbound process of election items.

A pre-shipment alert like ASN is imperative, making certain that your IT team is prepared to receive the assets. The following are some of the highlights of working with Wireless Data Systems, Inc. (WDS):

  • Critical data regarding identification fields for the equipment, i.e. serial numbers, software firmware versions, model numbers, MAC addresses, and warranty dates/period
  • Fast and accurate scanning and validation of manufacture-provided unique identifier (i.e. serial numbers) as the county asset tags are being applied. Thereby creating the permanent systematic bond/relationship between manufacture ID and county or state IDs.
  • Accurate method for meeting financial responsibilities from budget departments (i.e. proof that systems are in place to provide accurate intake and accountability of purchased hardware/assets – sometimes required by the state or provider of the funds/budget).
  • Sets groundwork for accurate and fast tracking, chain of custody, and accountability of equipment from the beginning of its entire lifecycle.

At Wireless Data Systems, Inc. (WDS), our systems are able to support a multitude of ASN methods depending on our customers current and planned data infrastructures, including:

  • Text Files with Pipe Character Delimiters: This is by far the simplest of formats that involves simple files transfers. While not the most-efficient, this process can achieve the benefits of ASN technology in small to medium-size operations.
  • XML Files/Web Services: The XML format is a more efficient format that allows large amounts of data to be imported via API or Web Services. (An alternative is to send/copy an XML formatted file, which is preferred over the Text file format, to an SFTP location to be retrieved by our system.)
  • EDI ASN 856 templates (preferred method): The IEEE x12 EDI ASN standard is robust and efficient. Our systems can receive the EDI 856 ASN. This process can be implemented in small to the most-complex elections operations.

With WDS, we’ll provide you with complete chain of custody of your assets and real-time visibility throughout the election cycle of your election-critical items. Our team works with your IT team to coordinate scheduling and make sure that every aspect of the election infrastructure is handled with speed, accuracy, and efficiency.

Data Integrity & Security

Company’s data is now considered one of its most valuable assets, so it should make sense to do everything possible to protect it. Data loss also includes losses in productivity and data restoration costs. Operating systems, software, and even hardware can be replaced, but data is not so easily recoverable or replaceable.

Just as a business owner will purchase insurance to protect their physical business assets, a backup acts as “insurance” against data loss incidents. Backing up ensures that data is easily recoverable and operations aren’t affected as much.

Backup best-practices:

  • Maintain at least 3 copies in different formats such as physical media and cloud
  • Backups should be encrypted to ensure only authorized users can access it
  • At least one backup should be kept offsite and off-network
  • If time for full-backup becomes an issue, consider prioritizing the most important data and data that has changed

Maintain security patches. Staying updated on your security hardware and software is crucial to ensuring that its working at its highest performance capability. Automatic updating keeps your system working with the most current anti-malware and antivirus signatures

Secure all aspects of your business including:

  • Using spam filter on email
  • Ensure firewalls and anti-virus software is maintained and up-to-date
  • SSL security on company website
  • Reviewing access control and roles for all employees and who can access what
  • Remove outdated and unused software from servers and users machines.

Other tips:

  • Be sure to securely wipe old devices of data. If a device or hard drive is damage, make sure the data on it can never be accessed.
  • Test your back up and security processes to make sure they are doing their intended purpose. Test the recovery data process to make sure data can be restored properly in a timely manner.

Just as with your personal health, prevention today will save you and your company a lot of time and money should there be a security breach. Consult a professional if necessary.

All of WDS products are built with security and data loss prevention at the heart of the system. Whether our systems are deployed onsite or on the cloud, we can provide guidance and direction to protect the integrity of your data. Contact us today to see how we can help your company.

Beware of Bloated Software and Its Inherent Problems

Many software companies have come and gone trying to provide custom software, semi-custom software. A successful software provider that delivers custom software is typically staring with 80% of the solution in a base system, and then have the team of design engineers, system architects, project managers, and developers to tweak that base system into a “client-specific” solution that fits the operation like a glove. This “semi-custom” solution approach requires a complete a complete and absolute “Problem-Solving Mindset and Culture.” A canned solution provider hires marketing teams, sales teams, and packaging teams….and a build their business primarily working to deliver the same solution in as many instances as possible. “Development” is rare, if ever, and usually is only provided as market-wide system upgrade. The interval for these updates is usually every one or two years. Customer requests for changes are typically added to a wish-list of sorts from all current clients, and the requests that the software provider deems “justified” will then be scheduled and added to the queue for the next released upgrade.

Conversely, a semi-custom solution provider (like WDS), responds immediately to customer requests. Within days a team is assigned to the request to deliver a Level of Effort (LOE) estimate, create the specification, and spin up the solution in QA for testing, sign off, and the move to production. This results in the quick elimination of the pain point or bottleneck for the client, the immediate realization of the additional efficiencies expected from the change, and an immediate realization of the ROI that justified the requested modification.

The benefits of a semi-custom solution provider are significant for the client. The software is designed to “specifically” address their unique needs and requirements, and as the system and its benefits become an integral part of the operation, the ROI is dropping dollars to the companies bottom-line, and in most cases, those saving are reinvested in additional custom modules or functions, that then exponentially increase the savings delivered by the system.

Bloatware, Months of Configuring and Training:

One other observation about canned solutions is that most canned software companies try to build in as many hooks and switches into their software to try to solve all possible scenarios or client requirements. Unfortunately, this creates bloatware, with screens, logic, and data that individual customer’s will never use or need. The negative impact is at many levels. First, the shear complexity of the configuration screens can take months to get right (if ever), training user on the complex interrelationships between modules in use and modules turned off create confusion on user interface screens, the client pays at least a percentage for modules they will never use, and in the end, most clients will only using 25% of the complete solution for which they paid.

Trusted Advisor/Consultant:

The semi-custom solution is a far better approach, because the overall cost for the system is gauged on only the modules the client needs, and can be implemented quickly. A software company that commits to this problem-solving model is agile and responsive, their entire team is typically always in the solve problems mode and becomes a trusted advisor/consultant team as much as a software provider. Responsible companies will be willing to say no to customer requests if there are forces or prerequisites that might decrease the probability of a successful implementation and use. For example, a responsible problem-solving company will understand the innerworkings between departments I an organization, and how the different departments and team may or may not help with the success of the solution. And that is not to imply a negative approach by some of the internal team (although this does happen), but staff size, company policies (or habits), and departmental turnover rates can make it difficult for the solution to deliver 100% potential. As such, a “responsible” organization will ask the proper questions, will “learn” everything possible about the client’s operation and teams, and will see early on, any challenges that will jeopardize the solution. At WDS we take a brutally honest approach to these conversations, and challenge both sides to explain and acknowledge these issues and whether they can be overcome.

Real-Time Visibility for Remote Field Asset Movement

The ability to effectively manage your election infrastructure throughout the election cycle is absolutely critical. Over the last several years, the industry has seen a tremendous transformation in supply chain and logistics technology. Essential components like easy asset tracking and seamless system integration lay the foundation for an effective election infrastructure. With Wireless Data Systems (WDS), we have proudly become the nation’s leader in software and hardware solutions with TSX™ Election Supply Chain.

The reality is that it is easy to feel uncomfortable about accountability when critical items from an election cycle are at remote locations, in transit to and from remote location, and the chain of custody is passing between multiple personnel. Luckily, TSX™ Election Solutions is able to fill all of those invisible gaps with complete real-time visibility. TSX™ Election Solutions

From the moment the critical items leave the four walls of your facility, TSX™ Election Solutions is reporting back individual sightings and transactions as your staff members move through their tasks. When the assets and/or items are delivered to the polling sites, the TSX™ Election Solutions module validates the correct location and updates in location of the items real-time.

The TSX™ Election Solutions dashboard provides the following information:

  • Immediate visibility with the user that executed the delivery
  • The items involved in the delivery
  • The exact date/time of the transaction

In addition to TSX™ Election Solutions tracking “everything” leaving the main facilities and their current field locations, specific items may be flagged in the system as “Critical”. The ability to flag items in the system plays an enormous role in security and efficiency. On Election Night, when the polling sites close, these critical items are high priority for the system and management dashboards are on alert for critical item sightings and validation.

The ENR (Election Night Receiving) module and the Election Night Dashboard work together to update the system in real-time when they are moved from the polling site to the election night collection centers. In many scenarios, the election night collection centers are strategically located facilities manned with the department’s staff. The department staff may be charged with the accounting for successful delivery of the “Critical” items. These “Critical” times often include:

  • Voted ballots
  • Thumb or media drives
  • Tabulators
  • Signature documents or forms

As the highest priority assets and items are accounted for, the TSX™ Election Night Dashboard displays real-time updates for each polling site/precinct combination. This technology is unmatched, making for revolutionary strides in election infrastructure solutions.

Finally, post-election night, or concurrently on election night, the non-critical assets, items, and materials expected back to your main facility are retrieved via the TSX™ POP (Proof of Pickup). As with all aspects of the TSX™ Election Solutions, the POP transactions are recorded in real-time and automatically update dashboards. To complete the accountability and full chain-of-custody cycle, the WAR (Warehouse Asset Recovery) module is used by the warehouse staff to receive the items from the POP teams back into the main facility.

From start to finish, WDS provides superior election infrastructure management. The complete chain of custody of your assets paired with real-time visibility throughout the election cycle keeps your election-critical items completely secure