Saturday 28th August, 1999
Falling somewhere between bespoke and shrink-wrapped software, co.efficient is a database management package targeted at design and marketing agencies. Written in FileMaker Pro, the system, originally devised for a design company’s own internal use, provides a suite of tools for managing the entire process, from job entry to VAT returns.
As you’d expect from an agency management product, the system is based around projects, designers and clients. The main project screen is where most of the work is done, and also serves as a jumping-off point to other areas of the system.
Entering project info into the system is straightforward - for example, selecting a client company enables a list of related client contacts, so little typing is required (and so preventing data-entry errors). All correspondence for a project can be generated from here, including Estimates, Quotes, and Client Approval letters.
With a project record completed, timesheet entries can be allocated against it, as the system handles both standard and overtime rates. Each designer completes a timesheet as they go, adding any expenses incurred. Purchase orders for print and so on can also be entered on the system, which also maintains a basic diary system, allowing managers to allocate jobs to designers, and designers to note holidays.
With all these categories to play with, project managers can extract information which would be difficult in a paper-based system: project costs incurred, time spent on a project, overtime claims, client statements, individual designer workloads, cost analyses, and the nightmare of VAT returns.
Unlike a shrink-wrapped package, co.efficient is not ready to run out of the box. Before the program can be used, some customisation by co.efficient Ltd is required, albeit in terms of layouts and passwording. As the system is designed to produce all the paperwork for the customer’s company, the layouts used to generate its invoices, letters and faxes need to be formatted to match the customers corporate ID, and this will probably involve more than just changing a few logos.
To streamline this procedure, you’re provided with a Checklist and Installation Procedure document. This outlines what co.efficient Ltd needs to know, and explains the stages of the bespoke installation. In addition to the standard ‘modules’ which are included in every copy of co.efficient, any changes or additional modules you need can be looked at by the programmers and tailored ‘wherever possible’.
Pricing is calculated on a sliding scale, dependent on whether or not FileMaker site licences are included in the price. Prices start from about £769 for a single user, excluding a copy of FileMaker, and drop to about £500 per user, including FileMaker, for sites of 40 or more. If you’re used to buying shrink-wrapped software, this may sound expensive. But remember it’s semi-bespoke software that’s been written for a particular job and tested over a three-year period. If you were to think about commissioning a solution written for your company from the ground up, you’d be looking at a minimum of £350 per day for a programmer, and at least a month of work. Then you need to add the hidden costs: a couple of months spent snagging and bug-fixing.
In terms of interface design, the system is clearly laid out and straightforward to use, and basic help is included in the form of demo/tutorials written in Director. However, these demos, like the system itself, are designed for large monitors (19in and bigger). While it’s possible to run the system on, say, a 17in monitor and, given the target audience of designers, 19in isn’t too much to expect, it would be nice to see some alternative layouts for smaller screens included - the administrator might have trouble fitting the window on an iMac screen without scrolling. Some of the list views are plain vanilla, and the data on them isn’t condensed enough to see the overall picture clearly. But these are minor criticisms.
Co.efficient is to be congratulated for trying to introduce a new software model which is priced in a similar fashion to a shrink-wrapped product but boasts most of the tailoring benefits of bespoke software.
Comprehensive, customisable suite of data management software, tailor-made for design agencies.
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|Pros||Simple to use ˜ Fairly comprehensive ˜ Bespoke and customisable|
|Cons||Requires a large screen in order to run|
|Originally Published||MacUser, Volume: 15, Issue: 16, p31|