There are many cloud services that allow us to create our own data entry screens (Google Forms, Salesforce, kintone, Questetra, etc.).
It is important to be able to effortlessly manage the selection function options in the field where such a system is utilized. The options must be up-to-date, but the cost of maintaining them must also be kept as low as possible.
This article discusses the concept of options maintenance in an organized manner.
A Selection Feature for Reducing Labor and Input Errors
I believe that most people reading this article use a variety of systems on a daily basis, whether for work or personal use.
The most tedious part of using a system is the act of entering data. At work it is the details of requests, orders, delivery deadlines, etc. Even in my personal life I have to enter various data such as names, addresses, package pickup locations, and so on.
Data entry itself is necessary and cannot be completely eliminated, but there is a method called « selection entry » that reduces the burden of data entry. As the name suggests, this is a method in which data entry is completed by making a selection.
In fact, many systems use a selection input method for those that offer a choice, eliminating the need for manual input of letters and numbers as much as possible.
In this article, functions designed to allow selective input are referred to as « selection functions ». These functions not only save time and effort, but also have the effect of preventing erroneous input.
Maintenance of Options
The choice function is not the end of the story once the initial choices are prepared. As mentioned briefly at the beginning, the choices must be up-to-date. They must also be accurate.
We now consider two options with different characteristics: the « Vacation Type » option and the « Prospective Customer » option.
The « Vacation Type » option is used when requesting leave and is characterized by the fact that it is rarely updated (added or deleted). It is not used for any purpose other than approving leave requests.
The « Prospective Customer » option is an option used for quotation submissions and the like. Prospective customers are characterized by frequent updates (additions and deletions) of choices because they change on a daily basis. This « Prospective Customer » option is used in operations involving prospective customers, such as proposal submission and interview report operations.
The diagram shows the relationship between these two options and the operations that use this option.
In this case, how would the « Vacation Type » and « Prospective Customer » options be maintained?
The « Vacation Type » option is rarely updated. It may be when the work rules are changed, but that is likely only once every few years. Therefore, maintenance of the « Vacation Type » option only needs to be done once every few years. Also, since this option is not used for anything other than vacation requests, only one piece of data (the data where the option is defined) needs to be edited during the maintenance process.
The « Prospective Customer » option, on the other hand, is considerably more difficult to maintain than the « Vacation Type » option. Prospective customer data is constantly being added and deleted in the course of daily activities, so the « Prospective Customer » option must be updated as soon as possible. In addition, there are also multiple data sources that are used not only for quotation submissions but also for proposal submissions, interview reports, etc., so there are multiple data sources to be updated.
Thus, the maintenance effort for an option varies greatly depending on the frequency of its updates and the number of operations that require that option.
It’s okay for those that require little maintenance, such as the Vacation Type option, but what should we do about those that are updated frequently and used for various tasks and thus require a large maintenance cost, such as Prospective Customer?
Choice Master Data
For options that are frequently updated and used in many operations, such as the « Prospective Customer » option, there is a method of preparing only one data set for each operation instead of preparing data for each option. Although there is only one set of choice data, it can be used by a variety of processes. In this way, only one set of choice data needs to be maintained even if it is used by various operations.
Choice data that is referenced by multiple operations in this manner is called Choice Master Data.
There are indeed systems that have a mechanism to register Choice Master Data in the system and use it as options in various scenarios.
The use of Choice Master Data can reduce maintenance costs in cases where the frequency of updates is large and there is a lot of work to be done, but this alone may still not be sufficient. If even a single file has to be updated every day it is still too much work.
The solution to this issue is to automate the process of updating the Choice Master Data. If the « Prospective Customer » option is automatically brought up to date at 5:00 a.m. every day, the workload of the person in charge of maintenance will be greatly reduced.
I will introduce the topic of automatically updating the Choice Master data in another article.
The selection function is very useful and often used when creating data entry screens, but the maintenance of these options is a time-consuming task.
To improve this there are systems that have the ability to register the Choice Master Data and make it available for use by various operations.
When selecting a workflow system or other system that can create data entry screens it is a good idea to consider the availability of an option master registration function as a key factor in the selection process.
Incidentally, Questetra BPM Suite, a cloud-based workflow provided by Questetra, has the ability to register choice masters. We have a 60-day free trial of Questetra BPM Suite, so if you are interested in using it please apply for it.
That’s all for now!