Case Study: Plumbing Company Modernizes Services with Revelation Software
New England Water Heater (NEWH) is a plumbing services company specializing in water heater repair and installation based in North Waltham, MA. The company provides a centralized service through a network of geographically dispersed plumbing companies in the surrounding region, including its own company, Home Services of New England (HSNE) Plumbing.
NEWH's services include the sale, lease, installation, and repair of water heaters for non-commercial customers in the New England states, as well as other plumbing services, ranging from fixing leaking faucets to handling oil-to-gas conversions.
To support this work, the company provides a customer hotline in Massachusetts for more than twenty thousand accounts. Revelation Software is the backbone of the overall IT system.
Today, businesses of all types are changing the way they operate. They are adopting hosted services rather than purchasing and maintaining software and hardware on-premises, and, as a result, employees also now frequently work remotely.
With the advances in IT services that have taken place over the past five years, NEWH saw an opportunity to move to a cloud-based system to support its employees and customers. The goal was to improve its overall quality of service while also enabling office staff to access systems from home.
In addition, the company wanted to eliminate the overhead costs of office space, a local area network, and shared printers. Critical to the new set-up was the ability for its affiliated plumbing companies, as well as its own HSNE staff, to input information about service visits and billing into the system, and access new assignments while on the road.
Nobody Here, Everybody's Available
In September 2015, NEWH and HSNE decided to eliminate their physical offices, where each employee was provided with a desk, telephone, shared printer, and a desktop computer connected to a local file server to perform their job, said David Harmacek of Harmacek Database Systems , who specializes in Revelation Software products. The process of publishing the company's 28-year-old Advanced Revelation application to the cloud was handled by Harmacek, who has been a consultant to NEWH since 1994.
When the decision was made to migrate the system, NEWH had a typical Windows Server, internet connections, IP phones for customer support, and a range of website-oriented support interfaces, as well as a hybrid Arev (Advanced Revelation) 32 and OpenInsight 9.4 database system.
To modernize the operations, Harmacek put a plan in motion to switch to a hosted system and began implementing this new approach in February 2016.
The Arev32/OpenInsight system was migrated to a Parallels server. Since the telephones were already on an IP system, no adjustment needed to be made, but office documents and storage outside of the database needed to be moved to Microsoft Office 365 and OneDrive.
As a longtime Revelation Software customer, NEWH uses a system on Revelation's OpenInsight 9.4 for business processes such as document management, phone calls, and customer support — everything but accounting.
Because the system is so critical to its business — handling processes such as document management, phone calls, and customer support — the NEWH migrated the system to the Parallels 2X RDP server, while also maintaining the physical system, to make sure that everything transitioned flawlessly.
Eventually, even though the company had not yet moved from its physical office space, it began using only the remote services, as if all the employees were working from home, said Harmacek. The dual on-premise and cloud approach lasted until late spring. By June 2016, the company no longer had physical offices, said Harmacek.
"Working with a 28-year-old application, we found that there are many features that are no longer in use, while other capabilities are leveraged all the time and have been working forever," said Harmacek.
"The biggest challenge was eliminating the dependence on a local network for file storage and local printing, since the employees could no longer walk over to an office and hand someone a piece of paper, and they could no longer print anything," he said. This issue has been solved by using the feature in Parallels 2X that allows a local folder to be managed from the application. Reports and PDF files can be placed on the remote desktop. Files, both PDFs and images, can be uploaded and integrated with the hosted database. "Anything that needed to be done had to be accomplished by interacting with the system. I had to find all the places in the processes where there were manual steps previously needed and change the system to allow it to be done that way."
The hosted system takes care of everything from managing all the documents that users work with on a regular basis to historical information, including leases, phone calls, and customer support.
The system integrates the older Arev interface and the newer OpenInsight interface via the Parallels 2X RDP server to the company's employees, who are now able to do updates, schedule printing of letters, produce emails, and create PDF files on their desktops every day.
The NEWH website also features a customer self-service portal using Revelation's OpenInsight for Web (O4W), a flexible and powerful web development toolkit for OpenInsight and other MultiValue databases. The system provides the ability to view billing and payment status, download or view recent invoices, make payments via a PayPal interaction, and register and receive their invoices through email instead of by mail, via O4W.
Job assignments are dispatched to vendor plumbers using the system, via text, email, and fax, while jobs routed to HSNE are accessed by its plumbers who constantly log in to the website, where they receive alerts via their tablets to call customers for scheduling. Outside vendors can also upload their invoices and job reports through the website.
The WinWin Solutions, Inc. consultancy, which owns Revelation Software, is the company hosting the revamped web application for NEWH. WinWin specializes in hosting O4W and OpenInsight-based websites, and currently hosts sites for retail systems, financial operations, and product download websites.
"WinWin has a network in which they have been doing this for other customers so I felt very confident moving all of the OpenInsight-based networking to them," said Harmacek. "WinWin also has a network specialist I could discuss upgrades with, and has been very supportive."
There was a time when Harmacek considered moving from MultiValue to a relational database system such as SQL Server. "But I stuck with this and I am glad I did because OpenInsight is quite a good Windows platform and I am very happy with the things that OpenInsight and MultiValue let us do."
With OpenInsight 10 coming in the future, Harmacek says that he is looking forward to additional performance improvements. "Over the years, Revelation has been able to interact with the latest technologies," he noted, adding, "They have been able to keep me from having to become a Windows programmer."