If you can’t find it, build it: The birth and life of OMER

By David Scott, Managing Member at Avid Communications

When we started building Avid way back in 2005, we faced a dilemma. Hosted PBX service was a brand new thing, barely ready for prime time. And unlike other telecom services, it required the collection of so much more information about customer requirements than all of the existing, off-the-shelf CRM and billing systems. We started using a spreadsheet to track customer configurations and manually generated bills. But when we got to about 30 customers, which happened shortly after we started, it became an unmanageable and painful, monthly ordeal.

There still wasn’t anything readily available that met our needs.
So we built our own system.

Avid Communications: Building our own System named OMEROnce we decided to build our own system, we ran into a snag. We didn’t have any programmers on staff. The programmer, by default, became me. Due to the extreme limitations of our programming team (again, me), we selected FileMaker Pro because it was the only relational database I could understand.

Here we are, nearly 15 years down the road, and that system lies at the heart of much of what we do. Fortunately for us, today’s Filemaker Pro is a much more powerful beast than that of 2005, when it barely qualified as a relational database. We use the system (called OMER, short for “custOMER”) to track prospects and sales activity, generate proposals, generate orders, build network configurations, bill, manage physical inventory–and much more.

It has its limitations and flaws, but in one particular regard it’s crucial for how we do business. Our industry is being swept by so much change. There are technological innovations, new services, competitive realignments. Sometimes, we literally decide to offer something new and begin providing it within a month. And without a system to provision, track and bill our new offering, that would be impossible.

Without direct control of OMER, we’d be at the mercy of an outside company to support it.

Avid Communications: OMER Database DevelopmentOMER also allowed us to add large numbers of new customers while still being able to expertly tailor the services for each business’s unique needs. We do this to a much greater degree over a much larger set of services than any of our competition. And OMER powered by Filemaker sits at the heart of that capability.

Recently we’ve enjoyed working with a top-notch FileMaker developer who actually knows what he’s doing. Cory Pendergrass and his company, Pendergrass Consulting. I wish I could go back in time, dragging Cory with me, to the Bush Administration and build the system with his knowledge from the start. He’s helping us understand how to make OMER even more powerful in this era of constant change.

Now is a good time to make sure your systems and processes are supporting the growth of your company… not hindering it. Where do you fall?

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