We’re Hiring

Robert Stephen Consulting is always looking for talented people to join our team.  We currently have two positions available. If you have a facilities, programming or CAD background and like to find solutions for customers problems, then RSC might be a place for you!

  1. Account Manager
  2. IWMS/CAFM Admin 2

To find more information about the details and requirements for each position, please click on the links.

Why work for RSC?

RSC has a very unique culture.  Above all we value Transparency, Integrity, Straightforwardness, and Professionalism.  Additionally, Bob Stephen, our CEO & Managing Director has done his best to create a place of employment that honors the family and ensures harmony between the workplace and the home.  RSC believes people work harder when given the opportunity for a flexible schedule and employees will be (a) happier, (b) more productive, and (c) produce higher quality work.  We at RSC understand the importance of “being there” for your family, and don’t mind if our employees need to leave for a few hours mid-day to go to a child’s soccer game, run to the grocery store, or simply take care of your family as long as assignments are met.


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Friday Training Follow Up: AutoCAD Basics

Robert Stephen Consulting, LLC provides free 30-minute Client Training session every Friday at 10:00AM PST!  RSC prides itself in providing learning opportunities for our clients.  We feel that if our clients know the system better, we will able to work better with them to discover and implement the solutions that they need.

Last week Matt Ritzman, our AutoCAD expert, discussed the basics of AutoCAD.  In the training, Matt set 3 goals:

  1.  Learn how to get around AutoCAD
  2. Learn how to find out more
  3. Learn how to do specific tasks that relate to ARCHIBUS

Below you can find a basic outline for the bulk of the training.

Getting Started

When you open AutoCAD (and I encourage you to do so)  You’ll find an interface that is much like many Windows interfaces.  Standard Menus, buttons, status items.  One big thing that sticks out is the Command Line interface.  This element has a long history that goes back to a time before Windows.  Although you can get by without considering the command line, I highly, highly, highly recommend that you give it some priority.

Command Line

Even when you aren’t using the command line directly, you are using it.  So you might as well embrace it.  Always trust the Command Line.  The command line gives a history of what has happened.  Press F2 – to see an expanded view of the command line

Elements
  • Prompt – Command:
  • Enter to submit command
  • ESC Escape key to get out of a command (sometime you have to use escape multiple times)
  • Available options: Specify other corner point or [Chamfer/Elevation/Fillet/Thickness/Width]
  • The capitalized letter is a short cut

Buttons, Menu, Ribbon

  • Buttons
    • Click to engage a command 
  • Menu
    • Tree structure access to commands and tools
    • “A” 
  • Ribbon
    • “New” access to tools
    • Context sensitive
    • Potentially more dense 
  • Quick Access Toolbar 
  • Customization
    • EVERY element in AutoCAD can be customized

Mouse

  • Point Click
  • Middle Mouse Button
  • Right-click
    •  Enter
    • Click-hold = Context menu
    • Available everywhere
    • Context sensitive
    • Even in the command line 
  • Shift-right click
  • Ctrl/shift right click

Grips

  • Click to move, stretch, add vertex
  • Shift Click to select multiple
  • Ctrl click to duplicate object

Palettes

  • Tool Palettes ctrl+3
  • Properties Palette ctrl+1
  • Design Center ctrl+2
  • Layers, Xref and others

Status Bar Tray

  • Crosshair location
  • Snaps
  • Interface elements
  • Model Space

Modify

  • Turn Palettes on and off
  • Add and remove toolbars

Intro to Options

  • Most of the program preferences are held here 
    • Profiles
      • Setup for different tasks
    • Support File Search Paths 
    • Display
      • It may be worth changing the background for various profiles
      • Crosshair size (CURSORSIZE)
    • Drafting
      • Aperature size (cursor size when selecting an object)
    • Selection
      • Pickbox size (PICKBOX)

Workspaces

  • Save your interface

 

As a reminder, we will not have training on Friday 11/28 due to the Thanksgiving Holiday.  We are excited, however, to announce our next training on Friday 12/04.  Below are some details on registering.
Please register for RSC’s Friday Client Training: TOPIC on Friday, 12/04 10:00 AM – 10:30 AM PST at: https://attendee.gototraining.com/r/3799759723318496001
This week’s free 30-Minute training will cover System Administration, specifically Roles & UsersTo attend the meeting you must register! After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the training.


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Making Intelligent Use of ARCHIBUS Database Keys

Hi All,

My name is Todd Forsyth.  I’m the Technical Lead at RSC LLC.  We specialize in installing, hosting and managing ARCHIBUS IWMS systems.  This is one of a series of posts on how to make that process easier if you’re doing something similar yourself.

I started out my technical life not as an ARCHIBUS developer, but as a technology consultant at a major technology consulting firm.  In this role, I both installed packaged applications (including Oracle Applications and Kana Customer Service) and developed web-based applications and data warehouses from scratch.

One of the biggest surprises for me in digging into the ARCHIBUS application is how it uses database keys.  And when I say “keys,” I mean the unique values that identify a record.   Things like the Work Request Code (wr_id) in the Work Requests (wr) table.

I’ll talk about what I found surprising, the pros and cons I find with the ARCHIBUS approach, and give some practical advice on what you need to do to use these database keys intelligently.

First a little background on database keys.  As I said, the key is a single value that uniquely identifies each record.  Things like a Work Request Code, or an Employee ID, or a Room Number in ARCHIBUS.  In ADDITION to identifying records in its primary table, these values are ALSO used to tie a lot of data tables in your database together behind the scenes.  For example, each employee record in the employee table also contains columns for Room Code, Floor Code and Building Code, so you’ll know where the employee sits.

Before joining RSC, all the applications and data warehouses I’d had a deep look at used what are called “surrogate keys.”  That is, the key was always a made-up value, most often an integer number that had no intrinsic information stored in it.   In such a system an employee records might have an employee_id value of ‘291716’.    This number wouldn’t have anything to do with the real employee.  It wouldn’t be their employee number or badge number, and CERTAINLY not their name.  To find those, you’d have to use this number to look them up in the employee table.

By contrast, ARCHIBUS uses what are called “natural keys,” where the keys are meant to contain some information about the record they are the key to.  An employee_id in such a system might be something like “TFORSYTH,” telling us something about the employee’s name.

It turns out that there are at least a couple of different schools of thought about the “right” way to build application databases.  Some say that all primary keys should be surrogate, or arbitrary value, keys.  Others find good reasons to use natural, meaningful data as a key.  Let’s take a closer look at why both groups think they’re right:

The Pros and Cons of Surrogate, or “Arbitrary Value” Keys

This is the world I was used to; the way Oracle Applications, and SAP, and PeopleSoft all handle their databases.  There are strengths to this approach, and challenges:

Pros
  • The key has no intelligence built into it. Meaning you cannot derive any meaning, or relationship between the surrogate key and the rest of the data columns in a row.  If things change in a way which would require you to update the basic information about a record (say you want to re-number all your rooms, or institute a new employee numbering system), this can be done without changing this value in a host of tables.    You simply change the meaningful value in the primary or “home” table where that value lives.  You could just update the room number in the room table, for example.  This sure makes it easier when these values need to be changed.
  • Surrogate keys are usually integers, which only require 4 bytes to store, so the keys, and any database indexes which use them, will be smaller in size than their natural key counterparts.  All a fancy way of saying that big queries with lots of tables run faster with surrogate keys.
 Cons
  • If foreign key tables use surrogate keys then you will be required to have a join to retrieve the real foreign key value.  (Meaning if you store the room id where an employee is seated in the employee table, you ALWAYS have to look up the “real” room number in the room table).  You wouldn’t have to do this with natural keys.  Some meaningful data (like a room number) would already be right there.  If you needed to dig deeper, though, like getting the room name, you’d STILL need to go back to the room table to get it.
  • So surrogate keys are not useful when searching for data, since they have no meaning.  You have to go back to the primary table.

 The Pros and Cons of Natural or “Real Data” Keys

This is the type of key structure ARCHIBUS uses, and all of these strengths and weaknesses are those that ARCHIBUS is subject to:

Pros
  • Since the keys store some useful data, you will usually require less joins/tables when writing a query.  I’ve definitely found this to be true in ARCHBUS.  Often you don’t need to join to the building or employee table; it’s enough that you know the key value stored in the local table you’re looking at.
  • Searches are easier because natural keys have meaning, and you don’t need to do so many joins to get to something meaningful
Cons
  • Much more work is required to change the value of the key.  Changing a Building Code, or “bl_id” value, for example, requires that ARCHIBUS look in over 100 tables where this key might be stored.  The ARCHIBUS applications are smart enough to make this change, but a developer who builds on top of ARCHIBUS must constantly keep this in mind, especially if these keys are being stored in custom tables or fields, of if such value updates happen OUTSIDE of ARCHIBUS logic (which can happen when those key values come in from outside, as through an Employee Sync with an HR system.)
  • Your primary key columns, and any indexes that looks at them will be larger because natural keys are usually strings, which take more space to store than “arbitrary” integers.  Larger key columns and indexes mean queries that take longer to run.  However, since ARCHIBUS databases are typically small in size, this isn’t usually a major concern.  Some tuning may need to be done as the database grows, however.

Using ARCHIBUS Keys Intelligently

Now, while the above has been an interesting exercise in the theoretical, it’s not a choice we really get to make in ARCHIBUS.  ARCHIBUS uses Natural Keys.  That said, this implies a few things you need to keep in mind in setting ARCHIBUS up:

  • Don’t pretend you have Surrogate Keys – I’ve known clients who are absolutely SURE surrogate keys are the way to go, even in ARCHIBUS.  They want to assign ONLY numbers to their building, employee, or department keys (or “Codes”.)  This is counter-productive for a couple of reasons:
    • ARCHIBUS exposes the keys in places many other applications expose name or description fields.  So if you want to have a clue what you’re looking at (who is this employee?  Which building is this?  Is this department Accounting or Legal?), you NEED to give this data some meaning.
    • You will find yourself customizing nearly EVERY form you use regularly to go look up the meaningful data you need from its primary table, where it’s being stored in the Description or Name field. This is a recipe for disaster when doing an upgrade.  Save your customizations for things that really matter.
  • Giving your data some meaning doesn’t mean keys are free-form text fields.  You need to be VERY careful about what you put in here.  You might want to think about exposing your potential key value schemes to these four tests before calling them final:
    • Is the primary key unique?  – My example above of using first initial, last name (TFORSYTH) as a primary key for the employee table is a good example of scheme that DOESN’T pass this test.  Adding the employee number might solve this:  (TFORSYTH F2314)
    • Does it apply to all rows?  – Are there some data points that just doesn’t fit the scheme?  What if you have an employee with a last name like “Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff?”  ‘Probably a bad idea to use the WHOLE last name.  Maybe X characters?
    • Is it minimal?  Remember, big size is one of the problems with natural keys.  Keep your values SHORT.  ARCHIBUS does a good job of enforcing this through their default key field sizes.
    • Is it stable over time?  This one is the real kicker.  Can you GUARANTEE that these values will never change?  Of COURSE you can’t.  But if they change ALL THE TIME, you probably need to look harder for something to use as a key.

I hope you’ve found this look at ARCHIBUS keys useful and informative, and that it can help inform the way you set up and use them in your system.


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Conversations with Todd: Advantages of Key Mangement

 

Bob: If you were to recommend this to another client, what would you say would be the advantages that another client would get out of doing key control in an implementation?

Todd: I think an advantage is just the speed and ease of administration that comes with having a system that can do this in an automated way. It’s easy for the requester to request the key. Once the system is set up correctly, the approval flow happens automatically. It’s very easy to issue the keys, and if there’s a problem, to go find them, collect them, and reissue them, or various other things you need to do.


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Friday Training Follow Up: Types of Reports in ARCHIBUS

Robert Stephen Consulting, LLC provides free 30-minute Client Training session every Friday at 10:00AM PST!  RSC prides itself in providing learning opportunities for our clients.  We feel that if our clients know the system better, we will able to work better with them to discover and implement the solutions that they need.

Last week Bob Stephen, our CEO & Managing Director discussed Reporting in ARCHIBUS. Specifically, we covered the Four Types of Reports in ARCHIUBS.  These reports include:

  1. C & VP Level Reports
  2. Director and Manager Reports
  3. Individual Contributor Reports
  4. Reports for Staff at Large

If you’d like to know more about this particular training, email us at training@rsc2lc.com

We’d love to have you join us for this week’s training on Plain AutoCAD Basics this Friday 11/20.  Please register for the training here:
https://attendee.gototraining.com/r/6239139519237186817

Registering is required to receive a confirmation email and a link to the training.

Our weekly client trainings are held Fridays from 10:00 to 10:30am.  This is an opportunity to learn more about an area of ARCHIBUS that you may not be familiar with.

We look forward to seeing you there!

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10 Keys to a Successful IWMS Integration: Pt. 6 — Pace Yourself

This week we are proud to bring you Part 6 of our 10-part series on successfully implementing an IWMS.  In this article we will discuss the importance of pacing yourself in an IWMS implementation. Read the previous article on Understanding Your Business Process if you haven’t already.

There are many applications in a complete IWMS system.  These applications can include Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS), Enterprise Asset Management (EAM), and Real Property & Lease Management (RPLM).   Many companies desire to implement all the applications at once, to take advantage of all the possible features from the very beginning.  We highly doing it all at once.  Instead of rushing in, take some time and implement your system properly.

“Bigger is better” promotes the idea that the value of an item increases with size, scope, or price.  This may be true when talking about diamonds, but not so much when implementing an Integrated Work Management System (IWMS).  In fact, in many ways, the best idioms to follow with an IWMS implementation are “good things come in small packages” and “take things one step at a time.”

Too many applications at once is an organizational nightmare for those implementing the system.  It requires a lot of energy from all parties and can cause much frustration between departments (IT, FM, CRE, etc.) who may not be used to working together.  Instead of implementing Space Management, Strategic Master Planning, Lease Management, Portfolio Management, Asset Tracking, Building Ops, Preventative Maintenance, and Green Building (phew!) all at once, pick the most important application to implement and focus solely on that.  Once the most important application has been implemented successfully, move on to the next one.

Allow each application implementation to be its own success.  Pick
Space, Lease, Preventative Maintenance, or Asset Tracking first.  Allow
it to succeed.  Once it has succeeded, build on top of that.  Move from
one item to the next, ensuring that the application on which you’re
building has a firm foundation.

Implementing too many applications simultaneously can
overload the system users.  If an individual disagrees with part of
your IWMS implementation, it is easier to address the issues that arise
piecemeal rather than all at once.  Generate success stories with one
application.  Gather advocates as each new application is installed.  As
users see the benefits of the system and feel that their input is
valued they will use the system and encourage others to do so as well.

Taking time allows the development of robust standards (see part 4: Standards).  Move strategically and methodically.  Put a lot of thought into how you’re naming your buildings, leases, assets, etc.  Additionally, taking your time allows you to verify data and business
processes (see part 5: Understanding Your Business Process) as they are developed, thus increasing the trustworthiness of the
data.

Trying to do everything all at once (taking on the bigger is better mentality) in a shortened time frame can be counter intuitive.  It’s not impossible, it just needs to be done carefully with all parties taken into account.

 

Our recommendation is to take baby steps. You will find your IWMS implementation highly successful as you take each application you want to
implement one step at a time. When you take the time to set your system
up properly, individuals using the system will like
it, understand it, and use it frequently.

To be successful you don’t necessarily have to go slowly, you just need to set a reasonable time frame for your company.  Be sure to allow whatever time you may need to ensure realistic success.  It’s not about getting the biggest system up or getting your system up the fastest, it’s about thoughtfully working through each scenario and implementing the applications properly.  Ultimately, you will more often than not get the full system up and running more robustly than those who dive blindly into the chaos of a “bigger is better” implementation.


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Conversations With Bob: How IWMS Creates Promotion Opportunities!

 

Megan: What have you seen, when a company goes from spreadsheets to an IWMS, as the biggest change they notice?

Bob: First of all, there is a little uneasiness with some of the staff because they think their jobs are going to be replaced by technology. The reality is their job shifts. They shift from producing a couple pieces of data points because it takes so long to produce in excel or on a piece of paper, to producing tens, twenties, hundreds of pieces of data points. Now they begin to provide very strong information. I’ve watched directors be promoted to VP simply because of the data we provide. I’ve seen that on multiple occasions. In fact, there is a story of a director who walked into a meeting with a vacancy/occupancy report of the entire global portfolio. One of the VPs goes, “Where did you get this?” The director said, “Well, I got it from the IWMS system that we’ve got.” The VP called two other VPs in and said, “Did you know we had this information?” The VPs said no. From that information, the director was raised into a VP position because the data was very accurate and it helped them make strategic decisions. They found anomalies and ebbs and flows in their data and their geographic locations.


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Friday Training Follow Up: System Navigation

Robert Stephen Consulting, LLC provides free 30-minute Client Training session every Friday at 10:00AM PST! RSC prides itself in providing learning opportunities for our clients. We feel that if our clients know the system better, we will able to work better with them to discover and implement the solutions that they need.

Last Friday’s training was led by our Tech Lead, Todd.  The topic he covered was System Administration, specifically Page Navigation.  Todd discussed the four basic types of navigation:

  1. Accessibility Navigator
  2. Process Navigator
  3. Dashboard
  4. Page Navigator (Home Pages)

Before taking a deeper look at Page Navigator.  During the in depth overview, he covered:

  • How to use Page Navigator
    • What you can have on your Home Page
    • How to toggle between multiple home pages
    • Working on Tasks
    • The Applications Tab
    • The “My Favorites” Panel
  • How to build a Home Page
    • Adding a Navigation Page
    • Building the xml Descriptor Page
    • Background Shading
  • and  of course some Best Practices

If you’d like to know more about this particular training, email us at training@rsc2lc.com

We are excited to announce this week’s Client Training!  It will be held on Friday 11/13.  Below are some details on registering:

Please register for RSC’s Friday Client Training: Reports, specifically Basic Report Types, on Friday, November 13, 2015 10:00 AM – 10:30 AM PST at:https://attendee.gototraining.com/r/743991509845256705

After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the training.>

Can’t wait to see you there!


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AutoCAD Advantages: What is Polylining?

This week’s article comes to you courtesy of our very own Matt!  Matt is our AutoCAD expert here at RSC.

Drawing clean up consists of:

  1. Determining accurate locations of physical objects
  2. Reconciling the drawings to CAD standards (using proper layers, naming conventions, and blocks)

Someone must walk the floors, taking measurements and accounting for the space.  They will then provide a fairly accurate representation of each floor of the building.  They will indicate where walls, windows, doors, stairs, offices and desks are located.  Their completed drawing will look something like this:

 Polylining Consists of:

  1. Creating representations of physical objects (usually polyline shapes) in the drawing.  In this case, it will be the physical area occupied by each room, using BOMA standards.
  2. Connecting those drawing objects to the database, by providing a primary key (or unique identifier) that specifies that particular room.
  3. Adding additional information to each room object in the database so that properties of the space can be tracked.  We add room types, categories and standards, so that the database can run reports on how much space is occupied by services (Primary Circulation and Mechanical Rooms, for instance.)

Polylining basically starts with a drawing that is essentially a collection of colors and shapes and adds a layer of information on top of it.  This information can be mined for interesting relationships and reports.

Here is an image of a shaded floorplan indicating all the room types on this floor.  The polylines are the boundaries of the individually shaded rooms.


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Conversations with Todd: Case Study — Microview Tablet

Bob: On the MicroView Tablet side we just worked with a social media company in the Silicon Valley where we have over 50 individuals doing daily surveys using the MicroView tablet. Talk to me about the success there and some of the challenges.

Todd: It’s an internet company, and they build online web applications all the time. They are used to seeing a very sexy, cool interface built into their products and expect the same of us. I think that’s been the challenge, but it’s also an opportunity. They’ve pushed us and we’ve pushed ourselves to build out MicroView tablet in ways that make it capable of doing things that we’re very proud of, but that are difficult things to do. The room and equipment surveys that it can do and the capability it has of plotting those on a map and letting you see the status of those equipment surveys at any given time are really impressive capabilities and something that I think many clients are going to be able to make great use of.


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