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A group at my work are looking for software to help with job management in the workplace. The work environment is a laboratory and flows roughly as follows:

  • items come in

  • items may require one or more examinations (jobs)

  • items may be divided (such as samples taken)

  • some examinations may occur concurrently, some cannot

  • examinations require specific workers (workers are specialised)

The software would be required to track items, assist with allocating resources to the items (people and/or equipment), and scheduling. Information security is also a concern; workers performing examination A should not be able to see the results of examination B.

Suggestions include using Microsoft Sharepoint or customizing an Access Database, but I'm not familiar with the former and I think the later might be a daunting amount of work. I'm stepping out of my field quite a bit here, so any help or advice would be appreciated. There may be obvious answers I'm missing, but my Google prowess has failed me; I either get flooded or nothing.

Edit I have been guided towards some ERP products. Some of these seem to fit the bill (and far exceed it), but it seems like cracking a wallnut with a panzer tank. I'm thinking maybe a more modular or customisable ERP solution could help. Any advice?

  • What is the average time taken by a job? Like 1 minute, 1 hour, 1 day, 1 month? Also, what is your budget? And do you have an IT team or a system administrator? – Nicolas Raoul Apr 8 '14 at 4:53
  • Jobs take from a few hours to over a year. There are approximately 100 to 200 likely users. The budget is small at this stage, though if this is found to be useful it will be rolled into a project with a real budget. I would estimate a few thousand dollars, though a very cheap small scale proof of concept would be required first. We have a small IT team who could implement it "for real", but I've been asked to implement a proof of concept. – timbo Apr 8 '14 at 5:31
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    There are systems for managing workflows in bioinformatics, perhaps one of these would be suitable for your needs. I don't have any experience with any of these specific systems so I can't be more specific. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bioinformatics_workflow_management_system – user16583 Apr 8 '14 at 11:00
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I don't believe Sharepoint is a valid avenue for this type of project. It sounds to me as if you're looking for a database to store this information and turn it into something useful (via reporting capabilities).

There is no "off the shelf" app that I've ever heard of that is geared towards your data, and that is because your data needs are unique. Maybe not "unique" in the sense that no one has ever used it exactly as you do, but "unique" in the sense that it would be useful to a limited demographic, so it's not worth it for a development company to design and produce it.

In this case, Access might actually be the perfect tool. It's got an intuitive GUI which makes it beginner-friendly, you can certainly design a front and back end easily enough to collect your specific data, and if the amount of data eventually increased over time you could move it to SQL Server or another larger database format while still retaining the Access front end.

  • I was afraid of this answer. I am a little surprised that it is considered so specialized; surely other businesses provide services or make products that require similar tracking? One thing that concerns me about using Access is that some of the requirements would be very hard to implement; security is doable but not trivial, but the business intelligence side is not so easy. – timbo Apr 8 '14 at 7:58

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