The centuries-old question, ‘could God create a rock so heavy that God could not lift it?‘ has, thanks to snarky web wonks (three words that were introduced to the human lexicon since that question was first posed), been modified to, ‘could Jesus microwave a burrito so hot that even he couldn’t eat it?‘ Same metaphorical, chicken and egg head-scratcher all zazzed up for the age of the Internet!
VFC recently pondered these paradoxes, and even deeper ones like- ‘what if there were no more trees,’ when we asked ourselves, “can a company whose core competency is to use paper, stop using paper?”
How difficult is it for an advertising/marketing/design/public relations firm to stop using paper? How difficult is it for a taxi operation to not use gas? If you’re out there, scratching your head, the answer to both rhetorical questions is. “pretty freakin’ hard.”
Pretty freakin’ hard, but not impossible
There are cab companies popping up all around the country using only hybrid vehicles and– before long– there will be more dotting the landscape that use nothin’ but electric vehicles. Finally Lois DePalma will have something to do besides yell at cabbies behind a cage– he can plug in cars at the end of the day.
But this missive is about VFC, not Taxi, and the obscene amount of paper that has been sacrificed to make it all possible. One day we decided to try to do something about it.
VFC invested in some pretty swanky custom software developed just for us by us. We always utilized a custom program that tracked project status from estimate to completion. We ported that application– internally branded Project Harvester– to the web about six years ago but, about 75% of all client communications was still paper.
That version of Harvester required VFC to PDF estimates and email them to clients. Clients would print the estimates out and (hopefully) sign and return them via fax effectively using at least two sheets of paper for every project that VFC executed… or estimated.
We recently undertook the significant investment in time and money to completely overhaul Project Harvester to be bigger, badder and… what starts with B and means environmentally friendly? 2009’s version of Project Harvester– Harvester 2.0, if you like– features everything the original application did (estimating, project management, status control) but a whole bunch more too!
Everything that every agency would want– if they could have it– is included in the new VFC Harvester and it’s not just a valuable resource for VFC, our clients will benefit too. Now every project that a client has in the works is on their landing page complete with project status, all specifications, when it was started and when it will be finished. Project notes are included along with all costs.
Additionally, when a VFC employee works on a project their time and what they did is logged to the project page. Practically everything that used to involve paper has been relegated to the powerful application that is housed in a secure database on VFC’s Internet server.
Project Harvester is completely custom and extremely powerful, preparing the small agency for big growth in 2010. The application allows VFC to track:
- Unlimited client projects
- All job specifications
- Multiple vendor costs
- Detailed employee time
- Progressive client approvals
- Job costing, profit and loss
Project Harvester includes a clone feature for similar estimates as well as a way for VFC to export any of the data which is invaluable when a client wants to do their own cost accounting.
VFC looked high and low for an application that would do all of that and integrate with our current bookkeeping software and nothing existed, so we built our own.
Right now we’re definitely more like the hybrid car example, having severely reduced paper use but falling short of completely eliminating it. In fact, as long as client campaigns include printed material, it will be impossible to eliminate the use of paper but we’ve made significant dent. A good thing for us, our clients and the environment but something you don’t want to hear if you’re running a cab company..