Software development,Staffing

Finding the right long term contractor19 May

I’ve been using the oDesk service to build custom software systems for about 3.5 years now. I’ve worked with contractors from across the world including India, Philippines, Bolivia, US, Canada, and Mexico. There’s a world full of very skilled people out there, and oDesk makes it easy to connect with them and accomplish great things.

Over the years, I’ve been lucky to establish strong relationships with a number of highly skilled contractors. So Brian McDonough from oDesk interviewed me to find out what I think makes a contractor great. I think it’s an interesting article and one that’s relevant to me personally in my role as a consultant.

Software development

Nice press in the Billings Gazette09 Jan

Jan Falstad wrote a very nice article about the work I’ve been doing on Schedappy ( and Total Offender Management ( ┬áCheck it out!

Business Solves Unique Problems With Unique Software

Business,IT Management,Software development,Technology

Ideas to Improve Your Likelihood of Project Success13 Apr

I recently completed a large project for a non-profit client in the social services industry. The goal was to develop a system that would allow them to manage their case loads efficiently as their existing systems were inadequate to the task. I learned and confirmed several things by managing this project that I think you might find useful.


Software development

Don’t Do That Custom Development!31 Oct

I wrote about the importance of SMBs keeping processes and systems simple.  I recently began work with a new client that was searching for ways to increase knowledge sharing across their organization.  They were just starting the development of a new corporate intranet.  They had spec’d out their needs and identified a sub-site to have custom developed.  The analysts and developers did a nice job and it looks great.

But I recommended they hold on the custom development.  They needed to evaluate MS Sharepoint’s capabilities before proceeding.  Why?  The basic corporate intranet portal has been built 100+ times already.  Sharepoint, Plone, Liferay, JBoss, DotNetNuke and many others are decent out-of-the-box foundations for an internal site.  So there’s just no reason to pursue custom development for this type of project. 

But why Sharepoint?  This client is also upgrading their core enterprise system.  Turns out that the system based on a MS platform and uses Sharepoint for document management.  Doesn’t it make a lot of sense to evaluate whether or not the platform used by your core enterprise system will work for the rest of your needs as well?

Right now, they seem to like Sharepoint and we’re now doing a test project to prove it to the company.  If the test fails, there are other options.  But custom development for an intranet should be a last resort.

Software development

Joys and Perils of Microsoft Access04 Oct

One of the greatest developments in office software suites has been the desktop database.  People have done some pretty complex things with relative ease using tools like Microsoft Access.  Now, online databases such as DabbleDB and ZohoDB are advancing the tool and allowing companies to collaborate outside their own borders using secure databases.

I have a love/hate relationship with MS Access.  Way back when, I spent a lot of time doing Microsoft Office development and Access was a favorite tool of mine.  I liked that I could easily hook up to the enterprise databases, pull the information I needed and integrate it with any other application I happened to build. 

But people who do Access development full time tend to get trapped into that box.  When the task becomes greater than the tool, they simply find ways to make it work.  And that leads to problems.

Nowadays I spend a lot of time supporting an Access database that has outgrown its skin.  I’m rebuilding the application with a SQL Server back end, and ASP.NET and Sharepoint on the front end.  But it’s a really slow process because there are so many business rules hard coded into the VBA.  Identifying the code that has to be there versus what was done inefficiently is a real chore.  And all the while I spend time helping users through crashes, data corruption, and reports that aren’t tying out.

So, here’s my advice of the day.  Use Access.  Or Dabble or Zoho.  They’re great tools and fill a need.  But when you need more than a couple users, have rigorous security requirements, need sophisticated data entry forms, or have complex reporting needs, it’s time for a different tool.  Don’t put this off.  Your application will only become more complex over time.  And you’ll end up spending a lot of time and money supporting the application instead of improving your business.

Contact Me

Granite Peak Systems, LLC
PO Box 80892
Billings, MT 59108
Tel: 406-672-8292


Since 2007, I have funded a Kiva account in recognition of my clients. Whenever I get a new client, or find a microloan that relates to the industries my clients serve, I contribute to the account. You can see my lender profile here: