Enquiry Explosion!

Apr 21st, 2015

We ran into an interesting problem the other day. One of our customers had reworked their website to include lots of “enquire now” screens, and they were getting inundated with sales enquiries. So much so, in fact, that the sales manager found that managing the incoming sales enquiry mail was becoming a full time job as she had to read every email before passing them on to the sales consultants!

There were some fundamental issues at play here:

⦁ They launched a website with “enquire now” triggers all over the place. (Too much of a good thing)!
⦁ They decided to handle the incoming enquiries via email.
⦁ They did not expect the large number of incoming enquiries.
⦁ Handling the number of enquiries became extremely unproductive, and impacted normal work output.

This is an old customer of ours, so we had already done some work for them. This included:

⦁ A sales lead management system.
⦁ A way to manually capture new sales leads and pass them on to the sales consultants.
⦁ A way to see if we had previously communicated with the sales lead (during the capture process).

We now had to close the loop and make the entire system fully automated, a seemingly complicated task, but we had the tools and knowledge to handle the problem.

In our toolbox:

In our tool box we had a mail-watcher that can consume incoming POP3 emails, a reader that can extract data from HTML emails and a POP3 domain that we control and where we can configure new accounts.

How we went about it:

⦁ We added a process to forward a copy of the incoming email to a new enquiries specific email box
⦁ We configured the process that “watches” emails to watch, read-in and clear the new mail box
⦁ We created a new table to store the enquiries in the customer’s incumbent system.
⦁ We lastly created a task to convert an incoming enquiry into a sales lead (and interaction) and assign it to a sales consultant.
⦁ We also provided training on the new process so that everyone was up to speed on the new way of doing things.


The benefit to the customer was immediate, with a 95% drop in incoming inquiry processing time.

⦁ An added benefit to the client was that we used functionality and configurations that we already had on-site.
⦁ We also fully integrated the new process into their current system.
⦁ We provided on-site training.
⦁ In fact, the only code we needed to write was specific to the new process, and so no code was written for the incumbent system.

We helped an old friend with a common problem – how to manage incoming email in a meaningful way that would add value to their current system and working environment. According to them, we did so with flying colours!

ViaData – Improving every day

DBA Position available at ViaData

Jul 14th, 2014

We’re looking for an accomplished and enthusiastic MS SQL DBA and Developer to join our team in Cape Town.  The position is for a mid to senior level expert who is looking for new challenges.  We are expecting the starting salary to be between 30k and 45k per month but will negotiate at market related rates for the right candidate.

Skills and experience required:

  • Grade 12, NQF Level 4
  • Bachelors degree or 3 year diploma (advantageous but not essential)
  • MCSE Certified or MCITP Certified
  • SQL 2005/2008 Certified
  • SQL 2005/2008 Experience
  • MCTS SQL Server 2005 / MCTS SQL Server 2008 / MCITP Database Administrator 2008
  • SQL DBA Specialist with solid SQL Support Experience
  • 5+ years experience in an MS SQL environment as a DBA
  • Strong database performance tuning experience
  • Strong T-SQL knowledge and experience
  • Initiate and drive service improvements in the SQL environment for clients when or if required



Database Administration

  • Co-ordinates the effective management of the database environment
  • Facilitates best possible system performance from the perspective of the applications and reports using the databases
  • Ensures the Security of data is maintained at all times
  • Services any data movement requests securely, accurately and timeously
  • Provides support and advice to development team for new and existing SQL code
  • Conducts daily routine tasks including Health Checks
  • Provides an effective database security management support
  • Ensures that backups are done and restored daily
  • Sets up new database environments, configure in adherence with applications

Data Storage Optimization

  • Ensures effective database management of files and file groups
  • Identifies large tables and archive and/or partition them if beneficial to system
  • Assists with the placement of files on correct storage types, as required

SQL Monitoring and Performance Optimization

  • Monitors SQL Server instances
  • Identity’s poorly performing SQL code (stored procedures, function etc.)
  • Improve code

Business Continuity Planning

  • Assists with Disaster Recovery planning and deployments
  • Assists with configuration of DR environment (database restores, mirroring, application configuration, testing)

Operational Incidents

  • Takes care of existing operational incidents timeously and correctly
  • Provides an efficient 3rd line support and assists with database related queries
  • Documents and accurately updates SOP and escalating processes



  • Own transport essential
  • Head office in Kenilworth, but on-site client work in the Northern Suburbs will be required.
  • Primary responsibility will be as a DBA, secondary responsibility as SQL Developer



  • Submit your CV in word doc format to info@viadata.co.za
  • Indicate current Salary (CTC per annum) and expected Salary (CTC per annum)
  • Indicate notice period.
  • Provide 2 to 3 contactable references and e-mail addresses.




Are we creating a generation of dumbed-down developers?

Nov 1st, 2013

Object Relational Mappers (ORM) are creating dumbed-down developers!

The aim of most ORM approaches is to hide the SQL from the developer – making it possible to develop for SQL databases without ever writing any SQL.  I believe this is resulting in a generation of dumbed-down developers who have no real understanding of the data structures that support their business systems.

Since 2005 we have been building and refining an architecture, framework and business applications that go in complete reverse to the trend to reduce the amount of SQL written by developers.  We use meta data stored in the DB and SQL Stored Procedures, Functions and Views to implement ALL business rules.

SQL is one of the most simple languages to teach, encourages a clear understanding of the data structures and is by far the most efficient way to manipulate relational databases.  This approach allows for easy scaling, hosted services, deployment to Web and mobile and upgrades to the front-end technologies without ever changing the business rules. It does make us 100% dependent on SQL Server but we don’t believe that is a bad dependency.

UCT IS Expo 2013

Oct 21st, 2013

The winning team with the ViaData Shield

The annual IS Expo for 3rd and 4th year students took place at Jamieson Hall, UCT on the 9th of October 2013.

The Expo is an opportunity for the local business community to view the quality of work coming out of the University and this year did not disappoint.  Students produced would work of an exceptionally high standard and selecting prize winners was not an easy task for the markers.

The ViaData shield was presented to the winning 3rd year group for the 22nd year by ViaData MD, Craig Byren.  In congratulating the students, Craig spoke of why ViaData has continued to support the UCT IS Department for all these years – and it comes down to one simple word –“PASSION”.  Each year the enthusiasm and passion of the students shines through and re-invigorates the ViaData staff who are able to attend. We are reminded why the job we are lucky enough to do,  is one of the most challenging and rewarding available.

This year the winning team of students, team TechInsights developed a system called JAMP with the assistance of OpenBox Software.  Jamp is an online Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system targeting Small and Medium size businesses (SME’s). Jamp aims to provide business owners with simple yet comprehensive tools to manage different aspects of their business‚ including Sales‚ Inventory‚ Customers‚ Suppliers and Employees. Jamp takes advantage of responsive design technology to cater for desktops‚ tablets and smart phones and is thus an easily accessible web application for all small and medium sized business owners to use.

The team of Papa Bengu , Jonathan Froon‚ Ace Gazi‚ Masupha Letsie were presented with the ViaData Shield and a cash prize.

Free <> Better

Oct 18th, 2013

Just because software is Free, doesn’t mean it is necessarily more desirable or better – as proponents of Free and Open Source Software would have us believe!

A debate is raging in the Cape Town IT community and business press about the decision by the Department of Basic Education to standardise High School IT Teaching on Microsoft Office Based products and the programming language Delphi.

One of the key arguments against the decision is that Open Source software is better, and more ethical than proprietary solutions. The justification goes that we need to build a generation of creators not consumers.  This statement has been repeated by the proponents of free and open source software (FOSS) and has made its way into the language of many within the IT industry. However, is this really a true and fair statement? Are users of FOSS really creating more than users of proprietary products.

I would argue that being free doesn’t make it better, more ethically justifiable or more able to produce some form of improved society.

Firstly, for many developers, the environment and tools in use are merely that – tools. They support a greater purpose of developing solutions.  Whether the tools are free or licensed doesn’t change the fact that they are tools – to be used by the developers.  Few of these developers create new tools , they use the tools to produce solutions.  All they hope for is that the tools they select will remain ‘mainstream’ and supported for the life of the solutions they have developed.  This fact is true for both free and proprietary environments. The key difference is that with proprietary environments, the vendor performs the role of gatekeeper , ensuring that new tools are controlled and that standards and compatibility are maintained.

Secondly, I would argue that with both free and proprietary software, those who want to ‘create’ will create, and publish their solutions. For example, try searching Google for any activity you want to perform in MS SQL Server. The search will yield a plethora of sample code, advice and add-on tools (some free, some available in trial versions and some available as licensed add-ons) but the number of solutions available will be no less (and probably more) than searching for the same solution in MySQL.

The truth is that some people are creators and sharers of information and some are not. Some of the creators will be happy to share their creations for free while others will want to get some remuneration for what they create.  Fortunately, some people recognise the value others have added and will be happy to pay for the work of others while others want to consume without paying. Luckily there is a place for all. Even in the FOSS world there are numerous plug-ins, add-ons and solutions that are not free – but need to be paid for.

So using free and open source software doesn’t make us better, it doesn’t give us a moral high ground and isn’t the only or obvious choice.

ViaData Featured on 5FM (National Radio)

Mar 8th, 2012

ViaData was featured on 5FM Mind You Own Business.

Technical Director, Alister Main, told DJ Fresh about the key thing that makes ViaData different – we build systems that WORK. Listen to the interview here Interview on Mind Your Own Business or read the post on 5FM’s website at //www.5fm.co.za/djs/Fresh/blog/mind-your-own-business-thursday-8-03-12

This is what Alister said:
“At ViaData, we design, build and support computer systems that WORK – essentially getting businesses running better.
It might seem obvious that a computer system should ‘WORK’ – but for most of our new customers THEIR reality is that their systems DON’T WORK… and their IT people often frustrate them with jargon and technical explanations.
Our existing customers will tell you…WE CHANGE THIS REALITY!!
To make sure we get it right, we listen carefully to our customer’s requirements – clarify what they want…. and then build just that – nothing more…and nothing less.
ViaData is Cape Town based. We have been building systems for over 20 years. Our clients include local and national SME’s and also some large multi-nationals. They all have one thing in common –
…They just want their IT systems to work.”

Catalyst over HTTP

May 9th, 2011

Catalyst over HTTP.

Catalyst, the powerful business systems engine from ViaData, has been enabled for HTTP connectivity.  Until recently, Catalyst provided a client server solution to its users.  However, the latest version of Catalyst (version 3) now includes support for connectivity across a standard HTTP connection. This new functionality has paved the way for a new business model with customers able to opt for a hosted server environment rather than purchasing dedicated server and database technologies. 

Two of ViaData’s customers have already opted for the hosted solution. IBTC (www.ibtc.co.za) and Avision (www.avision-africa.com) will be migrating their Back-office booking and CRM databases to the dedicated Catalyst server and will soon be experiencing the benefits associated with this hosted option including:


  • Reduced operational costs
  • Improved data security and disaster recovery
  • Improved accessibility
  • Improved support – as ViaData technicians can easily see the same view of the data seen by the client.

ViaData is planning to implement other hosted applications soon and will also use hosting as a quick and easy prototyping solution for clients needing to test ideas and concepts in a production-like environment.

For more information on hosted Catalyst solutions, contact ViaData on info@viadata.co.za or 021-674-3682.

What is CRM – and what should it be?

Nov 12th, 2010

What is CRM really?  Customer Relationship Management should be about managing our relationships with our customers. Simple! It should be focused mainly on the information we need to manage these relationships. What it has become is the latest buzz word for providing mountains of functionality that few businesses really need.

Much like smart phones offer some very useful features but tend to be only used to a small portion of their capacity by most users, CRM software today often goes way beyond the needs of the average business. Sure, this software unlocks new business opportunities and practices for the business able to commit the time and resources to exploit them – but for the majority, the simple task of keeping track of their leads, customers, marketing activities and interactions is only a fraction of what the software can deliver. Yet it is this information that usually is very specific to the business involved and when the powerful CRM tool cannot meet the simple business requirement the business owner is faced with two options; change their business or spend time and money having the software changed to meet the need – neither is very attractive.

Is this progress? Is this IT responding to the needs of the business community? Or is this an IT community delivering technology for it’s own sake?

Craig Byren, MD, ViaData

2D barcodes & .mobi

May 6th, 2010

In preparing some posters for the CSSE software expo, we were introduced to a fascinating new(ish) technology that is being used across the world to make sharing web addresses and information far easier and to utilize the power of the internet. We thought we’d would share it with you, as it is the first time we’ve have seen it.

All you need is a camera phone. Many of the newer phones include a bar Code scanner but if yours doesn’t, you can download the software to install on your cell phone from //www.neoreader.com. (On the newer Nokia phones you’ll find it under your Tools menu). If you have a Blackberry, you can use the NeoReader but it is a little clunky – you could also try ScanLife from the Blackberry Applications available from the AppWorld store on your phone (free) 2DBarcode.gif
Once you have the software on your phone – start up the Barcode scanner and point your phone at the image above. Your phone should home in on the image or simply allow you to take a snapshot of the image. The code will then be scanned… then you can follow the link to a website. You can also save the link, send it to someone else or simply make a note of it. You can put almost anything into these bar codes (eg. messages or phone numbers) and they are easily scannable. Apparently this technology is being used extensively overseas – on bus shelters or train stations to give the time of the next bus or train, on ads to give the location of the nearest outlet, at places of interest to give more information. Clever! With this and the likes of geo-location all sorts of possibilities emerge.

ViaData’s Catalyst business systems engine featured at 32nd International Conference on Software Engineering

May 4th, 2010

As a result of our involvement in the recent Software Engineering Colloquium, we were asked by CITi to tell the story of Catalyst at a exhibition showcasing the local software industry. With many of the top software engineering brains in the world attending the 32nd International Conference on Software Engineering at the CTICC, it was an ideal opportunity to place an innovative development in the limelight, especially one that so aptly demonCatalyst_Cheetah_200x328.shklstrates what is achievable through the Agile philosophy of software development.

The exhibition is open to all – details can be found in CITi’s open invitation below.

We’re very honoured to have Catalyst featured and would love to see you there!


The Cape IT Initiative (CITI) would like to invite you to visit an exhibition showcasing our Cape Software industry – its entrepreneurs and success stories, innovative companies, universities and research projects and venture capital landscape. The exhibition also includes a section on agile development in the Cape and case examples of successful Agile implementations; and much more. Funding support was kindly provided by the Department of Economic Development of the City of Cape Town.

This exhibition runs concurrently with the 32nd International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE2010) but you do not need to be attending ICSE to visit the exhibition.

DATES: Wednesday 5 May to Friday 7 May 2010
VENUE: Ballroom West, Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC)
COST: Free
RSVP: No need to RSVP. Just arrive and sign in.

INDUSTRY: 09H00 – 17H00: The exhibition is open to anyone who works in the Cape technology industry or its supporting industries, from 09h00 – 17h00 on Wednesday 5th and Thursday 6th May and from 09h00 – 16h00 on Friday 7th May.
STUDENTS: 11h00 – 12h00 and 14h00 – 15h00: Students are invited to attend between 11h00 – 12h00 and 14h00 – 15h00 on Wednesday 5th, Thursday 6th and Friday 7th May.
SCHOOL LEARNERS: 16h00 – 17h00: School learners, their parents and teachers are invited from 16h00 – 17h00 on Wednesday 5th and Thursday 6th May.

We have invited a number of people from industry to be present to answer questions. For example, Vinny Lingham will be present at the exhibition from 11h00 – 12h00 on Thursday 6th May.

The exhibition closes at 17h00 on Friday 7th May.

We hope to see you there and hear your feedback and comments. This is a project that was proposed and given the go-ahead at the Software Engineering Colloquium held on 16 March 2010. We would very much appreciate your support.