Developing Operational Management Software for a Social Business – any advice?

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  • cremington
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Developing Operational Management Software for a Social Business – any advice?

I am a business advisor working at Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL) in Haiti. SOIL works to promote ecological sanitation by developing social business models along the entire sanitation chain. One of SOIL’s current pilots is EkoLakay, a model that sells ecological sanitation service to households by installing toilets and providing weekly waste pick-up.

As EkoLakay continues to scale, we're in need of an operational management database that can track marketing and sales, handle money transfer and payment reports, record toilet maintenance and inventory, and coordinate waste treatment transport logistics.

As if we weren’t already asking a lot from an operational management system, we also hope to have it operational within a franchise model. In the coming year we’re hoping to test waste collection franchises in different neighborhoods. So we'll need a system that can be used by new franchise owners to track customers and sales, but that communicates that data to us for M&E purposes. We're also looking for all the bells and whistles like mobile payments, fields/reports in Creole and French, etc.

We currently use a combination of Excel spreadsheets, and we’ve already looked into a combination of commercially available software that might meet our business needs. There is software that would work (e.g. any combination of Customer Relationship Management software and accounting tools – this is what many residential composting companies use for their software needs worldwide), but nothing that would meet the unique demands of working in Haiti and translate easily and efficiently to a franchise model.

Does anyone have any advice? Knowledge about existing solutions? Or have any perspective on the development of software by other organization or business that would be suitable for a small business? Reading over all the requirements listed above, I know it sounds a bit like a pie-in-the-sky software, but I’m still curious if other people are looking for the same thing!
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  • JKMakowka
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Re: Developing Operational Management Software for a Social Business – any advice?

Have a look into Drupal based CRM solutions like ERPAL or CivicCRM etc. The advantage of these open source solutions is that their modules are more or less inter operational and mobile payment solutions etc exist via online store drupal modules. You will probably have to build your own custom drupal collection, but the parts should be there to 95% and all is freely modifiable/ open source.
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Re: Developing Operational Management Software for a Social Business – any advice?

Hi there! Thank you for the suggestion of ERPAL - it does look like all the different pieces of what we're looking for are there. I'll download and take a look at it. My one concern is that while it might satisfy all the needs we have as one company, it may be more difficult to configure when we have external users (e.g. franchise owner). Do you know if there's a way we can accommodate different user types with ERPAL? Do you have any experience using Drupal?
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Re: Developing Operational Management Software for a Social Business – any advice?

Drupal is a very widely used web framework and it should be therefore relatively easy to find an developer to make the necessary changes you need to the erpal or other modules.

I am personally not an expert on this, but drupal's user permission system is quite extensive and since it it all open source making a franchise compatible version should also be possible.
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Re: Developing Operational Management Software for a Social Business – any advice?

Hi,

Great initiative! Also, I like the drupal system which is easy to modify based on your needs.

You could let the franchisees work with the drupal system as well but from my experience this might be too complicated for them.

I remember a financial and record keeping guide for (medicine) franchisees, from a USAID funded project. [url=http://]http://www.sf4health.org/sites/sf4health.org/files/wysiwyg/financial-management-record-keeping-guide.pdf[/url]

The content is easy to understand, with some exercises and examples. Maybe you can use this format as input for your own system?

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  • cremington
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Re: Developing Operational Management Software for a Social Business – any advice?

Thanks! That was my take on the drupal system, too. If as a novice developer I found drupal too complicated, it probably would be more trouble than it is worth to design compatibility for all our different users.

Thank you for sharing the USAID guide. I'll take a look at it. We've run into a few healthcare-related software developers (e.g. www.commcarehq.org/ ), but nothing specific to sanitation social businesses (yet!).
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