DataWorks Ships NeXT Version 8.8

Version 8.8 of our inventory control software for the hospitality and amusement park industries shipped to our customers on May 12, 2013. This is the second 8.X release. The first was 8.2, which made it's debuted on November 11, 2012.

Version 8's main mission is to make Purchase Order input faster and easier.

This was a seven month development project and here are the main highlights of this  release:

  • Custom Field Layout on the PO form. This allows expert users to select which columns of descriptive data they would like displayed on the PO Detail section. This tailoring of the form has a default by Vendor that allows Food and Beverage Input to look and feel different than a retail or general supply PO.
  • Sort and Re-Number  functionality on the Purchase Order form. With this new feature, a PO template or original PO can be sorted and grouped based on criteria selected by a user. This is helpful for large food orders where grouping items together by category or storage method is helpful for the vendor as well as the receiving crew.
  • Save More functionality on the PO form. This feature was the number one request  from our customers. This feature grants increased productivity while creating Purchase Orders on the fly, and allows for faster heads down data input. Everyone in our user population that does purchase order entry will benefit from this feature.
  • More Look-up Methods are now available during PO Input. These include look ups by Vendor Description, SKU and Bar-code.
  • Faster Inventory Creation. We cut the time needed to create an inventory item in half, plus we added a matrix form that allows you to visually select which outlets or warehouses you want to define the inventory in. This was a feature whose idea came from our support and training staff. Customers will enjoy this feature since it allows much greater control and fewer keystrokes to create inventory in desired outlets.  This feature will be a big benefit to our entire customer base.
  • Unit of Measurement equivalents for converting an ingredient from weight to volume or units to weight or volume. This new functionality even allows for unique conversions for preparation methods (i.e. diced, sliced, cubed, etc). This feature is a big benefit to our Food and Beverage customers.
  • Currency, currency and more multiple currency features. Reports now automatically select which currency values should be displayed. Based on the the outlets that  are selected, the report system will standardize the data and give consistent revenue, cost and gross profit. In addition, the product and inventory forms now have clearer labels about what currency values are being displayed. This greatly benefits our multinational customers who have revenue centers in more than one country.


Version 8 will be complete when we have added the ability to edit and make substitutions on an approved PO - even one that has been partially received.

In total, 128 new features were added and 177 defects were fixed in this major release of NeXT. To find out more, log into our customer portal and review the complete manifest of Version 8.8.


What we do for a living

Barcodes on the BrainIf you are an adult and live in the United States you have been asked this question countless times :  "What do you do for a living?"

My proud response is:  "I work at DataWorks. We create inventory control software for the leisure and entertainment industry. We are known as experts in Retail.  World Famous Amusement Parks, Casinos, Hospitals, Resorts and Zoos use our Software."

What  I get back  is usually,  "Oh,  does that mean you print bar-codes?"

"Yes,  we print bar-codes for merchandise that does not have UPC codes, but that is just a small part of what we do."

Sometimes I get a follow-up about employment opportunities, but rarely do I get asked about what else we do at DataWorks.

And this got me thinking. Do our customers know about everything we do? Do they know all the features we have built into our software and do they have a full grasp of all the things we can do besides printing bar-code price tags?

We have designed and created a lot of great software over the past twenty- seven years and some of our modules and features really stretch the boundaries of what we are famous for.

So first is my list of modules that go way beyond the retail tag:

  • Supplies and Maintenance Module. This module allows departments to requisition products for internal use. The system also handles taxable purchases and the cost accounting for sales tax liabilities. Its perfect for your engineering department as well as housekeeping supplies.
  • Food and Beverage Module. The Kitchen's ordering and fulfillment  needs and the front-of-the-house POS Menu Item management can be individually or mutually implemented. Features including Catch Weights and Recipes are supported in the F&B module.

Those two bullets are a mouth-full.  That means that almost everything that is purchased by a property can be maintained by DataWorks software. (The "almost" exception is to acknowledge that we are still completing a Fixed Assets and Capital Projects module.)

And then there is a list of features that really go a long way to saying how mature our system is. Here are some of the features that I think get lost because they might not be used in day-to-day operations, but are important in filling out the full description of what we do.

  • Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) integration to your Vendors' catalogs, purchase orders and invoices.  This module will eliminate much of the tedious data input and automatically manage vendor price changes. For food vendors, this is a big plus, but for vendors like Callaway Golf,  Nike or Ralph Lauren, this can reduce the paper and work-flow needed to analyze products and place purchase orders.
  • Suggested Orders module will  Analyze, Automate and Accelerate Re-Orders. The system examines sales trends, determines vendor lead- time, looks at seasonal and weekly trends by classification and suggests orders for products based on a number of variables including safety stock, order frequency and stock plans.
  • Cancel Purchase Order Wizard. This feature is seldom used but it manages all old and past-due Purchase Orders from one screen. All orders are reviewed to determine if they should be cancelled, using  the business rules defined for each vendor. This feature can also be used to analyze orders that may  potentially slip past their completion date  and should be reviewed for delivery.
  • Retail Markdown Engine. The feature has a query tool in it that allows you to identify product based on 30+ data points, such as price,  age and sell-through.  A review screen will allow you to find  slow-movers and mark them down permanently or temporarily.
  • Purchases Order Email to Vendors. Send emails of orders directly from inside DataWorks. The software will email your vendor rep with the approved PO. It will cut down on your trips to the printer and fax machine.
  •  Open-to-Buy for Budgeting. This is really two systems in one. It can act as an Executive Dash Board with its ability to show big-picture information very quickly. This module's beta users stopped running our sales reports and would use the Budgeting system to determine where they were for Year-to-Date, Period-to-Date information by Outlet, Department and Classification. Add the fact that the OTB module also tracks and budgets Begin-of-Period On-Hand, Markdowns, Shrink, On-Orders, Pending Orders and Open-to-Buy and you have a great product to manage your buying plans.
  •  If you have a Warehouse or a Stockroom, you can use DataWorks to print warehouse aisle, shelf and bin labels. The system allows you to print Whole Warehouse, Entire Aisle, or Single Locations on large- format labels.
  • Vendor Delivery Date Wizard. Purchase Orders  are automatically filled in with the dates that apply for this vendor. Holidays and Weekend rules are set and used to compute the suggested date.
  • The Bar-code Validation feature is available in both Transfers and Receiving,where it helps validate UPC codes as they are scanned. This tool helps isolate new UPC codes immediately as they are scanned with portable data collectors.
  • Customer Profiling Reports were created to track your best customers by Profitability and Revenue. We have clients use this system as the foundation of their customer loyalty programs.
  • An entire General Ledger and Accounts Payable interface that can connect to any accounting system, capable of accepting map data. The capabilities are very deep with support for Cross Company Transfers with dual general journal entry support.
As I was proof-reading that last feature, my head started to numb up a bit, "What are cross company transfers anyway?" That may explain why I seldom get asked the follow-up question to "What do you do for a living?" I know I speak for everyone at DataWorks when I say "We are proud of what we do." It's easy to be proud because we have a fantastic family of  products that leverage the inventory control needs of your company in multiple ways. Wether it is supply-side logistics, sophisticated analytics  or accounting interfaces ,we have been there and are doing that. And after close to 28 years we know a thing or two about printing bar-codes too.






Back Office Inventory Features for Version 7

The velocity of new features being shipped in NeXT has really accelerated during the past 3 months.  Most of the work has been centered on our Food and Beverage modules, but plenty of features for Retail have shipped as well. Version 7.26.47 was released on Sunday, November 6, 2011. The full scope of Version 7 of DataWorks' NeXT Back Office Inventory system  is massive, but here is the short list of enhancements and features that I wanted to highlight. Product Form:

  • New Wrapper to separately maintain Retail, Food and Supplies Products.
  • New Menu to Review Archived Products
  • New Lock / Unlock of  Cost and Retail Controls
  • Standardization of Product Attributes to enable control for Retail, Food, Supplies or Global access.
  •  Taxable Purchases setup for Supplies
  • Catch Weight definition for Food
  • Sysco 832 EDI order guide import
  • Vendor Product EDI Linking / Unlinking capacity
  • Vendor Product to Manufacturer product creation.

Purchase Orders:

  • Reusable Templates for Shopping List and Common Reorders grouped by employee access
  • The Ship To Facility was freed from Employee Access rights.
  • Added Search for Outlets allocated on a purchase order(s)
  • Suppress need for Retail Input for Food and Supply vendors
  • Ability to define Catch Weights for One-Step PO's
  • New Internal and External Documents that specify Order, Pack and Weight units
  • Search Option for Input Method (i.e. Manual, Suggested, Requisition, or EDI Import)
  • Email PO to Vendor option


  • Catch Weight Input
  • Automatic and Manual Tax Calculation
  • Addition Landed Cost Calculation
  • Suppress Need of Retail Input for Food and Supply Vendors
  • Posting to Accounts payable distribution enhanced to smoothly round to two decimals

Physical Inventory

  • Initialization of Physical Counts HUGE speed increase. Example: 30 minutes now 5 minutes.


  • Enhanced Selection Ability
  • Added Previewer with multiple selector
  • Added Hand held interface for uploads

Requisitions and Fulfillment

  • Default "Work For" Facility by Employee
  • Reusable Templates by Employee Access Group
  • Support for Hand Held Uploads
  • Sort Options for details
  • Debugged Store Specific Requisition Option when From Facility is a Warehouse
  •  Date Needed Always Calculated - not just for Events
  • Allow Fulfillment options to be re-evaluated by Warehouse staff's Employee Access rights
  • Start Fulfillment form with a Find form
  • Loosen  Requisition rules to allow more liberal submitting
  • Changed Transfer Specific Option for Transfer From Facility to be free from Employee Access


  • Warehouse Location Reports (D013 and D014)
  • Consolidation Report C001,002, and 003 dynamically display number of decimals for fractional food and supplies
  • Detail Sales reports DCOG01-09 compare base, landed and theoretical cost of goods.
  • Barcode label printing  for Warehouse locations
  • Base, Net, Landed, Center of Plate and Theoretical Cost of Goods now saved for historical reporting.
  • MICROS Symophony POS  support
  • Added Zip file options for packaging multiple export files into a fix or unique file name
  • RX30 POS support
  • Book4Time POS Support
  • Version 3.0 of AP and GL exports support single flatten csv file format.
  • Version 3.1 of AP export supports all optional PO User Defined Attributes
  • Input for Product No and Description are now "Contains " rather than "Begins With"
  • Verify Barcode export to hand helds for Receiving and  Transfer Ins
  • Sped up access routines associated with adding a new facility

Talking Points for a Point of Sale Interface to DataWorks

We have been publishing point of sale interface standards for many years. Many POS companies offer a DataWorks interface solution and the initial discussion typically centers around technical details. How will data move around? What hand-shaking mechanism will be used? Most of those technical details are covered here and here. But what about features that the POS system should have to benefit from DataWorks functionality? That is a question that is a bit prickly because many of our partners are serving the hospitality (restaurant, resort, casino) market, and retail functionality is not what they think, design or dream about.

So beyond the bit and byte facts that DataWorks defines and exports inventory and the POS partner captures and exports sales, here is the list of features that a POS system needs to have to be effective in the mixed venue retail market, where one POS system is used in both the F&B and Retail outlets.

The Bare-Minimum List: --------------------- 1. Allow for the input of numeric value via a barcode scanner, as an alternative to a touchscreen input or keypad entry.

The Basic List: --------------------- 1. Allow multiple barcodes to be defined for an Item. Typically only two are needed to accommodate the SKU and an optional UPC. In some cases a SKU will have many UPC codes. We have some items that can have more than 50 barcodes - postcards are a great example of this. 2. Allow the same Item to be defined and sold in different outlets. 3. Allow a different Retail Price for the same Item in a different outlet. This needs to handle the geographic borders of currency. DataWorks jumps though the currency hoops. This is important in enterprise systems where one system may be configured to handle multiple outlets. 4. Have a description field that is at least 32 characters long. Allow the description to be individually handled for a preferred language. DataWorks supplies the translated data for the outlet. 5. Provide for a means to define tax rate for each individual item.

The Competitive List: ------------------------ 1. Allow a single temporary retail price to be defined separately from the normal retail price with both a start and stop date for the temporary price 2. Allow many temporary retail prices to be defined for a single item. This allows promotions like Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and After-Christmas to be predefined, rather than waiting for each promotion to finish before the retail manager can define another. 3. Provide a link to a tax look up table per item 4. Provide a quantity discount for an item. 5. Provide a preset discount for a classification of items. 6. Provide a discount for a type of customer. 7. Provide a means to look-up, add, edit and export a customer and attach a customer ID to a sales transaction. 8. Size the POS database to contain an average of 20,000 Items per Outlet, but test for 100,000 active items and 120,000 active barcodes.

The Uber Advantage : ------------------------ Provide the POS system with either: 1) the ability to handle LOTS of data inserts and updates during the course of the operational day or; 2) give the POS the means to share outlet data.

Even though we go to great lengths in our above list to define that every outlet needs to be autonomous and capable of individual prices and language, there is the real world need that requires information be available without it being replicated into each outlet. The idea is that similar outlets can share the same information. This is very common in Resort, Casino and Amusement Parks. This is VERY important if you want to be able to accept returned merchandise at any outlet, even though it may not be stocked there.

DataWorks has the ability to replicate data into the individual outlets, but it comes with a burden of having additional processing crunch on the POS application. So this is one of those features that really needs to be designed from the ground up - because it is a data structure issue.

If you already have a POS in the field your best bet is to spend some R&D budget on your inventory import feature - because it needs to be able to process new inventory items very quickly. Don't think in terms of a total F&B menu of only 1000 items, think in terms of 100-2000 NEW Retail items every day. And then imagine adding those 2000 items during the lunch hour. If your POS system can do that, now you got an Uber-Advantage.

Retail 101. Fewer Choices equal More Sales

Our local mega-movie-complex figured out many years ago that if they offered too many candy choices, they actually lowered their candy revenue.  What they probably learned in a Retail 101 class  (or a corporate manual) was that if you have too many choices, the customer takes longer to make a selection, the line moves slower, and because the movie start time is fixed, folks bounce out of line and head for their seats without making a purchase. I have noticed a similar problem at our local Subway franchise.  Folks  line up for their 6-inch meals during the lunch rush.  Subway newbies struggle with the menu matrix variables.  A programing language is spoken under the "Order Here" sign:  syntax needs to be in the proper order to get the sub built quickly.  Start with size.  Follow with sandwich type.  Delineate the bread selection.  Keep it moving,  one side step after another until you belly up to the cash register.  Get any of the code out of sequence and you will get an  onion operator mismatch or a division by pickle error.  If you get too many noobs  queued up, forget about the quick turn and burn, you are stuck in the thick of the sub-plot.   After a couple of long sessions of staring at the  potato chip rack,  I now come prepared with a trade magazine (Hospitality Upgrade and Wired are my popular periodicals)  or my current novel (large helpings of William Gibson have been consumed in the midst of the Subway sub-culture).

If you are a retail manager,  give this some thought:  at the cash wrap you can display a lot of snap item choices - but at what point are there too many choices? When are you creating counter clutter and slowing down the point of sale?  My aesthetics tell me that your counter should have a maximum of  five SKUs  to pick from.  Odd number of choices have more visual power  then even numbers - three is better than two, and  five is better than four. But more than five is just noise.

The same odd-versus-even thing works for product facings too.  Better to have a facing of three rather than two.  I would line up a facing of one rather than a facing of just two.  Call me crazy, but that is what going to art school does to your sense of  "what-looks-right".

I was trained as a fine artist during the 1970's - minimalism and conceptual art were among the vanguard.  I admit that I am jaded - I was trained to see, think and believe that "Less is More".  (For those who want to know more about those art movements, here is a sampling of artists who shaped the visual vocabulary of the 1970s: Sol LeWittChristo, John Baldessari, Donald Judd, Carl Andre and Dennis Oppenheim.)

Boiling your presentation down to the iPod-ian essence can result is an elegant, simple, and beautiful end product. Apple certainly has nailed down the clean minimalist style with their recent products.

The challenge we all have is this: in a world of many choices, how do we focus on what is important?   As a kid, the top of  my dresser was always crammed with every toy or object that was important to me:  plastic models,  coin bank, world globe,  jar of BB's,  comics, army men,  photo of Alan Shepard, spent Estes rocket engines, and Lego masterpiece - not a square inch of empty space.  At a certain density the pedestal-ed objects cease to function as a display. Objects break or topple when you go to pick them up, mom complains about the dust,  and the whole presentation looses its luster and appeal.

It is the goal of good design to filter out all the extra objects, features, requests, buttons, knobs, dials and other do-hickeys until you have a  product distilled  down to the fewest - and most important - choices.

What has never been published until now is this - NeXT® back in 1999 was actually much larger in scope. It had  additional sub-systems that dealt with watch-dog alerts, work-flow integration, n-levels of hierarchy and a separate financial ledger that were removed from the design scope because they put too many additional tasks into getting version 1 out the door.  Since I was the designer I can admit that I suffered from the second system syndrome . I knew about the tendency since I had read Fred Brook's masterpiece The  Mythical Man-Month, but figured since I knew about the follies of those who had proceeded me, I would be immune from the disease.

I was still putting too many things on top of the dresser.

About 20 months into the data design we realized that at the rate we were modeling, it might be another 24 months before we finished with the project scope. I think I may have even re-read a chapter or two of Brook's book at the time.  We evaluated the project and started hacking out entire modules and trimmed down the effort. 10 years later those features are now being introduced back into NeXT. All of those removed features will eventually show up in NeXT they just needed to be introduced in a  more managed context.

That decision to cut back was important because we got NeXT installed in 2002 versus 2005.  We are glad we got it out the door.  What is interesting is that many of the forms have now undergone a cleansing and scrubbing process where the number of tabs and controls have been reduced and cleaner, simpler hyperlinks have replaced them. We now make sure there is plenty of free space (negative space) that gives the controls some breathing room and more visual importance.

That's how fewer choices helped in our software design - I hope  you can use it with your own merchandise presentations.

That Was Your Retail Idea

I like Microsoft's Windows 7  TV commercial where users  flashback to an inspirational moment about improving Windows.  It's cleverly done where the Windows-7-Was-My-Idea sequence depicts a younger, thinner person - whose teeth are whiter and eyes are brighter. My -- 25 plus years in software development, couch-potato, Monday-morning-marketing, 6 years of art school, thinking about it outside the 30 second TV script -- critique spun out of my noggin this way:  the earth must have looped around the sun a couple times between the moment of divine inspiration and the feature's debut.  One fellow looks like his moment of bliss was followed by 10 planetary orbits and maybe 10,000 glazed donuts. That's a lot of donuts.  And 10 years is a long time to wait for a software feature.  So the complete gulp of the ad went down like this: a light zesty initial splash, followed by a sour after taste.

I asked my teen age children, and a number of adults who are NOT in the software business what they thought of the ads and they all thought the ads were excellent. No one had any negative take on it. Everyone saw it as a actor-reenactment spoof that was clever and funny.

So I am wrong, the time between inspiration and delivery was not 5 or 10 years. No one gave any thought to how long it took Microsoft to delivery the software. No one thought it took a long time. Time did not even enter into the advertised mind-set of my sampled audience.

So this is a case of sitting too close to the fire and getting my software marketing antennae scorched.

Probably because DataWorks' strives be to highly agile and capable of accelerating in a high G turn (See John Boyd) I took the Microsoft ad too personal. At DataWorks we have one major release a year. There are usually 4 or so incremental minor releases that address software bugs,  additional reports  or small feature tweaks.

Back  in December of 2008 I sent an email out to our end-users saying, "Hi, we are working on a new version, it's Christmas time,  and in the retail spirit of the season, what do you want gift wrapped into our inventory control software?". We got a lot of great responses. We organized the list, sorted it twice, scored everything with a strategic index (how many other users want this too?),  assigned developers with the tasks, and delivered the features in less than 12 months.

So in the spirit of NeXT-Was-My-Idea, here is a public thank you to a few  of you who asked for features and made NeXT® better:

  1. To speed up Purchase Order input, define a Default Ship To Address within an Employee Access Group. From the 2008 DataWorks Users Conference Group Session.
  2. Change the name of the PO Input from "Multiple" to "Pick List". Also make it the first choice in the drop down choice since it is the most popular. From the 2008 DataWorks Users Conference Group Session.
  3. Search for a SKU that has been counted in a physical inventory.  From L. S.  at  Ripleys Entertainment.
  4. Add a  field to the Vendor definition and allow me to define a vendor's federal tax id number. Include the field in an Account Payable export. From L.K.A. at Beaumont Hospital.
  5. A report to list inventory items that have margins outside the normal parameters I have set up by category. From J.M. at Grand Casino Hinckley.
  6. For Products with many colors and sizes, add an option to the purchase order system to show only the SKUs  that have been re-ordered. From J. McG. at Sea Island Company.
  7. Give Sales Reports the ability to be run for a set of vendors. From D.U. at Ripleys Entertainment
  8. Expand the Best Worst Reports to rank by product within Department; Product within Sub Department and by Product within Vendor. From D.U. at Ripleys Entertainment
  9. Please add a way that we can scan our product's barcodes with a portable data collector and import them directly into a purchase order. From T.K at Via Christi.
  10. Create a consolidated Manufacturer by Product by SKU Inventory report that focuses on recent ordering and receiving performance.  From J.W. at Jacksonville Zoo.
  11. Best Worst Report with both Quantity Sold and Quantity On Hand Values, plus Percent of Totals. from S.W. at Ritz Carlton.
  12. Comparative This Year to Date to Last Year to Date Sales report by Department. From L.S. at Ripleys Entertainment.
  13. Create a forecast model that tracks and projects demand based on trailing 15-13  months (Q5) versus trailing 12-10 months (Q4) by Subclass.  R.T. at Pebble Beach.
  14. Redesign the Quick Physical system so that is actually quick! From the entire audience at the the 2008 DataWorks Users Conference.
  15. Create a faster way to input and cancel ticket batches. From  T.Van A. at LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort.

Thanks for all of the ideas. These are just a few of the ideas the DataWorks community submitted and turned up in the release.    If you see your suggestion above and would like your name published - just let us know and we will give you proper credit.  You can read about all the enhancements by clicking here:  Version 6's Feature List.  Additionally  you can watch this recorded preview of the software.

If you have an idea for our next version, please feel free to add a comment here.  Keep the ideas coming and we will keep the code rolling. Together we design a better inventory back office system.