In Review: Pinnacle Series by Eagle Point Software
September 1, 2007
Eagle Point Software
4131 Westmark Drive
Dubuque, IA 52002-2627
Suggested List Price: Installation of the Process Server is $3,995, which includes one license of Process Mapper, Task Navigator and Workflow Monitor. The Client Access License is a $250 one-time fee for additional users to access the Process Mapper, Task Navigator and Workflow Monitor.
The Pinnacle Series by Eagle Point Software is a server-based power suite of programs designed to help organizations manage the processes used by their workforce. In addition to the Process Server, there are three component parts to this power suite: the Process Mapper, the Task Navigator and the Workflow Monitor.
The Pinnacle Series does not collect data, perform survey calculations, make plats or maps, or manage databases. The Pinnacle Series is an enterprise tool that resides on a local server designed to manage--in a logical, straightforward manner--the many processes surveying and engineering firms (as well as others) employ. It doesn’t process your survey and design data. But it does directly interact with many products that do.
How does it do that? Fair question. I’ll explain.
Create, Manage and ShareIt is frequently stated that in the surveying/mapping/design industry we do three things with data products: create, manage and share. Everyone in the surveying, mapping and design sphere learns to create data products. It is the managing and sharing that are often not well understood or implemented effectively. What the Pinnacle Series does is document and track the processes that create your data products. That leads to more effective document management, and both controls and facilitates the sharing of information.
Business Process ReviewOne of the industry buzzwords making the organizational circuit in recent years is Best Practices. Best Practices is basically a concept that encourages and supports the idea of developing high standards for the business processes in any organization. The vehicle typically used to achieve this is called the Business Process Review. There are many ways to brainstorm improvements for a business process. The Pinnacle Series is one of the better frameworks I have seen to document and analyze business processes. Let’s take a look.
The Process MapperThe Process Mapper is more or less the control center for the Pinnacle Series. The Process Mapper is the module where most of the data is entered, organized and captured.
Let’s make sure we know the difference between data collection and data capture. Data capture is a term that often confuses people because of its subtle difference from the term data collection. If you actively collect data for a specific purpose, it is data collection. If you obtain data collected by another to use for a different purpose, then data has been “captured.”
The parent folder in the Process Mapper is called Workflow. The subfolders in logical order are: Process, Task, Milestone and/or Step. The user starts by using the menus to create a new Workflow. He gives the Workflow a name and then enters the supporting data describing the Workflow using a subsequent series of Tasks, Milestones and Steps. This is all accomplished using a series of dialog boxes. The Workflow is displayed in the right pane as a schema graphic at the Process level. The data in the subfolders is displayed in block form detail as the user “drills” down the tree.
Adding a Step In the Process MapperLet’s add a step to a Workflow. A step is defined by Eagle Point as “the finite level of a Workflow that provides detailed instructions on how to carry out the work. The step also includes the ability to execute the technology tools.” (See more on technology tools below.)
From the Workflow menu, we will right-click on a task (the box with a red checkmark). You can also initiate this action from the pull-down menus, but Pinnacle Series puts most of the base functions on the right-click menu. This brings up a dialog box. You then give the step a unique name and fill in the description box. From here you can add a Tool.
A Technology Tool in the Pinnacle Series is Eagle Point code for another software product the user can launch from inside the Process Mapper. (In the graphic to the right, I am launching ArcGIS). The user can assign a variety of commands, programs and tasks to run the Step he has created automatically. He can also view the result.
The startup time for documenting these processes can be daunting. But the good news is, once templates have been created, they can easily be imported into new processes. Eagle Point realizes that many organizations in the surveying, engineering and mapping sectors of the economy don’t have their business processes currently documented in an orderly fashion. And they have customer support available for that.
The Task NavigatorThe Task Navigator is the end user product of this suite. End users represent just about everyone in an organization who is involved in processes. In the Task Navigator, users can view, study and analyze the business processes of the entire organization. They can both view and communicate with other users and administrators through this interface.
The Workflow MonitorThis module is designed to move information about projects and business processes through an organization so management and others can view status reports. The Workflow Monitor creates process studies and can be used to analyze and evaluate the progress of these processes. It tracks the completion of tasks as they are recorded in the Task Navigator.
The Workflow Monitor combines many of the features of an Outlook Calendar, such as meeting schedules, deadline dates and delivery dates, and compares them with the actual result. Trends can be quickly identified and evaluated. The Pinnacle Series’ tracking capability is active rather than passive. Its function is basically proactive and doesn’t function as internal spyware.
Field Manuals and ExhibitsField surveyors often desire easy-to-understand operations manuals or field guides to promote uniformity in their organizations. The Pinnacle Series is an excellent tool to create step-by-step manuals for field staff. Once completed, they are easy to keep updated and to print hard copies for use in the field. Workflow Charts for meetings and conferences are also quickly and easily produced.
Small Business UseIt was immediately clear to me that the Pinnacle Series could not be properly reviewed on a single desktop. It is, as I have said, a system. For a meaningful review I needed to see the product in a “real world” environment. The folks at Eagle Point pointed me to an agreeable firm with local offices.
Hunsaker & Associates is a fair-sized California-based engineering, design and surveying firm I have been familiar with for some time. I spoke with Donald Broussard, whose official title is CADD manager but whose role has been expanded to include some information technology (IT) responsibilities as well.
Hunsaker has been using the Pinnacle Series for about a year. The Task Navigator is deployed to 50 desktops, and the Process Mapper has three principal editors. There were both initial learning curves and ad hoc training programs to get the system implemented, but Broussard says it has been working well. Not only can managers and supervisors easily track projects, but as processes get documented, it is easy to disseminate manuals and reports in a variety of formats to both staff and clients. “We had CADD manuals before, but this product improved them and makes them much easier to keep updated. We actually keep all of our manuals updated with this product now,” Broussard adds.
Input and OutputI found Eagle Point Pinnacle Series a bit labor-intensive from the input side. But I am a GIS guy, and my bias is that data conversion is more cost-effective than data entry. Eagle Point developers have leveraged this product on the output side; users can easily export their reports in a variety of formats and use links to launch many of the programs used on projects built right into the system’s framework.
The Pinnacle Series has powerful export features. Reports and studies can be output in most standard Windows formats like Excel, .rtf and .pdf. Importing is proprietary. It is possible to create templates from existing data, but the entry of new data has to be done the “old fashioned way” by typing it in.
I would rate the current Help files for the Pinnacle Series a work in progress. The most helpful part is the .mvp training videos. The Pinnacle Series is not what I would characterize as an entry level product. It requires a fair amount of IT skills for a successful out-of-the-box experience. It runs on MS Access for smaller deployments and on MS SQL based for larger enterprise systems.
Eagle Point recognizes that some firms do not have their processes documented in an orderly and concise fashion or have in-house resources available for the task. As a result, Eagle Point offers consulting services to implement the Pinnacle Series and to provide the support needed to get the process started. The fee schedule for these services are based on client need.
The Pinnacle Series is not surveying or CADD software, and it is certainly not GIS. The Pinnacle Series is not software per se; it is a system. It is a system that can effectively organize and manage nearly every activity in an organization.