BackStaff: A tool to navigate through your daily activities

BackStaff is software for helping people to get closer to information.  Every day millions of persons in the world go to work with different responsibilities. Nonetheless, everyone’s work is measured somehow through different metrics.  These metrics or indicators helps to see how is the organization performance.  Examples of these metrics are sales growth, machine efficiency, total production, stock value, to mention some.

There are usually hundreds of metrics within an organization.  Some of them are updated instantly by automatic systems, and many others require human intervention to calculate them.  In the end, someone looks at the different numbers to decide if they are okay or not.  This action is the cornerstone of decision making.

The problem is that frequently exists a barrier or gap between the information and its users.  Sometimes it is due to the time it takes for the data to move from the source to the user.  Other times due to a spacial gap related to the distance between the data source and the end users.  There might be different reasons.

The purpose of BackStaff is to shorten this gap as much as possible.  BackStaff is capable of communicating in real time to automation systems and plant software.  Then PLCs, SCADAs, Historians, ERPs, CRMs are some of the data sources for BackStaff.

BackStaff Features

The BackStaff capabilities are:

  • Client applications for WEB, iOS, and Android
  • Instant Messaging System for humans and machines
  • Notifications
  • Scorecards
  • Task Management
  • Reporting
  • Historical Trending
  • Workflow Management
  • Integration with existing applications

BackStaff Client Applications

BackStaff client applications can be run from the Apple ecosystem devices with the iOS operating system by downloading the app from the Apple Store, or by the use of Google’s Android operating system by downloading the app from the Play Store.  It is also possible to interact with BackStaff from a browser as well.  The different applications behave similarly and make the experience for the user independent of their favorite platform.

BackStaff Instant Messaging System for Humans and Machines

BackStaff includes a messaging system that permits the users to chat with one another and share files, URLs, and pictures.  This feature is commonly known as an IMS, and it is a fact that all around the world people are using apps like Skype and WhatsApp in their daily work activities.  However a third party controls those applications and, unless you work for Microsoft or Facebook, you don’t know what happens to this information, that in some cases could be confidential.

Not only people can communicate, but it is also possible to include systems, machines, or devices with communication capabilities through OPC or SQL.  This capability keeps you updated of the systems status or any information of common interest. It is also possible to write to systems chats to leave evidence of any comment the users make.

The user decides which contacts and devices he is going to have on his list and he can remove them if needed.  Users can create groups to discuss themes of their interest and users can join and abandon these groups freely.

BackStaff Contact List

BackStaff Notifications

Each time a user receives a message from another user or a device, and he doesn’t have the BackStaff app open, the device calls his attention by a vibration or sound notification and the corresponding banner with the related information.

This notification system is extended to abnormal conditions for the metrics or events you follow, as well as for any task under your responsibility.  Its purpose is to keep you aware of the status of the activities under your supervision.


BackStaff Scorecards

Every piece of information that BackStaff gathers for the different sources is an indicator or an event.  BackStaff reads indicators as analog values from automatic data sources, or the users can type the values if they are manual.  An event is a binary condition (true or false) that the software calculates from a database query or a variable in an automation system.

Every user can build a table of indicators or events of his interest.  This table is what we know as a scorecard, and it permits the user to see the status of systems under its responsibility at a glance, as well as to drill down into the details of the indicator or event.

BackStaff Scorecard

BackStaff Task Management

The users can create follow up activities called tasks for themselves or the people under his position in the organization chart.  These tasks include several attributes, and among them, the due date is critical for the BackStaff engine to determine if a task is overdue or not.  When the task is late BackStaff notifies the responsible about the situation.  It is also possible to configure escalation to inform the people higher in the organization hierarchy about the situation.


BackStaff Reporting

Reports are the primary tool to share information in companies because they offer more detail about a metric behavior or the relationship between different metrics.  BackStaff provides a means to link the reports to the indicators, as well as to declare them as resources.  The users can open the reports whenever is necessary if they have a subscription for them.  This subscription works similar to the one for the indicators or events.

BackStaff Reports

BackStaff Historical Trending

The current value of the indicators is not enough sometimes.  For this purpose, the software has the capacity of storing historical data.  It also accesses historical data from other databases, like historians.

The applications include a time trend to observe the behavior of variables in a time interval.  This feature is what we call a  mobile Historian client.

BackStaff Historical Trend

BackStaff Workflow Management

A workflow is a series of steps that must be followed to complete an activity.  It is common that workflows require the participation of many people located in different places.  BackStaff is useful to create, monitor, and control these workflows.  The messages and notifications keep the participants updated on what is happening and what they have to do.  The application keeps a historical log of what happened every time that the workflow executes.


Integration with Existing Applications

BackStaff is very flexible and offers a rich platform to exchange information with a wide variety of systems.  It is also capable of sharing its notification system with other applications through simple scripting.

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About Johnny Alvarado

Electrical Engineer working with industrial information technology since 1994
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