by Genetic Performance Solutions, LLC Product Manager Emilio Silvas
According to its website, Genetic Performance Solutions (GPS) is a livestock association management provider with corporate offices in San Antonio, Texas. Since 2007, GPS claims to have delivered a means for standardizing the collection, evaluation and reporting of data across multiple breed associations.
Q: The software products GPS offers give customers peace of mind and ongoing support. How does GPS offer more time for managing the association, rather than its software?
ES: Our software is designed to eliminate repetitive tasks which would otherwise be managed by staff. Wherever possible, we consider the downstream implications of how a feature is designed, keeping in mind not only the design requirements, but also the end user’s interaction. Our preference is for automated operations performed at the software level.
When both the design and preference lean toward less user interaction, the end result is more time for (association) staff to focus on business rather than our software.
Q: What tools are available in regard to customer support?
ES: We take customer support seriously and recognize end users, staff and association members alike, have different learning styles and comfort levels with technology. With that in mind, we have built several levels of customer support from the deepest levels of our software to more overt online help.
Within the software itself, members can contact their association staff. This may seem simple enough, but it is an often overlooked means for members to receive help.
We have, also, implemented wizards in Regstr so end users can become familiar with a particular page or feature. These can be accessed on demand and supplemented to address ongoing questions or new features.
The main repository of information is a dedicated online Regstr Documentation site (https://docs.goregstr.com) where users have access to multiple support sources. First, we have a Knowledge Base with introductory documents on how to use Regstr as well as our legacy application, the GPS Portal. Second, we have step-by-step Documentation so users can read and follow along how to perform a specific action. Third, we have created supplementary Videos with some of the content being identical to the step-by-step Documentation for those who are visual learners. Finally, we have a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section for quick answers.
All together, we want to provide at least one, if not multiple, sources of information for end users to answer their question. Each of these can stand on their own, but together, they provide a strong customer support network for users.
Q: GPS advertises its product, Regstr, as a flexible and purpose-built software designed for livestock association management. Livestock association members can use the software to register, transfer and manage herds of animals based on individual needs. GPS’s Regstr product has already launched for the Texas Longhorn Cattle Association (TLCA) and Florida Cracker Cattle Association (FCCA). What opportunities do you have for growing your product?
ES: Our first opportunity will be current users of our first-generation product, the GPS Portal. These associations, International Brangus Breeders Association (IBBA), Braunvieh Association of America (BAA) and Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America (TLBAA), have collectively used our software for over two decades and are well versed in its use. However, the next generation, Regstr, has been rewritten from the ground up and will present even these experienced users a new opportunity to see what we have to offer.
The biggest change we have made is allowing each association’s staff to fully manage the software. They will no longer need to contact Regstr staff regarding new business rules, service offerings or changes to individual data entries. These can all be managed on data screens specifically designed for editing existing records, and no aspect of an animal’s record will be exempt. In this way, the association can enact immediate change without delay, thereby maintaining its own level of customer service.
However, this really only touches on recreating the existing functionality with some upgraded options. The real opportunity for growing our product will be in entirely new features we plan to deliver in the future. We expect as breed associations become more accustomed to managing not just their registry, but all aspects of their organization in our software, these new features will meet their ongoing needs and thereby provide more growth opportunities.
Q: GPS’s Regstr will launch for Brangus at the end of this year. What changes will users experience, different from the GPS Portal software?
ES: In a word, it’s simpler.
We took the overall design requirements and broke them down into their constituent pieces and imagined how we can help the user accomplish their task. Each page on Regstr is designed to accomplish a single purpose and perform it with high efficiency. This is a departure from our first gen product which offered several items on a single page.
End users can become confused and do not know how and where to submit data, especially since a data entry form can be repeated on several pages. Instead, we have sought to create a series of Single Page Applications (SPA) each with a specific focus. In this way, the user can be confident they are on the right page and we can focus on making sure the data is properly managed.
Q: Your website says, “Registering livestock is at the application’s core, but it is a full-featured product suite with the ability to manage data from birth onward. Entering performance data, DNA results, certificate generation, show management, and everything in between has never been easier.” Tell us about the features offered.
ES: We started by imagining the smallest unit a breed association might possibly need, a simple registry, and took it from there.
Regstr allows for the entry and management of Performance data from birth (registry) to, weaning, yearling and ultrasound. Each of these data points has unique requirements and the software makes allowances for them. In addition, we can calculate adjusted performance values, identify contemporary groups and assign ratios as needed.
Our DNA module has been revamped so association staff can manage the entire process from beginning to end. We have introduced a Vendors module to track which third party is providing the service. Once they are designated as a DNA Vendor, staff can enter products and related items. These items are automatically added to the DNA Request form. Since multiple vendors can be entered, the same form will allow members to order from each vendor. Once a DNA Result is received from the laboratory, it can be uploaded to the system where other automated processes take over, including parent verification and billing.
The Show Module has been rewritten and allows staff to manage show seasons, shows, sub-shows and class structure. This will allow associations greater freedom to make changes in season or from year to year.
The Assessments Module is augmented with additional data tracking to include non-reporting codes and sub-codes. In the past, disposal, non-reporting and animal status data shared data fields. But, we have segmented them out so each can provide insight into an animal’s current disposition. When this information is coupled with historical data, a member can view a better picture of breeding and longevity within their herd.
Our intent is to create modules that not only meet data requirements throughout the animal’s life and breeding cycle, but also to provide the association and member insight into trends within and across the entire herd.
Q: GPS has removed clutter to make data entry front-and-center. Why do you feel it is important for data entry to be the focus for association members?
ES: It’s important for members to have a clear path to data entry because it increases the likelihood they will submit data. Every association’s main focus is record keeping. Removing barriers to entry are foremost in accomplishing that goal.
Data entry and management are important and should not be minimized in achieving the overall goal of improving a breed’s marketability. However, associations must rely on members to submit data in a timely manner and on relevant traits. Software can be a key driver of data submission and is best when the user has few, if any, issues when doing so.
In order to make individual breeding decisions and whole herd breed improvement policy, you need to start with the most complete data set possible. Incomplete or partial data and breeding records will not paint a complete picture.
We built Regstr to help users not only submit data, but encourage them to do so.
Q: The software is not breed-specific, and it can be tailored to meet each association’s data requirements. In what ways does data differ from association to association? How does GPS cater to these differences?
ES: Data requirements can vary widely from one association to another, but can share commonality. For example, a beef cattle breed will focus on performance data and DNA results. Another breed may have a greater focus on show management. Each will still need to manage members and register animals, but then diverge. In each case, they may use DNA or Show Management Modules, but to a greater or lesser extent. They may both use the Accounting module for QuickBooks integration, but not in the same way.
The size of each association also affects the type of data we collect. Smaller groups may not need breed prefixes or performance data, but they will track ownership. A larger association will need both alongside the full suite of tools we offer. We can accomplish all of this because each module is aware, but not dependent on, each other.
In order to allow maximum flexibility, we first begin by creating the basic functionality with no business rules consideration. This allows us to be certain it works for the largest possible target audience. Once that has been accomplished, we add successive layers which serve to limit data entry based on business rules and basic validation. By limiting data entry based on each association’s preferences (business rules), we create an inclusive rather than exclusive framework. We can easily widen the possible data set and do not have self-made barriers to overcome.
A good example of this flexibility is registered versus commercial livestock. Registered livestock are the primary beneficiaries of registry systems and their information is meticulously maintained. However, commercial animals also have inherent value which may not immediately be recognized by the association. Once an association decides those interests are valid, it is a simple matter to allow additional animals to be tracked because Regstr placed no limits on the initial functionality. The only limitations are those imposed by the breed’s business rules.
Q: Regstr was built with modularity in mind; therefore, associations don’t pay for features unused. Can you expand on the idea behind modularity, and how that benefits individual associations?
ES: Cost control is very important when considering an enterprise application. They often come with multiyear commitments and ongoing maintenance costs. It might seem simpler, and preferable, to pay one price for access to the entire suite of tools. However, this comes with a certain value proposition for both the vendor (GPS) and our client. Namely, we both have to live with the price.
We can offer a client access to well-made software that meets their need and maybe their price point. But if we have to consider the overall cost of the entire suite and must recoup it each time, we will have to sell it at a higher price. For the client, they have decided to pay this higher price in order to gain access to the tools they need. But, they may not have an immediate need for much of the suite. However, because they paid for it, the feel an overwhelming need to use it, even if it is a bad fit for their data gathering requirements.
Instead, we have chosen a modular pricing scheme that takes into account their actual need and data set size among other factors. By focusing on the specific tools necessary for them to get going, we can lower the price point and put a fantastic tool in their hands. And, because we made Regstr flexible and not association specific, we are not required to recoup the entire cost each time.
Regstr’s flexibility and modularity allow GPS to satisfy the needs of a wide range of possible customers based upon size, data gathering requirements and breed.
Q: Your custom business rules can be implemented with a few changes. Can you give some examples of these business rules, and how they are implemented within the software?
ES: The best example of business rules implementation in Regstr is breed prefix determination during the registration process. Think of it as the gatekeeper on whether a specific animal is allowed into the herd book.
Breed associations have varying criteria for assigning a prefix. The criteria can be based in part from any of the following: sex, breed makeup, breed percentage, parent prefix, generation, color score, scur score, horn score, twin/birth code, service type and the registering association.
We have developed a mechanism that allows us to update relevant parts of this information and identify the appropriate breed prefix for each animal presented for registration. When a member (or staff on behalf of a member) submits registration data, Regstr will identify which breed prefix(es) are possible. Based on the answer, the animal will be allowed to continue or the user will be notified why it may not.
In the past, managing all these possible scenarios for each association meant hard coding them and watching for outliers. Now, we can apply each scenario whenever an animal is registered or one of the constituent criteria is updated. In this way, we can inform the user which prefix is appropriate, or if they do not qualify for one or even more than one prefix.
In addition, we can make updates to the breed prefix requirements very quickly compared to hard coding, which can take weeks and may yield false results. We don’t assume an animal is automatically eligible for registration. We use the association’s business rules to confirm its eligibility and proceed accordingly.
Q: Everyone is on their way to being an expert. Can you tell us about the easy-to-navigate structure of this user-friendly software? What makes this software so easy to use? Why do you believe this product is a great fit for every association in the business?
ES: When we began designing Regstr, we took to heart the biggest comment from current users. Namely, they did not know where to begin.
We decided to start with an empty navigation tree and asked one question, “Is this feature important enough to be on every page?” If it is, we added it to the main menu. If not, it was placed on a secondary menu. This same process led us to create a QuickLinks menu for the most commonly used pages for users based on their role and access level.
In short order, the navigation structure revealed itself.
When that easy to digest navigation is coupled with Single Page Applications (SPAs), a user can not only identify where to begin, but what comes next. Once the user has learned how to use one page, and begins working on another, say performance data, they will find a page similar to the last. Common building blocks allow the user to learn how data entry works and helps them anticipate where to go next.
As for Regstr’s fitness for every breed association, I would go back to the basic registry application. It starts out as a one size fits all garment. When we apply business rules, validation and breed specific data requirements, it is now tailored to that group and that group alone. It won’t fit anyone else, but it doesn’t have to. That’s the point. The software will meet your needs and no one else has to try and shoehorn their data into your structure.
We also recognize that inherent in any organization are Subject Matter Experts (SME) whose primary focus is a specific aspect of association management, e.g. registry or DNA. However, when those staff are unavailable, the organization may be limited in its ability to provide customers with answers or services. In order to mitigate and multiply their capability, Regstr’s business rules implementation codifies the SMEs knowledge so other staff, who are not as familiar with the specific rule or practice, can still complete the task. In this way, the association can leverage its staff’s knowledge to maximize customer support.
Q: What does the term “cross platform” mean? Why is this feature so important?
ES: As anyone with a smartphone these days will attest, access to a resource on a mobile device is important. Every platform, desktop, tablet and smartphone, comes with their screen size requirements and best use case. We designed Regstr to not only render on each device, but also present the content users are likely to seek.
For example, an animal can be registered on a laptop without the user’s screen size being an issue. But, while it can be done on a smartphone, the experience would be less than ideal. We have used technologies that take screen size into account and present the user with the same page, formatted to that experience. Where appropriate, we must limit visibility for items which do not easily translate to a small screen.
The overall result is a better user experience and we do it all without the user having to go anywhere else.
Emilio added: “We often get asked how modern software development fits within the agricultural industry. The inference being it is not expected or perhaps needed.
Our response is that breed associations definitely need quality software to manage their interests. Whether its registry, DNA, ownership or accounting records, the modern-day requirements for an average breed association is increasingly complex. At GPS, we believe every association, large or small has unique data requirements that can be met by Regstr.”