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More detailed Eulogica information

Eulogica is a new generation funeral software built on more than 10 years of experience. It is based on tailoring the software precisely to the needs of individual Funeral Directors. This article contains a wealth of background information and technical details about Eulogica funeral software.

Software flexibility

Eulogica is more than a funeral software package in a box. It is a bespoke solution, delivered as a subscription service, personalised to the business needs and backed by a lifetime commitment to support. The Eulogica funeral software concept is divided into four integrated elements, all centered around the needs of the Funeral Director:

Software

Eulogica is an innovative solution based on well proven funeral software. It is easy to use, flexible and completely adaptable to the business' way of working.

Analysis & Configuration

We ask questions, discuss, observe and understand an organisation and its processes in order to configure the funeral software according to its specific needs. All information obtained is confidential.

Training

A customised training programme is developed for the staff to provide the right level of training for each individual, so they can operate and benefit from the funeral software in their daily work as soon as possible.

Support and Maintenance

When the product is working effectively, the funeral business takes advantage of our support and maintenance programme, including both off-site and on-site support with maintenance and upgrades of the funeral software.

Such bespoke funeral software has always been available from IT consultants, but the costs have usually been prohibitive and the maintenance has been a problematic issue. This, however, is all changing as we have created Eulogica as a framework for bespoke funeral management software for the 21st century, coupled with high levels of flexibility. This enables us to offer an infinite variety of software solutions according to local and business requirements - combining the benefits of individual attention to detail with overall competitive cost.

Functionality

Some of the operational details our system can handle include (all with adequate detail of information, documentation, task management, diary control etc): First call, Arrangement, Service charge, Client meetings, Memorial cards (ordering only), Removal, Jewellery, Doctors, Coroners, Embalming, Coffin/Casket, Viewing, Washing ceremony, Death notice, Home take, Church take, Floral tribute, Conductor, Hearse, Horse-drawn Hearse, Cortege, Church Service, Other Ceremony, Cemetery Chapel Service, Graveside Service, Cremation, Memorial service, Burial, Woodland burial, Grave purchase/transfer, Removal of memorial, Minister, Speaker, Prayer cards, Order of service sheets (ordering only), Dove release, Soloist, Photography, Record of attendance, Limousines return, Reception, Catering, Donation of floral tributes, Cremated remains storage, Minister at Disposal of Cremated remains, Acknowledgement cards (ordering only), Acknowledgement notice, Advanced Cremated remains disposal, Vehicle hire in, Vehicle hire out, Charity donations, Advance payments, Casual staff.

 

That does not include more exotic options, some of which include burials at sea, bequethal, creative ways to dispose of cremated remains, and even cryogenic suspension.

The above relates to the basic Funeral module of our software. We also offer an advanced Memorials module, Repatriation and Management analysis modules.

Our product roadmap for the next 3 years includes development of a complete system for pre-planned funerals, integration module for sending death notices electronically to newspapers, stock control module, advanced donation management system and integration (export and import) with the web.

Software design

Eulogica is a new generation funeral software built on 10 years of experience. It is based on tailoring the funeral software precisely to the needs of individual Funeral Directors. When developing the concept for the international market from 2003, Eulogica Ltd spent two years learning the needs of the profession by setting up a User Involvement Group. The funeral software and the service provided have been refined as a result of extensive discussions with British and Norwegian Funeral businesses. We even went as far as to participate in a number of funerals with a variety of Funeral Directing firms.

Like many other professions, Funeral Directors are reluctant to take time from their profession to become computer experts. They are concerned that a solution should keep pace with the changing requirements of clients and that suppliers can be relied upon for continuing support. Eulogica is all about Bespoke Funeral Software - that is, we always adapt the software to the business, not the other way around. This requires not only a flexible and adaptable software framework, but also that we spend time understanding and analysing each business.

In addition to being adaptable to any funeral business, Eulogica is also adaptable to the particulars of each individual funeral. Unlike all other funeral software, Eulogica does not presume that the funeral follows a particular pattern. Standard product packages can be configured, but it is also straight forward to provide for a funeral with a multitude of extra ingredients.

 

In order to provide the staff with the tools necessary to handle funerals, Eulogica includes a variety of files to store details of contacts, products, staff etc. These are ordinary database files allowing for the adding of new records, searching in a variety of ways, amending records etc, based on a set of access rules.

Most of the daily work, however, will be centered around the window for entry of funeral details. This is also where Eulogica is designed totally different from every other funeral management software. The common approach is for the software provider to assume that funerals follow a set pattern and hence provide input screens for the coffin, the cortège, ceremony etc.

 

Our extensive research of the Profession has suggested that this approach might have been adequate in the past, but now is becoming less and less desirable. Funerals become more individual and more varied. Ethnic, green, non-religious ceremonies and creative celebrations are on the increase. The Profession has seen an explosion of choice for everything from vehicles to the ways of disposing of cremated remains. People expect choice and freedom.

Funeral staff will often find that traditional IT systems are having difficulties coping with these increasingly diverse needs. We have seen cases where the staff unconsciously will avoid to offer out-of-the ordinary options that they know are hard to administer with their current IT system.

Eulogica handles this in the only future-proof way – by assuming that every funeral can have any degree of complexity, and by providing the user with a library of services that can be added to each funeral. The services are selected simply by dragging icons. This simple act triggers a powerful chain of events in the background: Input screens are rearranged, product lines are added to or removed from the funeral, task checklists are updated, diary entries are changed, relevant documents prepared etc. This way, there is no limit to how complex a single funeral can be, and the entry process is all totally easy and intuitive for the user. Twenty limousines and a minibus, all to pick up mourners from different addresses? No problem at all!

Integration with other software

Eulogica Ltd believes in focusing on our core expertise, which is the Funeral Profession. Correspondingly we have a long tradition of limiting the reach of our software to what concerns the funeral operation, and integrate with other systems where the funeral businesses need to exchange data. Past integration projects include:

  • E-mail (any document may be sent by e-mail)
  • Telefax (any document may be sent by network fax if available)
  • MS-Office (Word, Excel)
  • Open Office (word processing)
  • Bank / OCR import of payment data
  • Multisoft accounting
  • Scenario accounting
  • Nor22 accounting
  • Micro80 accounting
  • Origo accounting
  • Rubicon ERP system
  • Visma Business ERP system
  • Sage advanced accounting link
  • Adstate / Market Broker newspaper edition (automatic transfer of death notices)
  • Mapping systems (Eulogica connects to Multimap, Google etc to look up addresses)

Database structure

At the heart of Eulogica funeral software is an SQL client/server database system. We use the NexusDB SQL database (www.nexusdb.com), a system that has proven perfect for our target market – funeral businesses with anything from a single computer to hundreds of offices.

The actual database consists of 46 files, where each file contains a table, or category of data. Some of them contain subtables of similar data. For instance there is the contact file (05000100.nx1), holding all addresses and phone numbers e.g. of ministers, churches, suppliers etc.

Perhaps the most important file (05002600.nx1) is holding the funerals. But because Eulogica does not presume that funerals follow a standard pattern, only the most basic of funeral details are stored in this file, like the name and address of the deceased, and the date of the funeral. Since a funeral can contain any number of elements, they are stored separately in another file (05003000.nx1). Then there are files for the prices involved, the tasks generated, etc. Of course there are also many supporting files to define how everything works, e.g. which services are available for funerals.

Hardware, Infrastructure and communications requirements

Generally the Eulogica funeral software has a client/server architecture: The client funeral software runs on any number of standard Windows computers, while the server software runs on another standard Windows computer. These machines need to be connected by the TCP/IP protocol, since this is how the client and server software communicate. The server must have a fixed IP address. As our funeral software is written from the ground up in Pascal, Eulogica performs well on most standard hardware and does not require other software. The main requirement from the server is adequate storage space.

The only absolute server and client requirements are that both types of machine run a Windows operating system. Windows Server 2003 is generally a good option for the server, and Windows XP Professional or Windows Vista for the clients.

The storage space required for our software can be calculated like this: Count the number of historic funerals you wish that we migrate from your old system, to the new. Add the number of funerals you expect to arrange over the next 10 years. Add the number of pre-plans you expect to migrate or add. This is the total number of funerals the hard disk should be able to hold. With our software, you will tend to store some 10,000 funerals per gigabyte.

Generally the client machines are more important than the server, for the Eulogica performance. It is not a fundamental requirement, but ideally the client computers should be so new that they came with the Windows XP operating system - that is, up to some 3-4 years old. The Windows ME system should be avoided.

Eulogica does not require any third-party software to run. E.g. there is no need for Microsoft Office. Eulogica integrates, however, with Microsoft Office if it is installed (and also with the free Open Office alternative – potentially suggesting big savings in a large organisation).

In order to operate the system at one central location, the above is all that is required. For making the system accessible from branch offices, however, we recommend an intermediate layer of hardware and software, namely, Terminal Services as defined by the RDS protocol.

Terminal Services or Terminal Server Edition (TSE) is a component of certain Microsoft Windows operating systems that allows a user to access applications or data stored on a remote computer over a network connection. Microsoft Terminal Services allows IT departments to bring their applications to a single server for use by users anywhere in the world. Instead of deploying Eulogica on all desktops, it can simply be put on a terminal server and remote users can log on and use it across the internet. This makes upgrades, troubleshooting, and software management much easier by centralising it at the server.

Based on the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), Terminal Services was first introduced in Windows NT 4.0 (Terminal Server Edition). The products Windows 2000 Server, Windows 2000 Advanced Server, Windows 2000 Datacenter Server and Windows Server 2003 have introduced several improvements and new features. Any of these systems will work with Eulogica funeral software.

Microsoft provides the client software Remote Desktop Connection (formerly called Terminal Services Client), available free for most 32-bit versions of their Windows operating systems and Apple's Mac OS X, that allows a user to connect to a server running Terminal Services. Both Terminal Services and Remote Desktop Protocol use TCP port 3389 by default.

Microsoft has a longstanding agreement with Citrix to facilitate sharing of technologies and patent licensing between Microsoft Terminal Services and Citrix Presentation Server (formerly Citrix MetaFrame). In this arrangement, Citrix has access to key source code for the Windows platform enabling their developers to improve the security and performance of the Terminal Services platform. In late December, 2004 the two companies announced a five-year renewal of this arrangement to cover the release of Windows Vista. Citrix works very well with Eulogica and offers more control and better performance than Microsoft's products.

The use of terminal servers also means the performance of the local computers at the offices has less impact on the overall performance of the system.

The terminal servers should be located close to the database server, if separate, and connected to it by a high speed LAN. For the link between the offices and the terminal server(s), an ordinary broadband connection is sufficient.

Normal security precautions should be taken for the communication between offices. That is, the connection should be protected by a VPN setup, passwords and firewalls must be in place, anti-virus software etc.

If a distributed installation model is chosen, the data could be spread across more than one server, which could be beneficial from a safety perspective, but should not be necessary from a performance perspective.

A number of printers will be needed to produce the required output documents. Eulogica relies on ordinary Windows printer drivers. Since new models become available continuously, we have no particular recommendations regarding printers, but we suggest that the organisation standardises on a few models. Printing is an area that frequently causes technical problems, and usually this comes down to unpredictable printer drivers. A set of updated drivers will usually remedy the problem.

In summary, this is the suggested hardware and infrastructure to run Eulogica funeral software in an organisation with many offices:

  • A database server, running Windows Server 2003 operating system
  • Terminal Services server(s), running Windows Server 2003 and/or Citrix
  • High speed TCP/IP network connections between the above
  • Any number of standard PCs at the offices, running Windows XP and Remote Desktop Connection client software
  • Broadband connections to the above
  • Normal security equipment
  • Printers

Eulogica Ltd is specialised in funeral software and does not provide hardware, but we are working with companies which do this.

 

In Scandinavia a number of funeral businesses have chosen to outsource much of the above (the hosting of the database server and the terminal servers, as well as the security) to an ASP supplier, and we have had a partnership agreement with such a company (Telecomputing ASA) for several years.

Scalability in large networks

In our experience, funeral businesses that have more than a dozen or so branch offices, will tend to organise the branches in a cluster system where each cluster is relatively self-sufficient. It typically serves one town and its surroundings, and operates like a separate business most of the time. Such a cluster will be organised around a central office, a hub, which will typically have a fleet of vehicles to serve all the local branches. In the UK it has also been common that the data processing takes place at the hub, which means arrangement forms are faxed from the branch offices - which typically have no computers installed.

In our home market of Norway, however, data entry virtually always takes place at the branch offices. Generally the funeral arrangers will make notes on a paper based form while talking to the clients, then enter the data immediately at a computer in the back room. Hence we have a long tradition dealing with the connecting of offices across communication links.

After our entry to the UK market three years ago, we have seen a tendency that more funeral businesses also in the UK wish to move the data entry process out to the branches. This can be more efficient, but obviously it requires adequate training of the staff, along with proper data access rights management and, ideally, software that is designed for easy and intuitive data entry of anything from the most straight-forward to the most complex of funerals.

Some businesses have moved on to the next step, which is to enter data directly while talking to the clients. We have worked with Norway's largest funeral business, Jølstad (formerly SCI) to enable all their branch offices to work this way over the last two years. This transformation of the business process is now complete, and the results have been encouraging. We are currently involved with yet another project for them, which is to enable data entry on portable computers that the arrangers bring to the clients' homes and other locations, using our off-line and synchronisation technology.

 

Eulogica funeral software is suited for any of the above scenarios. The focus of Eulogica is the individual Funeral Director, the daily operations at the funeral home and, in larger organisations, the hub of a network of funeral branches. Eulogica funeral software (and its earlier versions known under the name 'Intelligence') has been used for 10 years to manage clusters of up to about 20 branches.

An example of our cluster focus is the Eulogica diary. This is a graphical tool that resembles Microsoft Outlook and indicates which funerals and other appointments have been booked for a particular day (or for several days). The diary can easily show if a handful of funerals take place at the same time, which is typically the case in a cluster system.

Similarly we provide files for storing contact details, pictures etc of local churches, crematoria, ministers, musicians, newspapers, charities etc. It is generally not desirable for a user to browse through large numbers of ministers, musicians etc that belong to other areas than their own cluster.

It has been our experience that the staff in one cluster will take virtually no interest in what is going on in other clusters, as this is not relevant for them and would complicate their use of the system. There are only a handful of exceptions: Since clusters tend to 'borrow' resources from each other when needed, it might be useful to be able to look into the diary of a neighbouring cluster to see when there is likely to be vehicles or other resources available, and perhaps create a booking. For contact files, it is sometimes useful to be able to look up the address of a cemetery, charity, newspaper etc in another part of the country.

In our experience, only higher levels of management will generally take an interest in information from more than one cluster. However, mostly they do not wish to get details about individual funerals or individual members of staff. The management tends to be more interested in aggregate information, e.g. the performance of branches or entire clusters compared to each other and over time.

So Eulogica has a focus suited for a cluster of branches, and is well suited for networks of up to a few dozen branch offices. This corresponds to how funeral businesses tend to work.

But how can the software be configured to serve a network larger than this?

This can be handled in one of two ways:

I: The monolithic approach

This approach is a common preference historically, and it is well suited if national uniformity is a high priority. It involves loading all the data into big files, e.g. there will be only one national funeral file. Each record is stored with a cluster code. E.g. funeral, minister and newspaper records are coded according to which cluster they naturally belong to. A higher level (region) code can also be used for convenient reporting. Of course there is a branch code as well.

By default, and for most of the day, any user of the system will only see data relevant to their local cluster. However, only one or two mouse clicks will be needed to look into data belonging to other clusters. Searching the entire database, e.g. searching alphabetically for a newspaper anywhere in the country, will be straight forward. Of course a set of access rights could be defined to prohibit users from seeing or editing certain data belonging to other areas.

Benefits of the monolithic approach :

  • Changing our funeral software to implement the new cluster codes, along with the appropriate techniques to filter out undesired data most of the time, is not complicated and can be provided within a short time frame
  • Management reports will be quick, since all data is in one place

Drawbacks of the monolithic approach:

  • The entire database has to be installed on a single server - load balancing across several servers will not be possible.
  • Only limited possibilities for local customisation
  • Eulogica has not been tested with massive workloads for a single installation. We have reason to believe it will work well, as our database is able to handle file sizes above 100GB. However, this all needs to be tested and we cannot point to such installations of our software.
  • Generally any centralised software system will be less tolerant for technical problems, than a distributed one (see below). E.g. if data needs to be restored from a backup copy, nobody can use the system until the problem is remedied.

II: The distributed approach

This approach is popular in modern software development, especially with Internet-based ventures and is well suited if adaptations to local traditions is a high priority. It involves having separate datasets and perhaps physically separate servers to handle the local parts of the organisation (clusters), much as if they were separate businesses. Users will log into a specific dataset and work there. Users can be granted access to neighbouring clusters, or all clusters.

Only a few operations would involve data from several or all datasets, and separate high level management tools needs to be developed in order to handle these needs:

  • A system of protected records needs to be implemented, whereby certain records will need to be maintained centrally and copied to all local datasets, perhaps by a daily routine Typical examples of records to be distributed this way would be product prices, contact details for national newspapers, details of big charities etc
  • A facility for quick searching for funerals and contacts across all the data should be available
  • When creating new contact records, a search across all datasets should be performed to check if a duplicate exists
  • The management needs to have access to aggregate reporting and analysis. One way to solve this is to automatically collect data from the branches and populate a central file of aggregate data overnight

Benefits of the distributed approach:

  • Eulogica will run in a tried and tested mode most of the time, with no more than a few dozen computers accessing any dataset
  • There is no need for all the datasets to be stored on the same server. Load balancing will be possible if required for increased performance, from the start or in the future
  • Excellent opportunities for local customisation. Funerals tend to follow different traditions in different areas - e.g. products that are part of most funerals in one area, might be less desirable in another area. We could configure the system for maximum efficiency and ease of use in each area, according to local needs, while retaining central control over core data, e.g. prices
  • A trial installation at one cluster can be provided, and this will provide a good impression of how the system will work everywhere
  • Generally any distributed software system is more tolerant for technical problems, than a centralised one. E.g. if a dataset needs to be restored from a backup copy, only the users of one cluster will be affected

Drawbacks of the distributed approach:

  • The high level management analysis and other control tools will need to be developed
  • High level reports will require data extraction from many datasets, so will take more time than with a centralised solution

Since the preferred choice might change over time, it would be possible to reconfigure the system over time.

Maintenance and support options

We see Eulogica funeral software as a partnership for the lifetime of the product, where we are on call at service for our clients with help, advice and access to our latest developments.

Eulogica develops continuously, reflecting new statutory requirements, developments in professional practice or ideas for improvements communicated by our clients. These regular developments are shared with clients through funeral software updates available either on the Internet or by other means.

Clients can reach us by telephone, e-mail or facsimile to make any enquiry related to Eulogica, such as functionality, integration, configuration, or upgrade. If it is not possible to resolve the issue this way, we can travel to the client location to assist on-site. If desired, it may also be possible to set up a remote connection so that we can work on client computers from a distance. We also provide an advanced feature whereby technical problems can be reported through the Internet.

This continuous development underpinned by comprehensive and friendly support for the staff, is the main benefit of our partnership. Because Eulogica funeral software is a subscription service, clients can be assured of our long term commitment. We are here to serve our clients for as long as they are using the software. We believe this is the right way to deliver a software concept to the Funeral Profession.

In order to solve a large organisation's needs for support, we can take two different approaches:

One obvious solution is that we take care of all support needs through one of our support centres, or build up a new centre near the client.

Another way is for the client to build up and organise their own internal support centre which will provide first line support to their users. This is the approach our largest clients in Norway have preferred in the past. It is also the way we propose to go with most projects of some size.

Generally we suggest that our larger clients build up a group of first line support and super-users internally. This most competent group of people would deal with and solve the most common questions and requests from users, and Eulogica Ltd would provide a second line of support. This way of organising will also be very helpful with regards to building up resources for initial and ongoing training of staff.

Training

Eulogica Ltd has a strong focus on training. We know from experience that correct training of staff is a critical success factor in making the most of any software.

Our customised training programme works for our clients, because it starts from the right place. First, through discussions with our clients and possibly with a variety of the staff, we analyse the current IT and software skills. From this analysis we design a tailored training programme for each member or group of staff, and for the company as a whole. Typically a training programme includes a mix of individual on-site and group training.

We know that training takes time and requires some effort, but we work to make it enjoyable and relevant for the staff so that they can see the benefits.

This customised training programme should ideally be conducted at the same time as the software is installed and configured. This way the staff will start off on the right foot, with the knowledge and confidence in Eulogica that ensures maximum benefit for the business.

We can implement the entire training programme for our clients, or they can choose to have us train a small group of super-users who will in turn be internal teachers.

This initial training programme will be designed to get the staff working well with the new software, but training needs to be a continuous process. Future training sessions might be useful to refresh skills, help new staff, develop the business further and move forwards with new software versions.

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