Upgrade Dexterity Customization

Great Plains Dexterity is proprietary programming language/environment, which was created in early 1990-th to provide platform / database / graphical interface independence for Mac and Windows based Great Plains Dynamics. Today it is legacy and Microsoft Business Solutions is phasing Dexterity out.

However Great Plains 7.5 and even 8.0 is Dexterity based application, so you have to deal with it and it’s customization.

Good news. Prior to version 7.0 Great Plains had plans on expanding GP functionality and so was changing tables structure – forcing Dexterity customization to be analyzed and partially rewritten with each upgrade. Not any more – GP structure stays the same – Microsoft is doing new modules acquisition and unifying it’s graphical interface to move all it’s ERP packages: Great Plains, Solomon, Navision and Axapta to web-based Microsoft Business Portal.

Still pain. Dexterity has possibility to customize existing Great Plains screens, so called Alternative Great Plains forms. This was upgrade problem in the past and it stays now – there is no way to do it in house (until you are willing to pay for full-time internal developer – who is usually in the learning curve). You got to bring in consultant.

Recommended approach. You should have the strategy to migrate Dexterity customization to SQL, Crystal Reports, custom web publishing – Visual Studio.net and slowly abandon Dexterity customization

  1. SQL Stored procedures – performance improvement. Consider replacing dexterity data manipulation with SQL stored procedures. Dexterity is cursor-driven language and it is not efficient when processing huge datasets.
  2. Crystal Reports. Take advantage of open and leading technology. Crystal Reports will eliminate the need in the future for painstaking Dexterity reports upgrade. Base you Crystal report on the SQL view or stored proc
  3. Do direct web publishing off your GP database. Use Visual Studio – it is easy to find specialists and have them in staff. We are in the World when web publishing is very easy.

Microsoft Great Plains Reporting

  • Great Plains Report Writer (ReportWriter) – this is built-in reporting tool. All the original report in Great Plains are written in ReportWriter. ReportWriter itself is Dexterity module. You should use this tool if you would like to modify existing Great Plains reports, such as Blank Invoice Form – here you can place your company logo, change the positioning, fonts, colors, etc. ReportWriter will allow you also do new reports – simple option if you want to export all the records from one Great Plains table – use it. New report, however doesn’t have interface where you would enter parameters – so it is not useful for real custom reports. Another limitation of ReportWriter – you can not do cross-modules report – when you need sales and purchasing info on the same report for example.
  • FRx. This is excellent tool when deal with financial reporting – it works on the General Ledger level (Balance sheet, P&L, Cash Flow Statement, etc.). It also allows you to do multiple companies consolidation – when you do consolidated Balance Sheet (with inter-companies transactions elimination).
  • Smart List – Export to Excel – this is nice feature in Great Plains – you could create a list with simple criteria and then export it to Excel.
  • Crystal Reports. It gives you unlimited functionality. Obviously flexibility requires you to know Great Plains table structure: Launch Great Plains and go to Tools->Resource Description->Tables. Find the table in the proper series. If you are looking for the customers – it should be RM00101 – customer master file. If you need historical Sales Order Processing documents – they are in SOP30200 – Sales History Header file, etc. Create ODBC connection to GP Company database. Use the same technique as when you create standard ODBC connection for GP workstation – but change default database to targeted company database. Create SQL Query to probe the data – we always recommend tuning your query and see that you are getting adequate results – in any case – Crystal Report is just a nice tool to show the results of your query.
  • Direct Web Publishing off Great Plains databases – yes – it is easy now with Visual Studio.Net and you can hire good programmers. This is good – Microsoft Business Solutions products: Great Plains, Solomon, Navision and Axapta will be integrated into so called Microsoft Business Portal – which will have web interface – you can get the idea if you look at Microsoft CRM web client – so direct web publishing is good taste.
  • SQL Queries. If you have SQL background – this is great field for you. You know – with properly formatted SQL query you can realize simple EDI export/import for the integration with legacy systems.

Inherent Dangers Of File Sharing Via The Internet.

Spyware infiltrate computer systems along with file sharing downloads. Personal information about us circulates the globe via the World Wide Web, and a web it truly is! This information finds its way to different entities or companies that are keen on knowing our surfing habits and the sites we visit. They also want to know about our file sharing interests. These observations by spyware intrudes on our privacy and security.

We can benefit greatly from “File Sharing” but must constantly be aware of the risks and safeguard ourselves from its many dangers. We must do all we can to protect our surfing habits from the prying eyes of internet snoops.

We can have our password stolen, identity stolen, our personal information abused as well as the loss of privacy we hold so dear.

We must find and remove “Spyware” to protect us from the many dangers of internet spying. One of the ways is to eliminate file sharing that enable spyware to piggyback with the “File Sharing Files” and take up residence in our computer.

Spyware and adware infiltrate and infest computers in very subtle ways when we download our favorite music or movie files, while P2P file sharing and chatting online. Spyware takes advantage of these downloads and creeps into computer systems along with shared files, so that they go unnoticed. We suspect problems when the computer slows down, there are unsolicited advertisements, or browser hijacking. The best way to find such infestations is to use a spyware scanner that will detect them and enable their removal from the system.

Troubleshoot Windows with Task Manager

The Processes tab displays a comprehensive list of all the processes currently running on your computer. This can be very useful for monitoring your system. The process tab displays information about the processor usage and memory usage of each process. The problem is, how to identify a process. Below is a list of some processes you may see in Task Managers Processes list.

“System Idle Process” “System” The Windows System Process “SMSS.EXE” Session Manager Subsystem “CSRSS.EXE” Client Server Runtime Subsystem “WinLOGON.EXE” The Windows Logon process “SERVICES.EXE” Services Control Manager “LSASS.EXE” Local Security Authentication Server Service “svchost.exe” Service Host “spoolsv.exe” The print spooler service “explorer.exe” Windows Explorer “TASKMGR.EXE” The Task Manager “regsvc.exe” Remote Registry Service

“System Idle Process” is basically another name for the time when Windows is doing nothing. There are hundreds of thousands of processes that run on a computer, so you will definitely find names of many other processess that are not listed above. For a list of well known processes, visit www.answersthatwork.com/Tasklist_pages/tasklist.htm You can also learn about almost any task by using it’s name as a search term in google.

Task Manager can also be used to tweak your system if it’s running slow. The Performance tab displays running graphs of your computers CPU and memory usage. If the CPU usage seems to be running over 80 percent most of the time, or if the memory usage seems to be running higher than the total physical memory, you may want to shut down some applications or processes.

On the Process tab, you can identify processes that are consuming a lot of processor time. Click twice on the CPU column heading to sort the CPU column so the processes hogging the most CPU time on top. You can sort the “Mem Usage” column the same way.

On the Application tab, if you right click on the name of an application and, in the popup menu that appears, choose “Go To Process”, Task Manager will open the Processes tab and highlight the process that runs the application. On the Processes tab, if you right-click on the name of a process, you can choose “SetPriority” and promote the priority of the process you need (or demote the priority of a different process to free up some resources).

If you go to the Application tab and shut down an application, you will shut down any processes related to that application. Or, you might choose to shut down a background process that you can identify. To shut down an application or process, click on it’s name in the list to highlight it, then click on the End Task button.

On the Processes tab, if you right click on the name of a process, you can choose “End Process Tree” to kill the process and any sub-processes started by the process.

Task Manager can also be used for troubleshooting. If an application freezes up, you can open Task Manager and shut down the application. If the entire system freezes up, you can use Task Manager to shut down a process that is hogging all the CPU time or memory.

If you spend some time monitoring your computer with task Manager, eventually you will become familiar with the processes that commonly run. Then, when you see an unfamiliar process, you can do a little investigation to make sure it’s not a virus. For example, if you see msblast.exe in the process list, your computer is infected with the Blaster virus. You might be able to detect and eliminate a new virus before an antivirus update is available.

Software Companies

Step 1: Lowering Training Costs Using Custom e-Learning Content

The first step to any well laid-out cost-reduction plan is to decrease the costs the organization currently incurs in order to get a better handle on profit potential from sheer cost savings. Previously we outlined what our target cost categories are…now we’re going to lower the costs associated with those categories by leveraging custom e-Learning content.

Take this scenario: A mid-sized software company that develops intranet portal systems currently employs 3 trainers that are onsite with clients for end-user training 3 days per engagement and they each average approximately 50 engagements per year for a grand total of 150 days on the road per trainer or 450 days on the road collectively.

For these trainers, the onsite training program for the end-user customer may look something like the following:

Day 1: Software Introduction and Primary Functions
Day 2: Functional Use and Administrative Actions
Day 3: Real-World Functions and Labs

Lowering the costs: By leveraging custom e-Learning content, the company used in the above scenario, can effectively reduce the onsite time required for each trainer, thereby reducing all costs associated with the training program across the board.

By using a professionally designed, self-paced, custom e-Learning module to focus on the Software Introduction and Primary Functions training that normally occurs on Day 1 and then delivering that learning module online to their end-user customers at the time of purchase through an e-Learning Management System (LMS), this company could decrease travel time for all 3 trainers by 1 day per engagement. This would decrease travel time for each trainer by 50 days per year, or 150 days collectively during the year. In addition the end-user customers will already be familiar with the software package before the trainers ever set foot in the front door.

This would successfully:

Decrease the costs associated with those 150 days of travel that are now being saved.

Enable the company’s trainers to perform more training engagements OR enable the company to decrease the number of in-house trainers it employs.

Decrease the costs associated with creating and publishing the sections of the hard-copy training manuals that deal with the Software Introduction and Primary Functions training session that normally occurs in-person on Day 1 of the training engagement.

Taking it one step further: Reducing each trainers travel schedule by 1 day is good, but it isn’t good enough. Software companies employing this cost-reduction method should take it one step further to enhance their end-user customer’s experience. They need to make sure that their end-user customers are learning what they need to know to ensure time isn’t being wasted covering the same topics when the trainer visits the customer site in-person.

To do this, the software company needs to look at how they plan to deliver the online training to their end-user customers. They will want to make sure that the end-user customers can track and manage the online training portion of their sessions, whether it is self-paced custom e-Learning content or real-time online trainer/student collaboration. Selecting this delivery platform can be difficult but it should include the following basic functions:

1. Student Knowledge Assessments
2. Student Success and Progress Tracking
3. Real-Time Interactivity
4. Self-Paced Learning Delivery

By selecting a delivery platform that addresses all four of these facets of end-user customer training, the mid-sized software company can not only decrease their own costs but enhance their client/vendor relationship by delivering more than what is normally expected or experienced in today’s software market. What’s the bottom line? The customer is pleased with their user’s performance and the value they received from the software company.

Step 2: Creating Revenue Using Custom e-Learning Content

Now that we have lowered our costs, the company needs to look at how they can use their new learning technology to generate new revenue streams for their organization.

Take this scenario: The mid-sized intranet portal software company used in the scenario above now has their own proprietary basic end-user e-Learning module to cover 1 day’s worth of what was previously onsite training. The company has effectively reduced their overall, offline training costs. Now it is looking for ways to generate new revenue streams using this technology to (a) make back their initial purchase costs and to (b) create more profit potential for the entire organization.

Creating the revenue: One way for a mid-sized software company, such as the one we’re using in our example, to create this much needed revenue stream is to create subsequent, more advanced, self-paced, custom e-Learning training modules. Attractively priced, these learning modules could be made available to their end-user customers online without incurring any additional offline training costs.

In order to do this efficiently and without incurring additional offline training costs, the company needs to make it easy for the end-user customer to purchase the more advanced training content and make it easy for the end-user customer to track their own learners as they attend the training courses so they can readily see its effectiveness. By investing the money today to build the more advanced, custom e-Learning content, this mid-sized software company could realize profits from the training modules within 12 to 24 months once they begin marketing and selling it to their existing client base. Such profits would be dependent on development timeframes, how they market their new training service and their chosen modes of delivery.

Taking it one step further: Making the more advanced e-Learning content convincing and attractive to purchase from the client standpoint takes some ingenuity. People are very susceptible to purchasing something that is located right next to the checkout lane at Target. Similarly, it stands to reason that client of this mid-sized software company will be more apt to purchase additional e-Learning content if it is readily available to them and if they can purchase it without any hassle.

One way to accomplish this is to publish the new, more advanced, self-paced e-Learning modules to the company’s LMS portal and then make the modules available for purchase via credit card using e-Commerce or via standard invoice with a single phone call. This essentially acts as the product stands we all see at Target next to the checkout lane. Since everyone needs to pass through checkout lane, it makes sense to put additional products available for purchase there. In other words, if the mid-sized software company is delivering portions of their beginner training program online to their end-user customers, this more advanced e-Learning content should be available for purchase right next to those basic training modules, thus, increasing its visibility and increasing the attractiveness to buy from the client perspective.

The Completed Solution

Because of the tight software market and the strain put on mid-sized software companies to perform, if these companies can decrease the costs associated with their current training programs and create new revenue streams at the same time, it becomes a win/win situation both for the vendor and for the customer. The software company gains a competitive edge and continues to move forward while the client gains an easy-to-engage training program and added value from their software vendor.