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May 28, 2008

A “Dynamic” twist in ERP/CRM

In recent discussions with some of the IT heads and managers during new business possibilities, I realized that the way they conceive IT as a function in the organization has changed over the years. The IT honchos are now fully agreeing to the KISS (Keep It Straight & Simple) principle and have realized that bringing in greater complexity actually prevents the way organizations would like to respond in an environment needing “flexible” responses. This does not mean that robustness and scalability is not in their mind. However, right now it has moved from realm of “pure technology” based solutions to one that can help solve business problems and are acceptable to people who are going to use this.

Some of the key IT managers are realizing that there is greater need to collaborate between the service providers and the companies in solving their problems. Gone are the days of outsourcing at application development only – it’s more collaborative, there are multiple paths and these need to be thrashed jointly so that the path chosen is optimal, if not perfect! Clients are looking at partners (read ‘Business Enablement with Technology’ partners and not ‘pure technology’ partners) who can help them in achieving the corporate goals with IT with a human face.

“Human face” is an interesting term as sometimes the recommendations coming from consultants are more to meet the contractual obligations, “make key users happy” and are actually “rigid”. The Human face talks about collaboration where there is a bit of change management along with appreciation of real business complexities on the ground. There are several businesses which have their own peculiar set of operational environment, and believe it or not there are many who would have gone with “best-of-breed” solutions for the industry which would be totally unviable and unacceptable to users and organization as a whole. Doesn’t this sound familiar? How many times have you actually seen this happen? There are best of breed solutions which though look good in conference room pilots fail to form the bond with the people in the organization.

And there comes the need for applications which are easy to use, provide lowest TCO, can be implemented fast and can be modeled to meet some of the USP of the businesses. There are several other needs for an “Adaptive” ERP/CRM solution as we might call it! However, if we look at the market you will see lot of products talking about what is “best of breed” without talking about how the organizational transformation would be achieved using the new application or even a set of applications.

I have myself worked on some of the traditional ERPs before moving to the new age ERP/CRM based on concept of usability, acceptance and flexibility. Over the years the organizations have matured in terms of business processes and the need is not to change the processes to meet the application frameworks, but the other way round! The classical debate of bringing the business to the application or vice-versa would never die as it would depend on the organizational needs and business environment. However, with products like Microsoft Dynamics in market which are growing in strength and acceptance over the years, I do see a ray of hope for those who think that they are doing business well, just that they are not able to control it well due to absence of tools/frameworks/applications which can help them streamline their “own” business processes and make them integrated. The “Dynamics” twist is there to help!!

May 14, 2008

Office 2007 - Word has stopped working !

Yesterday while trying to open a DOCX file, my Word started to crash. Everytime I would open, i will get a message saying "Word has stopped working". However i tried to open the document, this kept on happening. Checking event log took me no closer to the issue

The message was "Faulting application WINWORD.EXE, version 12.0.6211.1000, time stamp 0x46d4a7df, faulting module wwlib.dll, version 12.0.6212.1000, time stamp 0x46e03d42, exception code 0xc0000005, fault offset 0x000210c6, process id 0x1738, application start time 0x01c8b579a153ac6b." with an EventID of 1000

I then tried to open a DOC file suspecting something had gone wrong with DOCX and that too caused the crash and needless to say Word had been working all these days. I hate it when things start to go wrong with no obvious reason. 

I was sure that there no devil's hand at work, so what went wrong all of a sudden? I then noticed "Connecting to Printer, Press ESC to Cancel" in the status bar when loading the document. Since I was travelling my default network printer was no longer accessible. Hmm ! Was that it? I set my local Microsoft XPS Document Writer as default printer and all seemed to be fine again. Word was able to open the documents without any issues.

It is strange that Word tries to connect to the default printer on startup itself. Ideally this should not happen till I really try to print. Afterall I was just trying to read the document !!

May 13, 2008

WPF Label or TextBlock

Pre WPF days just had a Label control and hence there wasn't really a choice. Now in WPF you have Label and a new TextBlock control. I have been wondering on usually which one to use in the application when i hit upon this interesting comparison between the two by Josh. There is one additional difference mentioned in comments down below on that blog that talk about auto inversion of colors for TextBlock if it is part of say a ListItem. However to me it looked more like setting the Foreground to white, since when i tried with styling the item selection color to something else, the TextBlock still showed white color.

Honestly I am now left more confused. TextBlock is light weight and hence good from app performance perspective, but Label gives the access key functionality, something that people prefer to have in their applications. It will be really good to have this functionality extended to TextBlock.

What is it that you use in your applications and why? Comments welcome. 

May 8, 2008

Windows XP SP3

New Service Pack - SP3 is now available for Windows XP. You can download it from here. Also note that you can also install SP3 from Windows Update.

If you are one of those who have already been working with IE 8 Beta, then you will need to uninstall it before installing SP3. Check more details on SP3's behavior with various IE versions here.  

May 6, 2008

Collaboration, Connectivity and devices -Future trends and .NET

In Future, A Disconnected device would be strange, would be an alien.
Here’s a presentation which throws some insight into the future web trends.
The Presentation mainly focuses on Connectivity, collaboration and discrete devices of today that would be transformed into intelligent smart connected devices in future.

Now when we look at it , Some questions of interest arise :

1.What is the size and growth rate of this market space?
2.What are these smart devices capable of? (Refer to my previous posts on this)
3.How do they collaborate with other devices, applications and the web?(Refer to my Previous posts on this)
4.What are the development tools available to develop such systems keeping in view the dynamics of this market and backward compatibility?
5.Are devices ranging across different resource constraints easy to program and Debug?
6.Are these devices capable of providing intuitive user interactions?
7.Is this ecosystem a secure paradigm?

When we analyze all these areas, we find that this ecosystem is the one for the future. Huge investments and development efforts are going to go into this in the near future.The markets for this ecosystem cut across all domains right from domestic toys, Gaming to Finance, Healthcare, Governance etc.

Now, We have a single development paradigm which offers to solve all our above concerns, be it RAD or device centric programming or SOA.It’s the “.NET Paradigm”.

The following six Frameworks and communication mechanisms along with associated technologies like DBMS etc. provide an end to end development facility across Applications, Web and Devices (even tiny and highly resource constrained ones).
.NET Framework
.NET Compact Framework
.NET Micro framework 
Windows Point of Service for .NET
Windows sideshow
DPWS and RF based communication protocols (Refer to my previous posts to get an idea on this)

Thanks to the  RAD environment like Visual Studio which makes development, debugging and deployment so easy even in the case of devices.So having identified the availability of the required mechanisms, it’s time to fasten our seat belts to face the challenges and deliver solutions for future demands in line with this emerging ecosystem. 

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