How can Microsoft make my life better?

 Business, Great Plains, Microsoft  Comments Off on How can Microsoft make my life better?
May 182006

Today, in Scoble’s post, “Missed big HR meeting“, he closes with “Now, let’s get back to work figuring out how to make our customers lives better.”

Well here is some advice for Bob and the gang over at Microsoft from a customer, “Fix what you got before you go trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” and “Eat your own dog food.” There has been one constant theme out of Microsoft Business Solutions since they purchased Great Plains. And that is, “Make everything look like Outlook, don’t worry about broken or half implemented features.”

Here is a hard example. Notes for customers, products, sales orders, you name it, are stored in a single table as a 32K text chunk. There is no revisioning of the notes and if one user accidentally deletes a note by clicking on the wrong poorly named action button the note is gone. Poof it never existed. This has to be one of the most rinky dink set ups I’ve ever seen. Apparently this feature was implemented by a high school intern and since no one in Microsoft Business solutions uses the notes — it’s never been fixed. This architecture bug is so bad and can be so costly, I’ve had to write a specialized “diff” utility to track and keep a revision history for notes. Nothing like blowing a 10K deal because some fscked up and missed an important note that had been inadvertently deleted.

This is just one of many architectural blunders that MS never seems to get around to correcting — I guess if you make it look pretty enough people won’t care that their headed twoards the poor house.

Come on folks, this is an accounting application. An ACCOUNTING APPLICATION not an image editor or a roll-up cube. Boring and reliable is what brings the boat back to port. Fix the issues, then worry about making it look like something it isn’t. I can’t believe that sysadmins at MS don’t lie in wait for these geniuses to go strolling down a dark hall alone.

 Posted by at 10:05 pm

What fat clients can learn from the Web

 Business, Great Plains, Web 2.0  Comments Off on What fat clients can learn from the Web
Oct 212005

One of the beautiful things about the web is that you can share discoveries with others by merely sending a link to a friend or co-worker. Find a cool new shoe or a laptop and want their input on the item? You just click on “send link” in your browser, or cut and paste the link in an email message and off it goes. They click it and voila! there it is. The item of your attention and the thing you want to talk about. No muss, no fuss. The other person gets instant context when they click on that link. No big explanations are necessary. They can respond with their ideas and links to some other possibilites. The gift of sharing your contextual vision with another by only clicking.

Now say you are in your accouting application and you have a problem or need a resolution from a co-worker or superior. What do you end up doing? You end up emailing them account numbers and dates and telling them what view you are looking at so that they can look at it too and give you the feedback/information you need. Starting to see the lesson? Why aren’t fat client developers taking a clue and incorporating one of the most powerful features of the Internet in to out bread and butter fat clients? Why can’t I send a “link” from the view I’m looking at in my accounting application to a co-worker or superior. Think of the time savings. Got a question on a receivings, send a link and the respondent gets instant context.

And finally, a word to the Web 2.0 developers: The lesson is for you too. Don’t give up the ability to link to an item in your sweet new AJAX weblication otherwise you end up costing more than I think we should pay.

 Posted by at 10:00 am

A note on Microsoft Great Plains “notes”

 Business, Great Plains  Comments Off on A note on Microsoft Great Plains “notes”
Oct 152005

Great Plains’ note taking system is an annoyance at best. While they’ve expanded it so that you can attach notes to just about everything (customers, invoices, vendors, items, etc) each note is stored as a 32K text entry — If you are at the limit, you’ve got to delete something else to add more. If someone inadvertently wipes out a note, it’s gone. In fact this problem is so bad I’ve had to write a note archiving and diff tool so that I can recover “lost” notes.

Microsoft needs to fix this archaic note taking system. What should be done is that each new entry in the note should be stored as an individual entry, along with the date/time that note was entered and who entered the note. When notes are displayed, it should show them in reverse chronological order (newest on top) with the date/time and note text. There should be security for editing and deletion of notes. Adding notes should be available to anyone with permissions to view the data. The entry should also show if the entry had been edited, when and by who.

 Posted by at 12:00 pm