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Project Management – Redesigning your baby

Well, lately I’ve been spending a lot of time on the rework of Rapier.  I’m sure you’ve noticed some of my posts in the past.  My original baby, Rapier, started as a crazy idea I came up with on a plane ride  home from my project in Boston.  Rapier started as a BSP application, then when I realized that BSP was a dying technology, I moved to ABAP Web Dynpro.  Now, I’m moving to add a ton of new functionality to the application that started it all.

Now, with all of these new ideas, it forces you to revisit what you originally designed, and come at it from a new perspective.  While that sounds obvious to any developer, it comes with a price that I’m not sure everyone realizes (I didn’t at the time).  When I first converted to Web Dynpro, I left most of the original structure intact, and focused on the web dynpro conversion and understanding that new coding.  Now that I’m full blown into version 2 functionality, I’m realizing there are a lot of pieces that could be designed better.

This post is to remind you that a simply adding new functionality comes with a lot of additional work.  For example, I’m looking at adding a new product designed around the field service engineer.  There is a lot of shared functionality between the 2 products.  So that required me to reevaluate all of my tables and classes, so they could easily shared.  Suddenly, this meant that all of my tables, classes, etc. needed to be created under a new shared namespace.  All of those items then needed to be swapped out of the existing code, etc.  Get the picture?  simply letting my code be reused, caused a huge chain reaction that took almost a week to reconcile.  And all of this wasn’t changing any functionality.  Just renaming things.

So, the word of advise for today is to remember that when you redesign, add plenty of time to your schedule.  If you choose to do it right, it’s gonna take longer than expected.  It’s worth it in the long run, but everything comes with a price.


Material Master – an easy way to restrict maintenance of views

Well, another day, another product.  ha ha ha.  I wanted to throw this out to you and see if you think it’s something that might be useful.  In the design of the new Proximity application, we’ve added a couple of options to that allow you update a single view of the material master, and can configure what fields are shown and in what order.

Right now, I’ve created the MRP views into 1 transaction, Work Scheduling and Forecasting.  These were the views important for Proximity, but I was curious if you might see an opportunity of this to be a simple product that your company might have use for.  Pumping out the remaining screens wouldn’t take too long.  Sales and Purchasing would be the only pieces with a new wrinkle, and that’s just because of the long text.

I’d love your feedback.  I’m curious because I know that you “can” handle much of this through security, but it’s my understanding that it’s a major PITA, and most security teams give a LOT of pushback to do this.  Yet, with the impacts of improperly maintaining the material master, seemed like it might a quick win to provide something like this.  We haven’t done any marketing materials or demo’s yet, but if you have any interest, let me know and I’ll be happy to give you a live demo.

As always, I appreciate your feedback and your support.


Business – Finding a CRM System for a small business

Well, one of my newest hats in the business experiment has been marketing.  If you’ve ready any of my previous posts, I’m sure you’ve figured out, it’s a work in progress.  Ha ha ha.  Short story if you’re new to my stuff, is that I’m engineer trying to run a business.  I have a partner, the problem is, he’s an engineer too.  So, I’m doing my best to learn how to market all this hard work I’ve done.  Now that there are two of us, it’s getting more and more important that we are on the same page.  We each have some email lists, and we “try” to keep eachother in the loop of what we’re doing, but it can be challenging.  So I’m thinking it might be time to start looking at a CRM system we can use.  The trick is finding a CRM system for a small business that gives us what we need, without too much fluff or too much cost.

Now, why on earth would I want another system to add to my workload?  Because marketing is the heart of our business.  If we can’t get the word out about how good our stuff is, well, then our business is doomed.  So it’s time to focusing the effort it deserves.  Now, I’ve got an access database of contacts that email on a semi-regular basis, and I have some opt-in contacts on MailChimp.  My partner, Mike, has the list from our manufacturing conference, as well his previous contacts.  So the challenge is how do we merge all this stuff together, and still maintain some segregation?

It seems like CRM is the answer.  But which one?  I’ve started doing some preliminary research, but then I realized, I first better figure out what I need to do with it.  The web based CRM programs can be free, $12/month/user (or more)…  so what is it worth…  and can the free version do what we need without limiting us.  So, what do I need it to do:

  1.  Import all of my current contacts.
    1. We need to keep them grouped by module/focus
    2. Consultant vs. prospect (customer vs. 2nd customer)
    3.  where we found them, etc.  conference/e-course/purchased list/colleague or customer.
    4. Prospect vs. partner
    5. Need to pull them in from excel, access & Mailchimp
    6. Need to keep track of our interactions with our contacts
      1. When is the last time they were emailed.

i.      What did we email them about?  E-course, specific product? Certification, etc.

  1. Have they ever responded to us
  2. Need to keep track of our customers
    1. Pretty easy right now, since we only have 1…  but that will change J
    2. What have they bought, what can we probably sell them
    3. Email Campaigns
      1. Integration with MailChimp

i.      Since I’m already using this, and have formats setup, this would be nice to have feature

  1. Built in features of its own to send professional emails to our contacts
  2. Metrics for those campaigns, including opens/clicks/responses etc.

i.      Mailchimp has this, but it would be nice to have everything in a single location.

  1. Needs to be on-line/accessable so both of us can enter in our data
  2. Reminders/tasks – options
    1. Nice to have a task list to email customers every 2 weeks

Now, those are the things I can think of off the top of my head.  My friend Jer put me on this path and originally suggested SugarCRM.  While it’s nice, it’s more expensive and probably more functionality than a 2 man show needs.  So, here’s my initial list that I’m going to inspect.  I’ll give you the pro’s and cons once I start playing with each one.  In the meantime, let me know if there’s anything else I should be factoring into my choice.  Especially, if I have any marketing guru’s out there J

  • SugarCRM
  • Xero
  • Capsule
  • FreeCRM
  • Any others you’d recommend???

As always, thanks for reading and I look forward to any feedback or ideas.


Field Service Web Application – Help Please =)

This is going to become my center piece for Renovation.  So, I again have a question for my audience…  what features would you want to see in a field engineering application.  Please keep in mind, the initial release will not be a mobile app.  That comes next… first I need to design all of the features.  If your organization has on-site or field service, I could really use your input.  What features would you need?  what would you like to have?  and would could I offer that would make it a no brainer for your organization to purchase?

Now some of the obvious things I plan to include will be a worklist for the field engineer.  It will show all the service orders, notifications, tasks etc assigned to the engineer.  It will provide the option to show the details of each item on the list.  This will be configurable based on business need.

It will also include the ability to enter time and material to each order.  Enter in measurement documents for pieces of equipment.

So what would you like to see?  I appreciate your help and I look forward to providing a new application to help you out.

Rapier is now in ABAP Web Dynpro!!!

Well, this might not seem like a big deal to many, this is huge for me.  Rapier started as dream of mine almost 6 years ago.  That dream started this crazy adventure that I’ve been blogging about to all of you.  Well, my dream hit a new level that now includes ABAP Web Dynpro.

Well, Rapier was originally written in BSP, and little did I know that by the time I finished learning and writing my first real application, the technology would no longer be supported.  As a consequence of that, I found that my application that I spent so much time and effort on, only worked in a few browsers because SAP stopped updating browser support for BSP.

This made Web Dynpro my mission.  Not only did I need to learn Web Dynpro for Rapier, I have a lot of plans for my current applications to all be visible on the web…  and of course, my newest baby that I’m about to start…  my field service application.

Now, Rapier will work on Safari, Internet Explorer and Google Chrome.  Also, if your support packages are up to date, it will work on Firefox (this browser for some reason is tough to keep current with).  But Safari was a big win for me.  I’m currently testing it on the IPad to see how it work.  Wish me luck, and I’ll be sure to keep you posted.  Thanks as always for you Support…


Development – Staying Focused

This topic is especially relevant to me as I type this.  I’ve just spent the better part of 3 weeks focused on learning a new client’s business process for service management.  While things like this can be tedious, they are also tremendous opportunities for new ideas and new products.  That’s exactly where I am right now.  I’m in the middle of 2 rather large development projects, but I’ve just been struck with several ideas that people are asking for!!!

So, how do you balance that.  I’m struggling right now.  I just want to pull up one of my original products and begin adding some new features to it…  I want to start developing a brand new application that I see is a perfect fit for several customers I’ve recently talked to…  But, I’m in the 75% complete for one our brand new production offerings.  And I’m a third of the way done in converting my first product from BSP to ABAP Web Dynpro.  Both of these are already more than I should be trying to handle at one time…  but I need to shift gears from time to time to help avoid burnout.

So, here’s what I’m doing…  I’m taking really good notes and adding items to my to-do list.  I’m trying to get my head back in the game on what I need to finish first.  Why you might ask?  you have a request from a customer?  an actual need!!!  true.  But we also have a business plan…  and my partner and I agreed to it.  We believe this new production product can be huge.  And while the Service Management side of our offerings is starting to gain traction, we will never get the same traction on the Production Execution side if we don’t finish the offering.  Plus, several half finished products equal ZERO revenue =)

So just remember, you started with a plan…  stick with it unless there is reason to deviate.  And even then, work with your team.  It’s easy to get excited about “potential”, but until someone signs on the bottom of your contract, it doesn’t mean anything.  it’s just something that someone asked for, but might never be willing to pay for.  There will be time later to reset priorities…  and that’s exactly what I plan to do after the SAP MFG conference =)

Interested in earning $12,500?

Ok, while normally I spend my time giving you tidbits of useful business or SAP information, today I’m going to offer a big chunk of cash, in exchange for a little help.  In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m trying to launch a software business so I can slide out of the consulting world.  I have several products available right now, and with the new year, I’m trying to drum up some new sales.

So, here’ the deal.  If you provide me with a lead that turns into a sale, I send you $12,500.  That’s it.  You don’t need to do any selling, you don’t need to be an expert about my products.  You just need to provide me a contact (name, email, phone #, etc.), and if you want to increase your chances, it wouldn’t hurt to pass along the websites below.

Today, I’m going to do a brief commercial in hopes that you may know someone that can use this.
Broadsword: Service Management Dashboard – exactly what it sounds like.  This is a full featured, out of the box SM dashboard that gives you metrics on notifications, in-house repairs, repair sales orders, service orders, and even return orders.

Rapier:  SM Customer Self-Service: This is an out of the box BSP web application that allows your customer to register their products, submit an RMA or repair request, and allow them to track their open notifications.  It uses all standard SAP functionality and takes the burden off your call center.

WMigo: Warehouse Management + Inventory Management:  This application behaves like the standard MIGO transaction, but will automatically convert TR’s to TO’s and confirm those TO’s.  this is especially useful when you are moving materials from quality to unrestricted, or bin to bin movements when the same person is conducting all of the SAP transactions.

Proximity: Production Operations:  This product tool includes a super transaction for Production Supervisors, Production Execution, MRP Controllers & Production Schedulers.  In addition, it includes a transaction to easily reprint a production order, it includes 2 smartforms for the shop floor papers and the programs that allow you to use a smartform in production orders and many other things.

We also have a couple other smaller items, and I would love to have you check out everything we have at


Idiot Proofing your Software

Today I just want to talk about something that is pretty obvious to most people, but I hope to give you a few new ideas on it anyway.  The topic today is idiot proofing your application.  Now, let me go on record by saying idiot proofing your software is pretty much impossible, however, you still need to you best.  I had a friend that used to tell me, “you can monkey proof your software all you want, but they just hiring better monkeys”.

So do you just run through it once, and call it good since you know it’ll be broken anyway?  of course not.  For me, this has always been a challenge.  I’m part of a small business, and I’m the lone developer.  That means, I’ve gotten really good at fixing the things I know will happen, but it also means that I tend to get tunnel vision.  I believe it a common thing among developers, but the key is to avoid that trap.  So here are some of the ways I’m trying to improve my own products…

1.  Get someone that knows nothing about product to play with it.  If I could get her interested, my wife would be a perfect test subject.  She doesn’t use SAP, she knows nothing about service, but she does understand IT and software.  By getting someone with no idea what is supposed to happen means that they will push all the buttons you never expected anyone to push.  They will also look at it from a purely aesthetic perspective, something that I don’t do as well.

2.  Next, if you can, get someone that isn’t good with software, but understands the business.  this will give you the true test if you got the right info.  If someone looks at the information generated, and says “this would help me run my business”, then you’re onto something.

3.  finally, get another developer to look at your stuff.  they’ll look at some of the ways you’ve done things and ask “why?”  Often, we know a way to do something, so we don’t look for better ways.  Often I’ll go to someplace like tech-ed or even a blog post and notice a strange piece of code.  I look at it closer, next thing you know, I’ve found a better way to do something 🙂  The problem is that I don’t have the time to reveiw everything, and I’m biased, so I don’t see anything wrong with my approach.  But…  if someone else asks why did I do this, instead of that? well, it forces me to look at my stuff and either explain why it had to be done this way, or I may say…  hmmmm, that’s a better way.  Now I know a new way to do it.  ha ha ha

The last point is to do this early and often in your development cycle.  Point #2 is really something you should get before you even start programming.  Sketch what you’re thinking, and show it to a business person.  Ask if it would help… if not, why bother?

Anyway, this has been on my mind lately, so if you have some other good ideas, or are interested in playing with anything I’ve done, I’m always interested in having another set of eyes look at my stuff.



Creating the Sales Contract

when you finally  get the pleasure of doing a sale, you need to make sure you have the right paperwork in place.  One of the key things is the sales contract.  Luckily, I had the agreement that I signed for the SAP partnership, so I was able to use that a guide for structuring my own sales Contract.  What I learned is that there are some pretty standard pieces of it…  then from there, you just need to add your own spin.

For example, here’s the main pieces of mine that I just put together.

1.  The general section.  From the ones I’ve seen, this is the easy part.  It has the name of what you’re selling with a short description, the customer’s information (name, address, etc..)  My contact info and any annexes (additional documents)

2.  Scope of the agreement.  this pretty much specifies what you are selling and what’s included/not included.  It also defines who “you” are.

3.  Next is the Renumeration…  pretty much, what’s the agreed upon price.  Any discounts, etc.  the short story behind this, what are you getting for the sale.  In my case, I gave a list price, then stated the discount the customer gets in exchange for a reference and signing the agreement by a certain date.

4.  Invoicing and Payment.  Pretty simple…  payment terms.  when will they pay by, do you offer a cash discount, do you provide the product or service before or after receiving payment.

5.  the next one was something I added in because it was a customer concern.  that was support.  Because I’m a small company, the customer is obviously concerned about how I will support the product after the sale.  The funny thing is, actually he’s likely to get much better support out of me than he is a bigger company, but regardless, it still needs to be spelled out in the agreement.  Some important things to include are also what isn’t covered in your support.  If you don’t clearly state this, you could end up providing support for things you didn’t intend.  Do your best to think like a lawyer here =)

Finally, the signature page.  Make sure to collect the customer’s PO number.  the name and title of whomever will be signing this agreement, and once again the date.  Finally, you will countersign this agreement to make it all legal like.

All and all, it was pretty painless, but I”m sure glad I had an example to start with.  If you’d like to see mine, just make me an offer on my software and I’ll be happy to send one right over to you =).

As always, thanks for reading,


WMIGO is ready for the next phase – MIGO + WM is a winning combination

For anyone that’s been reading, you’ll know that I started a tool that would allow you to do a material movement and create the transfer order in a single step.  Well, I’m excited because last night, I put the finishing touches on that tool.  I still need to do some full scale testing and create the documentation for it, but round one is done.  It uses the idea of transaction MIGO and incorporates the WM pieces into it.

Some of the lessons I learned while building this, don’t clone transactions, and even be careful cloning screens.  I ran into this when I began to set up the serial number entry screen.  At first, I started by just copying the screen from MB1B.  Nice and easy, right?  not so much.  I quickly  came to the same realization as I did when I copied the MB1B transaction completely.  It works, but it opens the door to a lot of potential headaches.  So, like the main transaction, I looked at what was happening in MB1B, and took the important pieces.  Now there may still be things that will need to be added into future releases.  For example, at this time I’m not covering the user exits and enhancement points that the standard material movement have built into them.  This may be a requirement for some of my future customers, and if so, at that time I’ll work on building those into my solution.  IN the meantime, the functionality works, and I’ve created a pretty slick tool.

Finally, big thanks go out to Jeff Bass, without whom none of this would’ve been possible.  Jeff is quite possibly the best WM teacher out there.  Certainly the best I’ve ever met.  I knew very little about WM before sitting down with Jeff for an hour.  After that, I have a very solid grasp of how it works (and at least enough to set up a simple WM configuration).  So thanks Jeff…  couldn’t have done it without you…

as always, I keep learning the hard way so you don’t have to.