Uppercase in computer records–please no!

From time to time you encounter systems where the company style is to capitalise names in the system. I know of users who might as well glue the caps-lock on!

When to use a capital letter

If faced with the, we have always done it this way problem, fight it. Excuses come out like its for users with vision problems (there are magnifiers and system tools to help there), improves clarity for parcels going overseas to other cultures (I doubt it makes much difference in compter type, maybe for hand written?), etc.

Capitalisation is a lossy process

In the context of company names, street names, people names, the capitalisation can be important as it conveys information that is lost if it is presented in entirely uppercase. 
examples:

  • McKenzie vs MCKENZIE
  • O'Donnell vs O'DONNEL
  • MacBain VS MACBAIN

There are many others and in other cultures where the capitalisation conveys information that cannot be recovered again if lose, by the use of automated processing.

Mail Merge

It makes it look bad for mail merges later too

"Dear Mr ODONNEL

Thank you for your order."

Just looks bad.

Thus don’t shout at your customers with capitals, use your SHIFT keys!

Enterprise Software Podcast

If you are involved in ERP software, no matter what vendor, then the Enterprise Software Podcast is a good aggregator of news and views on the ERP software market. Informative and usually quite light-hearted.The content is product agnostic and is provides an easy way to keep in touch with the gossip, including who is moving to what company.

Go check out the old episodes and subscribe to the new ones here: Enterprise Software Podcast

Enterprise Software Podcast microphone logo

Little did I expect when I started listening, what was some time ago now, that one day I would get to talk on the podcast. While at GPUG Summit I was given the opportunity when I was asked for an interview. Luckily it stayed  very shallow and so I didn’t get to rant on any contumacious issues like Dynamics 365 or other subjects, in our market space, keeps me safe from putting my foot in it!

If you are interested it is going to be episode fifty two. I’ve listened to the rushes already, I understand that expected publication is 19th Oct 2016.

Project “Madeira”– Microsoft tackle cloud ERP threat

Project Madeira

The big announcement this week was Project Madeira, a new Cloud based ERP solution in Office 365, running as a multi-tenant,  from and managed by Microsoft. It is odd that this came a week after the Envision conference and perhaps the fact that the project has not yet got a RTM name says they just couldn’t keep it  under wraps any longer?

The product is initially only available for the US market, but I predict it will quickly roll out to the rest of the world. A demo site is available to give it a spin…
Madeira website demo signup

The product is possibly going to address the issue I blogged about earlier this year, where cloud based solutions such as Netsuite are causing disruption in the ERP market, forcing MS partners to diversify in order to win some new deals. It is also promoted as a bridge for smaller companies to move from the first small financial solutions software packages to grown up ERP. So the important point is that now MS partners have options of on-premise or much simplified SaaS subscription sales. Microsoft benefit from bringing the SaaS solution in house onto Azure, of guaranteeing the customer experience of the service is excellent.

Project Madeira is based on the Microsoft NAV code base and written to run on the Azure cloud platform, as a multi-tenant application, this means everyone will be provisioned with the same solution, unlike the managed service version of NAV that can be modified for a customers requirements and requires manual updating as new releases occur. Madeira can be extended with a plug-in extension system.

From the outset Microsoft are encouraging ISV’s to get on board and develop plugin extensions to the new product, already supplied is a migration tool for Quick Books and excel.  The product is aimed at smaller businesses (sub 100 seats), although that is a goal post I can see changing in the future as it gets established and those businesses grow. MS are bound to grow the product to avoid loosing those customers. As the solution is a cloud SaaS application, the maintenance and updates to the application will be forced from Microsoft to everyone on the platform, thus why custom modifications cannot be supported.

Trying it out

As a curious fellow, I had to take it for a spin. It is NAV but not as we know it. Error messages, menu options and help links all affirm that this product has been evolved from the NAV code base but written for cloud hosting and delivery. It is currently a much simplified, smaller in breadth and depth of features compared to its parent, but covering the basic needs of a small business that it is currently aimed at. There is plenty of time before the product goes to market for changes to occur too.

There are already places to get Web Service Access in the user interface and windows to configure extensions so this looks good for developers. There are also options to configure external services connections.

Web Serice Access config window for keysService Connections showing connectors to online servicesPlug in window showing paypal, quickbooks data migration

Item maintenance is a breeze and feels natural and familiar.
Item Card, showing the item setup for a chair with photo

By the end of my investigation I so wanted one of those Tokyo chairs!

Inventory Browsing showing selection of products with nice pictures

This announcement came out of nowhere for me, after taking the preview for a run, I was pleasantly surprised by how good it felt, this doesn’t feel like a rushed out marketing driven market positioning project that I expected. I do feel that the Acumentia and Netsuite et al have an advantage being born in the cloud, and having a number of years maturing there too, however this is looking like a credible product for small companies. Microsoft now have a large number of ERP solutions in its portfolio, something difficult for the marketing team and a burden for the developers, but with each having a good market share I can’t see any of them going anywhere soon.