Tuesday, September 24, 2013

M3 13.1 / BE 15 & SmartOffice 10.1.1 UI improvements

I've been using BE 15 for a few weeks now with Smart Office 10.1.1 and I wanted to mention a few of my favourite UI improvements.

There are simple things like the Text Block now defaulting the active control to the Next button.  This is a great time saver when you have T in your panel sequence and you are pressing ENTER to move between the panels.
With BE 14 and below the default control was the text field so you needed to use the mouse or Tab key to get to the Next button to submit which interrupted a user's flow.  Now with BE 15 you can just keep pressing ENTER to move between the panels including Text panels.

The new toolbox screens are great.  Infor has built a new toolbox screen standard (see NCR 5418 on InforXtreme for details) which provides both additional toolbox screens but also enhanced capability within the toolbox screens.  

There are three major parts to this change:
  1. Views can now be linked to Sorting Orders.  With previous versions of the BE toolbox screens could use any view with any sorting order.  This would often lead to combinations that made little workflow sense.  You can now specify on a View that this should be restricted to a specified Sorting Order.
  2. Views are extended to 30 columns with up to 250 characters which is close to double the previous limits.  This allows us to make proper use of widescreen monitors.
  3. Columns within the Views can be logically formatted.  We can specify date formatting, numerical formatting, financial formatting (appending CR to negative values) etc.
This is a big change and very beneficial to the screens that support the new toolbox standard.  However screens that were previously toolbox screens (OIS300, MMS200, PMS100, PMS170, PPS170 etc.) have not been updated to support the new standard.  This is a shame as the new standard is a significant improvement over what was offered before.  This does make BE 15 a bit of a transitional release with different approaches to creation and maintenance of the toolbox screens depending on which program you are in.

Perhaps my favourite new function however is the addition of related tables and virtual fields.  These are a framework that allow us to easily build functionality that extends M3.  The related tables can be found from the new program CMS005.
Here I have created a new custom table and linked it to MMS001 based on the primary keys
With a very simple JScript I am now able to easily add additional fields to MMS001 from the custom table I created in CMS011 and read and write these via the native M3 APIs e.g.
It's also now possible to show these custom fields in the new toolbox screens.

We were able to do this already with Mashups, JScripts and Web Services, but this new functionality bakes this into the core of M3 and makes building extensions to M3 significantly easier.

Some of the functionality highlights I see as particularly valuable for my customers includes:
  • Customer Order workflow improvements to significantly reduce the number of panels required to enter a CO
  • Improvements to the Purchase Order process to ease the analysis of alternate acquisition methods and print a PO without sending it to the supplier
  • Improvements to the Balance ID toolbox to bring some of the DO creation functionality initially introduced in Warehouse Mobility back into the core M3 package
  • Changes to the stocktake functionality to reduce the cost of undertaking cyclic stocktakes by initiating stocktakes on empty locations and during picking
  • Significant improvements for the F&B industry including best before & harvest / kill dates, ageing in hours and minutes, GS1-style extensions to PO processes and addition of allocation restrictions to ensure that a customer is never shipped older product than has already been dispatched to them
  • Lot blending within silos and Lab Inspection changes to allow Lab Inspections at the Balance ID rather than lot level
  • An API for GLS850
  • Improvements to the ability to reconcile the logistics and general ledger systems
  • The ability to mark a user as "Deactivated" within MNS150 without deleting the user.

As time allows I'll cover some of these in additional posts.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

M3 SDK alternative

There's a great post over on the Smart Office blog about how to build Smart Office applications when you don't have access to the Smart Office SDK.  It would be great to see wider distribution of the Smart Office SDK, as it allows developers to quickly and easily extend the core functionality of M3 using Visual Studio, but this is the next best thing.  All that appears to be missing is the logic for deploying a Smart Office package in LCM, though that appears to be a zip file with a manifest so should be able to be reverse-engineered.