Monday, September 7, 2009

Implementing SAP Business One - Customization & Integration Notes

SAP Business One has about 4 years of implementation history and very robust presence in the USA, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, plus it has strong positions internationally. Considering the fact of relatively young age – the design of the system, including object model enable advanced customization, integration with both legacy and new technologies. We see certain stake on Microsoft technologies, such as MS SQL Server and COM object model. Integrated CRM module allows you to deploy Microsoft Outlook client for messaging, just to name a few. In addition to the customizability – SAP Business One has transaction integration to high end SAP, which allows this product to consolidate mid-size and small subsidiaries across the USA or internationally to your SAP corporate ERP system – franchisees network, dealerships, manufacturing facilities, etc. In this small article we will give customization scenarios to IT managers, who are planning to deploy SAP Business One integration, customization, reporting, etc• SAP Business One SDK. SAP Business One Software Development Kit has User Interface API, Data Interface API, Java Connector. The recommended way of customization design is XML web services, which allows you integrate custom web portals with SAP Business One objects: Sales Orders, Inventory Items, Customers. Ecommerce or Web-based Extranet (collaboration with your permanent vendors and customers) would be a good example.
• Implementation Partners. SAP Business One has several licensing & certifications criteria. One path allows the SAP partner to provide installations and so-called functional consulting. This means that these companies are experts of tying your business processes to SAP Business One standard set of modules and standard features/functionality. In our opinion – SAP BO is not only for relatively small to midsize businesses, but also for mid-size to large and even corporate business (subsidiaries and branches). Large companies have combination of multiple systems, including legacy – often they combine several platforms: Windows, Unix/Linux, Lotus Notes Domino, Siebel CRM, Salelogix, IBM DB2 to name a few. In this situation you need partnership with technically-savvy and experienced partner
• Customization Partners. SAP Business One SDK is not an open technology and in order to get access to it SAP Partner should get SDK development training and pass certification exam. At the same time, SAP SDK uses open tools, such as Microsoft Visual Studio, for example for coding itself. This leads to the common practice when Customization partners do not provide implementation and functional consulting services, but rather concentrate on development – offshore business location is also common. Some risk, however might be attributed to the fact that one organization does business processes specification and another one realizes them in custom coding.
• Technology Partners. The best result in the custom solution in our opinion could be achieved with SAP Business One Partner, who does both sides: Implementation/Functional and Customization/Development. Considering less then 10,000 SAP Business One implementations worldwide – it might be difficult to find local technology partner in your area, in this case – the compromise is to use remote partner with the network of local independent contractors.

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Microsoft Great Plains Customization Tools – overview

Former Great Plains Software Dynamics/eEnterprise, and currently Microsoft Business Solutions Great Plains was initially designed in the earlier 1990th as the extendable and modular application with its proprietary tool: Great Plains Dexterity, written in C programming language as a shell. This was popular tendency those days –compare with SAP ABAP or Navision C/Side. Great Plains has additional ideas – database platform independence and graphical platform independent interface (initially targeted to both Apple Macintosh and Microsoft Windows with good chance that one of them will take market over – and it did happen, including the acquisition of Great Plains Software by Microsoft). In this small article we’ll give you revised overview – you can find previous publication in the last year posts.
• Great Plains Dexterity. Dexterity is the architecture of Great Plains and it is very difficult to take it out of the picture. So we’ll say that if you plan on creation GP module or custom piece for reselling it on the market – you should first consider Dexterity as a tool. Dexterity requires deep training and some experience – you can not begin programming in Dexterity over night. So-called fat client of Great Plains is pure dexterity application, however database itself since version 8.0 is MS SQL Server with some Dexterity specifics (DEW_ROW_ID column, for example).
• Old Tools. These tools were popular in 1990th and relate to such now legacy technologies as OLE, VBA scripting, etc. Please note that even if C was considered as universal language – custom scripts were targeted for light customizations and both C and VBA were targeted to modify fat client – thin client and web interface were not known those good old days.
1. VBA/Modifier. Microsoft introduced VBA as scripting for light customization of Microsoft Office products – Excel, Word, etc. Great Plains adopted it for its own needs. It tried to produce Dexterity/VBA hybrid and allowed Dexterity forms to be modified via Modifier (Dexterity application) and enabled modified screens to adopt VBA for its fields.
2. Continuum for VB/Dephi. Borland was strong on the customization market – this is why it also includes Delphi. In Continuum you can program Great Plains workstation as OLE server. For example – you can have Great Plains Integration Manager integrate several companies data one-by-one with automatic logging in and off without operator intervention – over night for example. Also – you can deploy Continuum to switch Dexterity modules (such as Intellisol APOP or Project Accounting) and include Dexterity Sanscript code into VBA scripts.
3. ReportWriter. We placed RW in this section because it is Dexterity application and is now actively replaced with new tools, such as Crystal Reports, SQL Reporting, XML & HTML web publishing
• New Tools. In XXI century development world begins to bias toward thin and web clients and SQL scripting. eCommerce is a must for retail and wholesale nationwide businesses and Microsoft Business Solutions come with these tools:
1. eConnect. As good instrument for eCommerce developer – it allows to create, modify and delete Great Plains objects – customers, invoices, purchase orders, payments, inventory items. It has certain restrictions – it can address core Great Plains objects (not something in former third party modules – Collection Management, Customer/Vendor Consolidation, etc.). Also eConnect can not post SOP, AR, AP, POP documents – posting should be done by operator in Great Plains. However you can deploy posting stored procedures, available on the market (through Alba Spectrum for example)
2. Extender. Let’s see it in action in the following year. The idea is really nice and it allows non-developer to modify Great Plains screens and place custom logic
You can always appeal to our expertise. Give us a call: 1-630-961-5918, 1-866-528-0577,