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How I can improve my erp system to meet the latest technologies?

Posted on 2014-01-08
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Last Modified: 2014-01-11
I have ERP System , Power Builder SQL 2008 back end. Client to Server, Not cloud, not webased .
What technical advices  you can give for me to improve the system to meet the latest tech.So I can generate more sales.
Thanks
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Question by:Ihab
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by:Jim Dettman (Microsoft MVP/ EE MVE)
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I don't think the answer to your question is a technical one, but rather a process based one; does your ERP package do everything you need it to do to run your business?

 Are you doing tasks outside of the system?  For example, forecasting?   Providing vendors with remittances on spreadsheets?  Can't do EFT?

 The other part is; is it flexible. Can it accommodate new needs easily?  When new things have come up over the past year, has the package been able to handle it, or have you had to find a work around?
 
  Technology for the most part is easy.  For example, your customers want access to their orders in your system for status checks.   In your situation, that would mean a terminal services server with a remote app published.  No changes to your ERP system or current technology really (there'd be no need to write a web interface unless you had thousands of customers).

 Without knowing a lot more about your business and the package you have, it's hard to offer anything specific.

Jim.
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by:Ihab
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Thanks Mr. Jim

My ERP is programmed with power builder and SQL 2008 Database, contains the following modules :
1-Financials
2-Inventory
3-Service /Garage
4-Rental for Cars
5-Treasury
6-Selling Cars
7-Project Management
8-Insurance

 Many consultants asked me to put it on cloud, webased...etc
What advises you can give it to me Mr, Jim? so I enhance the software better and meet the latest tech
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by:Jim Dettman (Microsoft MVP/ EE MVE)
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<<What advises you can give it to me Mr, Jim? so I enhance the software better and meet the latest tech >>

 I am a strong believer in "if it is not broke, there is no need to fix it".    You do not need the latest and greatest technology to have software that works well.

  What it comes down to is this: Is there anything your software is not doing now that you would like it to?

  and then, what does it take to get there?

 There are some side considerations as well, such as costing too much to support because of the platform it is based on,  but changing technology just to have the latest and greatest is not a good reason.

<< Many consultants asked me to put it on cloud, webased...etc>>

 What reasons are they giving you for suggesting this?   Have they provide you with details on what problems will be solved by changing?

Jim.
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by:Ihab
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The problem is we cant support overseas, we have limited resources,so we can't pay for the engineers to travel and support outside our country, This prevent us from selling the system globally.
Right now the system is doing well but now the market is limited in our region, and when the customer asks "web-based?cloud? we answer "No , it is client server "-then they reply back "it is old technology".
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by:Jim Dettman (Microsoft MVP/ EE MVE)
Jim Dettman (Microsoft MVP/ EE MVE) earned 166 total points
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<<This prevent us from selling the system globally>>

 Well that's a different situation then because your asking this as a developer of a product rather then as a user of it.

<<ght now the system is doing well but now the market is limited in our region, and when the customer asks "web-based?cloud? we answer "No , it is client server "-then they reply back "it is old technology". >>

 Well, you have two choices:

1. Re-write it as an n-tier application and have different presentation layers (one for the desktop, one for the web, one for mobile devices, etc).

2. Give reasons why you feel it's OK to use as a client / server application.  "Old" (and I'd disagree that client/server is "old" at this point) and "Bad" are not one in the same things.

  In other words come up with counter-points to why it does not matter that it is not web based.  

 For example, many companies are running ERPs not on a web based technology, but use terminal services and/or Citrix for their entire operation.

  What about security and control of the data?   Are they willing to let a 3rd party have a copy of the data?  Dictate when and how that data is backed up?   With any cloud technology, there is a loss of control.  Can they even use cloud technology; will every user have a good internet connection?   What happens if they loose their connection?

  While Cloud technologies are gaining traction, there still are a number of reasons not to use them and they are still in their infancy.  

 It also depends on exactly what you mean by "Cloud", a term which has become so overused it can mean a wide range of things:

1. An app is web based or can be accessed through the web.
2. Hosted servers - You rent a server, but basically control what happens on it.
3. Hosted applications - You rent a server, which is pre-configure with certain software, like SQL server and Exchange, and you have no control over it.
4. Software as a Service (SAAS) - You own neither the software or the servers.

Jim.
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by:Ihab
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Re-write it as an n-tier application and have different presentation layers (one for the desktop, one for the web, one for mobile devices, etc).
This will cost too much, is there a tool so it can migrate it to web?
Thanks
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by:Jim Dettman (Microsoft MVP/ EE MVE)
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<<This will cost too much, is there a tool so it can migrate it to web?>>

 I don't know in regards to pwer builder, but I can say in general, anytime you move a client/server app of any type to the web, it's almost always a total re-write.

 That's why often many go the route of running a terminal services farm.   With that, they can have both traditional desktop users and users accessing the application through the web with a single version of the app.

 That works pretty well for anything up to hundreds of users, but if you get beyond that, then it's better to have an actual web based application.

  Sorry I cannot offer more on Power Builder specficially, but this question went in a direction I was not expecting.

  Maybe now that it has been said exactly what it is your looking for, someone with Power Builder knowledge can give you a better idea on your options.

Jim.
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by:Vadim Rapp
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The latest tech won't improve sales. People will. Hire right people. Then, if these people identify shortcomings in the technology, then address those shortcomings; if they make suggestions on what to implement, implement that.
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by:Mark Wills
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Well, it is possible to use Azure and therefore become cloud based...

A couple of years back, there was an impressive TechWave conference that featured another Jim and has bloged about it : http://blogs.msdn.com/b/jimoneil/archive/2011/09/26/techwave-2011-powerbuilder-and-the-cloud.aspx

And the guys at Accenture presented their solution and has appeared on PowerbuilderTV http://powerbuildertv.com/index.php/en/archived-webinars/web-enabling/342-accenture-case-study-taking-powerbuilder-to-the-cloud-with-microsoft-azure

So, if it is to "tick a box" to say you are cloud based, then the above might help.

However there is a lot more that needs to be done if you truly want to globalise...
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by:Ihab
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Thanks all
@ Mark Wills
<<However there is a lot more that needs to be done if you truly want to globalise>>
Can you give more details Please?
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by:Mark Wills
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Little things like :

1) Picking up on Regional Settings
2) Dates - Format and Time Zones then keeping time offsets
3) Currency formats and rates
4) Character Sets (Unicode for double byte languages)
5) Translators (languages)
6) Field / display sizes
7) Page layout (LTR or RTL reading direction)
8) Various local Tax laws (being an ERP system)
9) Collations

There is some reading material out there :

http://www.redbooks.ibm.com/redbooks/pdfs/sg246851.pdf
http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa292479(v=vs.71).aspx
http://www.openoffice.org/specs/collaterals/guides/I18n_in_Software.html

My first attempt didn't go so well. It was a local system and with a few changes we did manage some success for English Speaking Countries.

That bought the time needed to rewrite and restructure to make it truly "world market" and while it was technically was OK, didn't get much success outside the English Speaking Countries and that was primarily due to cultural elements. What we ended up with was a system that catered for a lot of possibilities that were never used, but, also better served the countries where we did deploy.

Testing is always very difficult - you do need access to people who truly understand the language and culture of your target markets. Little thing like a screen prompt can sometimes be offensive or overtly blunt.

So, before you start, you really do need to understand your target markets both in terms of your application (e.g. Tax Laws) and the culture.

BTW, that powerbulderTV also has a link about converting to .net

And then there is all the fun with different device support. And having a Phone or Tablet version might give the appearance of being "modern" without having to tackle world markets first.
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by:David Todd
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Hi,

Given the remaining life in SQL 2008, and the new features starting in SQL 2014, make sure that you support the current database platforms.

That is, you don't want to loose a sale with a client saying that they wont install a new instance of SQL 2008, and you can't support the product on SQL 2012 etc.

I'm in the position of consulting to a previous employers client, and they have performance issues, and the fix is upgrade, but the product works on SQL 2005 with compatibility set to 80. So how does my client obtain SQL 2005 Standard Edition (64-bit) media these days?

Regards
  David
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by:Vadim Rapp
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David, you probably assume that question author is selling database consulting services? There are still some folks whose business is actually manufacturing, usually they are the ones who run ERP systems with database backends. And they even want to generate more sales :-)
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by:Mark Wills
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Very good point David.

For the exact same reasons, our systems tended to use IO modules which either called web services, or stored procedures, or (in the case of early mobile) formed the actual query.

So developing a new data interface was easy to isolate just to the IO module if needed. For the "tethered" systems, we could deploy a choice of Express or Licensed versions and most of the connection setup was via external initialisation files giving the correct connection command structure depending on version. Then we used stored procedures a lot to retrieve the data sets so the server did all the hard work and made the app pretty much DB version independent. I'm sure there are probably better ways these days.

Again, good point David, and there is a LOT to consider...
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David Todd earned 84 total points
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@vadimrapp1.

To clarify, I have no idea how a manufacturer's individual erp system would or would not help sales - other than if the client is big enough, then anytime you can assist with edi interfacing to your client then the better. But pretty much this is all individual to the specific client, and anything can be layered, ie reporting systems that have different rdbms's oracle - sql for instance  etc.

Yip, I was taking the position that the asker is selling erp systems.

Regards
  David
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