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Friday, 30 September 2011 09:50

Are IT projects really ticking time bombs?

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I recently read an article in the Toronto Star titled “IT projects are ticking time bombs.”

The article cited a study at Oxford University where they found that 17 percent of IT projects were so mismanaged that they had “average cost overruns of 200 per cent….”

After reading the article, I spent some time thinking about the IT projects I’ve been involved in over the years, from the large, multi-million dollar SAP projects to the smaller, 5-15 user Dynamics GP projects. I’ve had my share of smooth go-lives and my share of “rough” projects. One common theme with the projects that run smoothly is that an unbreakable link exists between the project team and their vision of what they’re working on and the overall business goals for the project.

It’s somewhat human nature, really. If we understand the “why” of what we’re doing, then the “what”, and “how” are easier to understand and “get behind.” I’ve seen projects with great potential and a really strong business case go off the rails because the executives didn’t effectively communicate to the project team what the real goal was. If the project team and leaders have “context” by which to understand the purpose behind the project, the odds of success rise dramatically.

There are obviously numerous other factors that affect the outcome of an IT project (which I’ve written about in the past), but I come back to executive involvement and leadership as the #1 factor in project success.

I’ve even seen “rough” projects continue off the rails for months and even years until a new executive comes on board in the company to “take charge” and rally the troops around fixing the problems that exist. In fact, it amazes me every time how rapidly the issues actually get resolved, once a strong leader puts their weight behind identifying the problems and assigning clear accountability for their resolution.

One of the things I look for when selling software to a new prospect is a strong leader. We even had a Client executive bring his entire team to our office this week just to “see the whites of our eyes” and have his team meet ours before moving forward with us. To me, that’s a sign of a strong leader who understands what it takes to deliver a successful IT project.

So perhaps some IT projects are ticking time bombs, but all bombs can be diffused by the right person with the right tools and attitude.

By Andrew King, Managing Director, WebSan Solutions Inc.

Friday, 30 September 2011 09:40

Cut down on IT spending by using Software as a service

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We all know that the economy is not in the best shape. Some companies are forced to downsize due to insufficient revenue in these times. Anywhere that they can cut cost is a benefit to them, that’s why many companies are now deciding to use Saas (Software as a service). Just because a company may be downsizing doesn’t mean their data and files do, so they still need software to store their information. The great aspect about Saas is that instead of spending money on hardware, installation and maintenance you have the advantages of having your company records, data and information web based.

If you can save money in you IT spending and still have the advantages of data being backed up, disaster recovery and long term record retention, wouldn’t you do it? But maybe you’re a smaller company and your IT department consists of only you. Then you should get your core business applications hosted in the “Cloud”. You still have access to everything in your database; the only difference is that it’s through the internet. Now you might ask, “What kind of software would be a good choice to leverage as a hosted solution?”

Microsoft Dynamics GP online accounting software gives companies the flexibility to customize the software based on their needs and requirements. It’s one of the most capable and sophisticated business accounting solutions for small to medium business, now available in the Cloud. No need to install software on users’ laptops or worry about keeping the system updated with the latest patch.

Investing in Online Dynamics GP is a good investment in your business; it puts your finance department on the same wavelength with other department and keeps your general ledgers, payables and receivables, budgeting, collections management highly organized.

For more information about Microsoft Dynamics GP click here

By Natalie Williams, Marketing Coordinator, WebSan Solutions Inc., a Canadian Certified Microsoft Dynamics Partner

Monday, 03 October 2011 07:38

We Are Certified!

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Last week I met with a new client, we began with our normal introductions, etc.  They were curious as to my expertise with the Dynamics product line.  After discussing the seven different certifications I personally have from Microsoft, the conversation quickly moved onto other topics.  However, this reminded me of the rigorous screening process Microsoft employs for its partner network.

Any partner wishing to sell Microsoft Dynamics GP must have employees certified in its core financial management system.  Further certifications are required in database management among others.  Recently all Microsoft Partners were asked to complete formal training & certification in Sure Step, the Microsoft Project Management System.  I am glad to say all WebSan staff that were tested passed with flying colours!

Congratulations Team WebSan!

A CEO plays one of the most important roles in a business and has a tremendous amount of responsibility. So some people may say, “I would never want to be a CEO, it’s just too much”. But I say, “If you increase your business intelligence using Microsoft GP, it is a breeze.” Now you’ll have more knowledge to:

Make better business decisions

  • You don’t have to solely rely on advisors, consultants and employees because you have educated yourself about what’s been going on in the company.

Use a tool you are already familiar with to reduce operational costs

  • With more than 200+ built in Excel reports it is easier to observe changes in the company and react to market conditions rapidly.

Achieve your budget and forecast targets more consistently

  • Productivity improves because budgeting will be more accurate and planning will be more organized.

Be notified about key changes in your business rapidly

  • Be anywhere in the world and enable the system to alert YOU proactively when key metrics change

With this new found awareness it is easier to track many things in your company using Microsoft GP. If this has not persuaded you to at least see what Microsoft Dynamics GP can do for you, then I’m assuming you’re already profitable and as happy as you can be.

By Natalie Williams, WebSan Solutions Inc., a Canadian Certified Microsoft Dynamics Partner

Sunday, 11 September 2011 11:12

Built In Informational Messages on Login

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One of the lesser known setup features of Microsoft Dynamics GP2010 is the ability to have the system pop-up a predefined message box on login advising to the status of an environment.

If anyone has used the fabrikam company, you know what I'm referring to, the modal dialog box that appears advising that this is a demonstration company, etc etc.

There are actually two other message boxes that you can trigger for your own company.

If you navigate to your company setup screen  (Tools--> Setup --> Company --> Company)

compsetup

You can add two different reserved tags to the end of the Company Name.

The first is <TEST>, (make sure you include the angle brackets and enter all UPPERCASE letters). This will trigger the following popup for all users to this company on login:

testpopup

Alternatively, if you change the company name and a "<HISTORICAL>" tag to the end of the company name you will trigger this pop-up:

histpopup

These are both handy messages to advise users that this is a Test or Archive instance.

This works in both GP10 and Gp2010, however, as of build 1752, there is a small known glitch in which the Dynamics Connect home-screen widget will not work when using these tags. See this blog for details...

A word of caution, don't modify any other parts of the company name, and always put the tag at the end, as some modules require exact spelling of the company name for their registration keys to operate (for example Canadian Payroll).

In my next post I'll discuss the various methods to have different colours by company, in both GP10 and GP2010.

Stay tuned until next time...

Saturday, 10 September 2011 11:36

Server Error in /lus Application error on Home Screen

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New on the Dynamics GP2010 home screen is the "Connect" window. This widget dynamically populates with Microsoft Dynamics GP support information, user groups and links to general information.

One thing we noticed is with any of our test companies we always saw this error:

Dynamics HomeScreen Error

Well it turns out this is caused by special characters in the company name.

As many of you know, when you put the tag "<TEST>" into the company name you get a nice warning on login that this is a a test company. See this blog for details...

Unfortunately, the angle brackets cause the URL to the Dynamics Connect site to get malformed.

Here is the URL that Dynamics Connect is trying to access:

https://online.dynamics.com/lus/?se=popup&autorefresh=false&product=GPRoleCenter&version=11.00.0349.000&roleid=0&country=US&locale=EN-US&company=%3cTEST%3e&role=Basic+Home+Page

Notice the "&company" parameter  is "%3cTEST%3e". The %3c and %3e are the HEX equivilant codes for the ASCII characters that represent < and >

If you remove the characters it will open fine.

Here try to click this link: https://online.dynamics.com/lus/?se=popup&autorefresh=false&product=GPRoleCenter&version=11.00.0349.000&roleid=0&country=US&locale=EN-US&company=TEST&role=Basic+Home+Page

Unfortunately until Microsoft fixes this your only options are to either remove the "<TEST>" from your company name or remove the Dynamics Connect widget from your home screen in user preferences.

Alternatively if you had a DPI based firewall that scanned outgoing URLs, you could make some crazy rule to use URL rewritting, but that's really out of scope of this article :).

Thanks for reading, until next time....

I frequently receive questions from Clients regarding our Hosted Dynamics GP solution, so I thought I would publish our "FAQ" document on our blog for all to see. If you have additional questions, feel free to contact us and we can help you with any inquiry you may have.

Q: What is the cost of Hosted Dynamics GP?

A: You will need to contact us in order to discuss your requirements in a bit more detail so that we can provide you with a quote customized to your needs.

Q: Who owns the data?

A: The Client owns the data and WebSan Solutions owns the application as well as any customizations and/or enhancements made to it.

Q: Where is the data hosted?

A: The data is hosted in a secure, Tier II data center located in Toronto.

Q: How often is my data backed up?

A: Data is backed up nightly, with offsite backups taken weekly.

Q: How can I own my own customizations?

A: You will need to purchase “Modifier”, which is the standard MS toolkit that it used to customize Dynamics GP.

Q: What about updates to the system? Are upgrades pushed, or are they coordinated with the Client? Are there any fees for an upgrade?

A: No charge for an upgrade Upgrades are coordinated with the Client Only charged for Professional services if there is additional training or the Client wants to take advantage of new functionality in the latest release.

Q: Is it a multi-tenant environment, or is our system on its own server?

A: Each Client has their own "virtual" server, with Windows, SQL (database) and Dynamics GP installed on it. No data is shared amongst Clients and each Client only has access to their environment

Q: How is the system accessed?

A: Dynamics GP is accessed via Windows Server 2008 R2 Remote apps via Internet Explorer on your local computer

Q: Does anything need to be installed on my computer to enable access to the system?

A: No, as long as you are running Windows XP SP3 (or above) and on Internet Explorer 7 or above, that is all you need.

Q: What about my local printers and drives? Will those be accessible from Dynamics GP?

A: Yes, the system automatically maps your computer's drives and printers each time you log in. This is a standard feature with RemoteApps.