Real World DotNetnuke Part II

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This is the second article in Dwayne Baldwin’s series on Real World DotNetNuke:

Real World DotNetNuke – Part II

But we have always done it that way.

Yesterday has gone.

Today we have all sorts of ways to accomplish what we need. There are many stories about how things have always worked, but here are my two favorites from the U.S. Army.

The first involves a brand new warship with a fancy gunning system that could target anything in real time. The problem was that the fire button wouldn’t work for 15 seconds.

It turned out that this long practiced rule of thumb was implemented during the days of the horse and canon. The operator was supposed to wait 15 seconds after aiming the canon in order to let the horse settle down and not jerk the canon.

So they have this multi-million dollar, top of the line, technically superior gun that has a 15 second lockout feature because that was the way it had been done for nearly a hundred years!

The second story involves the Army procurement process. They needed a dependable supply of llama dung, as required by the specifications for treating leather used in airplane seats and jackets. Due to unreliable shipping methods at the time, the Army attempted to establish a herd a llamas in New Jersey. No one suspected anything until someone had trouble filling the request

It turned out that the US Army had copied the specifications from the British Army, dating back to Great Britain’s era of colonial expansion. New leather on saddles made the horses skittish and unmanageable. Treating the leather with llama dung created a different odor that calmed the horses. The treatment became part of the leather’s specification, which remained unchanged for a century

I’m sure you can look around your organization and find similar stories. Many people do not like change, and use the best excuses to keep things as they are. Because it has always been done that way does not mean that it cannot be done in a different way. The trick here is to look for rote procedures and discover ways to improve the process

In order to use the right tool for the job, sometimes you have to understand the job itself. Is this mass importing of data something that needs to be done at the end of the month? Why do we have an end of day process? Why does this batch process have to run at night? Should the console to operate these jobs be on a web server?

I prefer to know about the exceptions rather then the things that work. I do not want to be notified of every order processed today; I am only interested in the totals and the ones that experienced problems. Of course I can look up an audit trail to see what occurred, but I rarely need to watch successful processes

Should I develop some fancy progress bar that displays naked women (or men) on my browser while I wait for a job to run? I have to ask – why do I have to login and click on something to launch this job from a web browser in the first place

That is an example of the wrong tool for the job.

Another system I developed uses SQL Reporting Services to display an invoice on the screen. That got me thinking… how am I going to display this invoice in a DotNetNuke HTML module?

The right tool is Reporting Services.

So I wrote a module to render the invoice using Reporting Services and display it within the DotNetNuke application. I can choose to render a Windows metafile, a PDF or an Excel spreadsheet, simply by changing a single parameter in the call to Reporting Services. The payoff is that now a customer can login to the company portal, and view their invoice online. What they see in their browser is *exactly* what was printed on the invoice

Now I ask, is there any reason to print the invoice in the first place

Why not email the invoice as a file directly to the customer? Or email a link directly to the invoice and they can use the print module contents built into DotNetNuke. The customer can ultimately decide whether or not to print the invoice. Best idea yet?

Allow the customer to edit their online profile, and they can choose how they want to handle the process!

In any business process there are steps from start to finish. The best designed systems allow you to hook any process (i.e: pre-render, page_load, shipping, invoicing,) to add functionality. For example, if an application allowed you to add a call to your .net code after printing an invoice, you could call a web service to update a dissimilar system anywhere in the world.

I love the commercial where they guy pays for his coffee with his bank card and waits for the debit to appear on his PDA. That is the way people want to work – in real-time. Jobs should not be batched because that’s the way it has always been done.

Customer statements are another example of a wasteful process.

Not only is your organization wasting money printing and mailing the statements, they are always inaccurate and out of date by the time they are received. Put customer statements on line, and allow the customer to view it at any time.

Depending on your company, if you had a customer on watch, you can be notified that they just looked at their statement. So why not phone them while your statement is on their screen. (Slightly nasty, but very effective.)

Look around your organization to see how you can make more things happen in real time.

Real World DotNetnuke Part 1

A while back there were a series of posts on the ASP.Net forums made by Dwayne J. Baldwin on his opinion of Real World DotNetNuke. I thought the posts where very inciteful and basically a decent read. Its very apparent that Dwayne has many years in the software development industry and in my opinion covered this subject very well. I was impressed with Dwayne’s incites so I asked if he would mind if I re-posted his subject matter. Being the nice guy he is, he agreed to let me re-post it, I just never got around to doing it.

This is the first of three posts Dwayne made on this subject and the next two will follow

Part 1 a sequence of ramblings to help others understand DotNetNuke

There are no magical answers when it comes to software development. Design = choices. Requirements determine development. Processes change. Space is cheap.RAM is cheap. Users make mistakes. Feature creep. Etc., etc

I have three fundamental rules for any development project…
1) Don’t reinvent the wheel.
2) Use the proper tool for the job. (Give a kid a hammer and the world becomes a nail.)
3) He who laughs last – made a backup.

The job of a programmer is really one of an interpreter; he or she must examine the business processes or methods then translate them into something that the computer understands. After the computer performs the necessary tasks it must be presented back to the people who use the system.

If a small business owner randomly draws money from the cash drawer, a fancy computer system is not going to help them manage an accurate accounting system. If a warehouse operation does not tally the fastest moving items and rearrange item locations on a regular basis, a computer or computer program is not going to improve productivity.

Q)What do you get when you automate a bad system?
A) An automated bad system.

All of the software that we create should be modeled around real world examples. Class libraries should represent way things really work. They should allow for “communication failure” just as when someone is not available for some reason. They should be able to retry an operation. They should be organized around security – not patched with security constraints in spaghetti code. They should allow for exceptions and inform the proper staff members (or authorities) to the situation.

Where am I going with all of this mumbo jumbo? I am actually setting you up for a successful implementation of DotNetNuke in a real world application.

If you examine the most popular small business accounting packages, they are relatively similar. Accpac, QuickBooks, and Microsoft Small Business Accounting all have a similar look and feel. Microsoft evens claims that SBA looks like Office (due to the familiar controls). Now step back and consider how the user interface is used to perform actual tasks.

All the functionality of the package is available from a menu, a hyper link, or a keyboard shortcut. Common tasks may be grouped together, or even organized into lists, but every task is available by navigating the screens of the application. QuickBooks and SBA have a shortcut menu on the left, and a browser literally fills the rest of the screen. The browser portion is divided into sections just like DotNetNuke modules appear on a page. One module may display a summary of all bank accounts, another module displays a single bank account register.

A few years ago, if a company asked you to create a system using a standard user interface, login mechanism, integrated security, master templates, departmental features, and have the system available world wide, you would need an army of developers and years to put it together.

Using DotNetNuke with membership, security, and skinning, you can build a web based front end comparable to any application that you have seen or can imagine. You can prototype the user interface today and demonstrate it to your client tomorrow!

As you add new functionality to your DotNetNuke application, you can post a time limited announcement directly within your program; using nothing more than a browser; on a laptop,on a lounge chair,on a beach…