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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Farewell, MTI 

This post is a little late in coming - last year, I started working off-hours at MTI, focusing more on evening and weekends rather than during the day. There have been a lot of changes and while the focus was originally intended on moving the product line to a SQL and then eventually Dotnet platform, the discussions have always come back around to changing processes, even if they weren't at fault but more about not being followed.

March 26th was my last official day at MTI, ironically the first time I worked for MTI was early April 1993 so it's been a while. When I first joined MTI, I wanted to change the world and looked forward to doing it with MTI. Through the years, I'm proud of a lot of the innovations I've been able to put into the original ITS product which eventually morphed into Horizon. This, from a product, that in 1995, was only supposed to be around for 2 years (while another product, since defunct, took its place), and ended up being around for more than 10 years beyond that.

I wish Chuck and all the best of success in the future.

This information is not the official position of MTI or Melton Technologies or its affiliates.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Been a while 

It's been a while since I've posted to this blog but I think I want to start again.

Since 2006, MTI has gone through a number of changes (sales managers coming in and leaving, developers leaving, resources changing) and we're still moving forward, slowly but surely.

All of the work involved in the SQL product really has to be pushed by new sales (part of my pay is based on SQL implementations) but if no new sales are being made, then where does that leave the product?

Todd and I are doing SQL consolidation so that both the DBF and SQL product will share similar features. But meanwhile our new dev manager (who has now become General Manager - shades of 2002 where that happened as well) is trying to focus on the DotNet product (NetTrac is very cool although it still isn't where I think it needs to be) but as with most things at MTI, current customers still take priority.

We definitely removed NetSuite back in mid 2006 (after 30K but a terrible implementation, where do you go?) and even started to use Bugzilla for some things. MS CRM was being used for Sales but that was painful for remote users. Thankfully Todd and I started using Track again for issue management in 2007 and finally got everyone back over to it for handling calls. That's made a world of difference (at least in my mind). Track is pretty much home-grown now, even though it started off as the product from Soffront. My web version of it is still in ASP, but it works well enough.

And wouldn't you know it? We're trying to get handle on how many servers are in the office. (there are way too many for a company of MTI's size).

This information is not the official position of MTI or Melton Technologies or its affiliates.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Standing Meetings and Regular Meetings 

So after pointing over to VisionPace's excellent posts on meetings, I've had my own going for a while using Campfire, another totally awesome product from 37 Signals.

Funny thing is I sent out the post noting that the meeting would be only about 5 minutes every day at 11:30. I only get one attendee, Todd (as opposed to the original 5 requested - it's the sound of one hand clapping). Everyone is super busy but you've got to wonder - if you're too busy for a 5 minute meeting, what else might you be missing?

On a great note though, Todd and I are moving forward on code review meetings and I think that we may be sharing source between both the desktop and the SQL product pretty soon.

That's a great step forward because it should let up some development issues on him as well as ensure we're both aware of all issues that are facing both products.

Only problem? The desktop is in VFP 8 and the SQL is VFP 9 - but we'll get over it. I was able to take the new Common forms library and implement it over on the desktop in just a few minutes.

We do these meetings daily and they really go a long way to ensuring that between the two of us, we're on top of what's happening in the core product.

This information is not the official position of MTI or Melton Technologies or its affiliates.

From BaseCamp to NetSuite to CRM and back again... 

For managing projects quickly and easily, you can't get much better than BaseCamp for a number of reasons:

1) it's inexpensive (free for smaller projects)
2) it's a great tracker of milestones, and tasks
3) it works amazingly well for putting your best public face forward.

That said, we switched to NetSuite for an all-encompassing CRM system (about 6 months ago) and now we're over to Microsoft CRM.

How many office systems can we go through in a year? The race is on.

Microsoft CRM is pretty cool but I still don't think it has all the features that Salesforce has (which I'm still pretty excited about).

I briefly got excited about Microsoft's Business Scorecard Manager but then when Sharepoint refuses to install on my Win2003 server over and over again (what? it tells me that I can't register ASP.Net because I'm not an administrator when I'm logged in as ADMIN - go figure), I just throw my hands up and say I'm going BACK to Basecamp!

This information is not the official position of MTI or Melton Technologies or its affiliates.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Dumping NetSuite? 

That was one of the future possibilities I heard today.

But why - so soon after using it (MTI only came on board with NetSuite in December, less than 6 months ago).

For not a not-considerable sum of money, NetSuite was touted as the answer to all prayers about linking accounting with customer service and sales. Now, it looks as though it was oversold.

Hmmm....how much BaseCamp again? For Project Management, it can't be beat.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Awesome Tests with Horizon/SQL 

One of the challenges that had not yet been addressed with Horizon/SQL was how to handle multiple databases on a single server. While a fairly simple thing to deal with , the implementation had not been completed while we focused on the core database.
Today, this challenge was met and with it, better support for connecting via connection strings instead of ODBC Data sources. This was also done in conjunction with the new Database Upgrade utility.
I copied over my main Horizon folder which is the desktop version and ran the upgrade utility on it. I created a new database named Horizon2. With this account, I decided I was no longer going to rely on sa access (system admin) and created a user named mti.
I then created a Data.ini file with the connection string for the user.
Upon starting the system, it prompted for the password for the user and then went into the new database.
I followed up by running the desktop version and the older Horizon SQL database version (found in Horizon/sql)
I then updated the assignments to see how the data updated. All were separate.
I realize this is a fairly minor victory and not that "oooh, ahhhh" but it's good to be able to run the upgrade and then connect into a brand new directory with minimal effort.
The Upgrade utility also has a Remove Source which actually removes the physical files during the upgrade process. Doing this should remove a LOT of the data issues customers are facing.
What a great way to finish an otherwise dull day.

Bummed Over NetSuite 

MTI switched from BaseCamp over to NetSuite a few months back since it provides more CSR and accounting details. The place where it really falls apart though is on project management. At least with Basecamp, I could link two tasks together and thus when one got delayed, the other got pushed ahead by the same number of days.

With NetSuite, there's no such feature. I like to create a lot of tasks to ensure nothing slips between the cracks. As a result, you either spend a lot of time updating tasks (what a time waster) or leaving them "as-is" until they get updated.

The solution? Keep task due dates down to every two weeks or less. It's a bit harder to plan long term - but at least it keeps the information up to date.

This information is not the official position of MTI or Melton Technologies or its affiliates.

Status Update April 5th 2006 

 As I have told  _____ numerous times before, the code is all checked in as changes are made to it.  I have requested a meeting with Peter twice now in as many weeks to review the revised interface with nary a response except to say "too busy - can't do it".
As a result, I have posted a document that outlines several of the interface changes.  I will start checking in the individual executables now as well into a separate folder under the Horizon/Next source called Builds (This was done as of 11 AM this morning)
This will include all items that have been converted and ready for testing.
 Until work that involves others gets completed, there's no point in having a group meeting. Since everyone is busy, asking about the status of items that are already assigned to them in NetSuite is nagging that  isn't required.
As for my individual project tasks (all accessible via NetSuite):
Priority List for Upgrading Applications (still in progress) but the current list is 1. Trip Interface - particular link to ProMiles (initial piece complete - updating ProMiles link)
2. Circle of Service
3. Message Monitor items.
4. ExecView.
Run Benchmark Tests on SQL / Identify Dispatch Benchmark Results
Cannot be completed until the benchmark tool has been written which was assigned to Todd. I hope to get to it after the other work gets completed.
In addition, two standard environments were requested to be set up by Peter for 3/15. To date, I have not heard of this being completed and the Netsuite task remains untouched. While it may appear to be a rather simple thing to do, it will be required to do structured testing as we move forward.
Identify Performance Goals
Until we have benchmark tests on it, real performance goals cannot be identified. The requested goals from MTI has resulted in the following four items (noted in Netsuite under Performance Improvement Areas):
Build Data Installer/Upgrader
Still in progress. I have created a clean environment here on this end to run tests on and expect it to be completed this week.
Review New SQL Data Structures
A scheduled meeting with Todd to review data structures was put off as he was unable to attend.  I am re-assigning to Todd so he can arrange it around his schedule.
New Documentation Structure / Test Strategy
The initial Test strategy is to go through steps based in the documentation. Since the final doc outline has not been identified from Susan, I had made the immediately noted changes and made it available (noted to both Susan and Peter in emails) on http://www.mtihorizon.com/horizon.chm. All of her comments are noted in NetSuite although she noted the revised structure may have more changes after she reviews it. However, all noted documentation has been completed in it.
Since NetSuite doesn't allow tasks to be linked to other tasks, it makes it difficult to push ahead all of a project's deadlines when a task is not completed. However, any task that I do start gets updated to In Progress and updated as I make changes to it.
In the NetSuite Project Plan, here are all of the overdue items (I numbered them to identify the prerequisites)
1. Milestones for Sales Process (Chuck)
2. Setup Test Environment (Peter)
3. Priority List for New Apps (Andrew - In progress)
4. Dispatch Benchmark Tool (Todd)
5. Documentation Outline Strucutre (Susan - in progress)
6. Run Initial Benchmark Tests (dependent on 4)
7. Identify Results (dependent on 6)
8. Identify Performance Goals (dependent on 7)
9. Test Strategy (Andrew - in progress, dependent slightly on 5)
10. Cleanup Content (Andrew - in progress , dependent on 5)
11. Identify Converted Applications (Andrew - checked into Builds folder this morning - the original list was done on BaseCamp last year - the actual checked in apps should be sufficient to move forward with it)
12. Build Upgrader / Installer ( Andrew - In progress - scheduled for this week)
13. Review new structures (Todd - reassigned to Todd since it's dependent on his schedule moreso than mine)
14. Redo Documentation Strucutre (in progress - dependeont on 5)
15. Convert Trip Interface (Andrew - in progress- scheduled for next week)
16. Convert Circle of Service (Andrew - In progress - scheduled for April 21)
Let me know if there are any questions.

From: Chuck Melton [mailto:chuckmel60@hotmail.com]
Sent: Wednesday, April 05, 2006 9:59 AM
To: amacneill@mtihorizon.com
Subject: Update


I need a written update of where you are.  Also, I really need a process where you check your code in daily down here.   xxxxxxxx  has requested this several times.


Monday, March 27, 2006

Week of March 27th 2006 


From: Andrew MacNeill (MTI) [mailto:amacneill@mtihorizon.com]
Sent: Monday, March 27, 2006 7:20 AM
To: 'cmelton@meltech.com'
Subject: The Week Ahead

1. Demo with Carolina Cargo on Wednesday at 2pm. Requires at least a good four hour demo setup to configure the solutions for cost tracking.
2. Horizon/Next Upgrader. This was almost complete last week and just needs a few updates. This is the tool that will create the database and optionally upgrade the current Horizon/data. It will always assume an existing Horizon installation.
3. Conversion of Trip Interface and Circle of Service. Trip Interface was just about completed last week but undergoing tests.
4. Database review with Todd. Scheduled for today at 11.
5. Test upgrades and performance benchmarks. I still haven't gotten any results from Peter or Todd regarding getting the test environment setup or the benchmark tool - they've likely been too busy - so once I'm done with Carolina, I will be creating my own test install folders here to run some initial tests with.

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