2007-08-06

Hitting the wall: Living within Somebody Else's Systems Architecture

We use BST Enterprise for our ERP system. It is a very good ERP, made and supported by a what I consider to be a great company. If you run a professional services type of firm (i.e. engineering, AEC, law, etc.) give them a look at BSTGlobal.com.

No they don't pay me, I just happen to like their software.

Now for the bad part. Like all software publishers, BST has had to make architectural decisions, and these decisions are based on a variety of factors. Some will be groundbreaking like BST's move in the 1990's to move to a web-based client for an entire ERP, and some will be head-scratchers such as BST's idea to use Crystal Reports for not only generationg invoices, but also the calculation of the invoice amount and writing it back to the accounting system. It is with the latter part of the second decision example I have had cause for quiet rumination.

Crystal Reports (Business Objects) is a great reporting writing package. I doubt, however, that NASA would use it for calculating trajectories. Billing systems aren't that much less complicated than differential equations, especially when one consider the re-iterations sometimes necessary. BST should have sunk their developers time into creating a billing system that does all the calculations on the server side and uses Crystal Reports just for presentation the way God intended it.

The problem is that Crystal Reports does everything in "passes" and you only can go through so many passes through the data. In addition, the the ability to show/hide things based on data that is not grouping/section based is very poorly implemented, making it unworkable for many things.

More about this will be forth-coming. Suffice it to say we are in month six of an attempt to get a working custom invoice, and we are just now getting told "we can't do that" because they (BST) are just now finding out they can't do it. So for now:

 -------------------------
|     Crystal Reports     |
|  ---------------------  |
| |         BST         | |
| |       ------        | |
| |      |  ME  |       | |
| |       ------        | |
|  ---------------------  |
 -------------------------

And all of us chose the box we live in . . .

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