Outlook users are also Google Calendar users

I saw the news a little late, but Google at last provided synchronisation between Outlook 2010 and Google Calendar – about 6 months after Outlook 2010 came out. On the announcement I noticed that Google called it “our top feature request”, which indicates to me that a lot of people who use Outlook for calendaring also use Google Calendar – I am one of them.

It intrigues me that so many people use both services that it was such a big issue for Google, and I wonder why people use both? My reason is so that friends and colleagues outside my work can see my calendar for social and other activities, as well as a backup. Google reckons it is because people want to access to their calendars from devices other than just an office PCs. In my case I sync my calendar with the calendar on my cellphone, and I can still access my Outlook calendar on my laptop when I am away from the office, so Google’s reason doesn’t apply to me.

So if you are one of the (apparently) many Outlook and Google Calendar users, why do you use both?

Office 2010 and ERP – more thoughts

I’ve now had time to digest more of the information about the Office 2010 and ERP announcement that I discussed previously, specifically the functionality of Business Connectivity Services (BCS).

Microsoft has positioned BCS mainly for Office 2010 but has also mentioned it as a function that could be used for ERP, i.e., being able to access ERP data offline.

BCS … simplifies the process of accessing data offline by enabling the connection of any data in a SharePoint list – such as External Lists displaying data from Microsoft Dynamics ERP solutions – with either Outlook 2010 or SharePoint Workspace 2010.

I think they are being disingenuous. What seems to be the real situation is that static data from an ERP gets copied to a temporary file which can be used offline. The other issue is that to use BCS seems to require quite a stack of technology including the renamed Groove, now SharePoint Workspace.

Offline access is fine for having access to data for read-only purposes, e.g., customer or product lists, but offline access with transactional capability (which I think Microsoft insinuates) could compromise the data integrity and validity of the whole ERP.

Do you think I am reading the wrong thing into the Microsoft announcement? How would you see offline ERP operating?

Office 2010 and ERP – Microsoft misses out

Amongst the news about the ashcloud in northern Europe and the build-up to the FIFA 2010 soccer World Cup here in South Africa, there was an announcement from a US software company called Microsoft 🙂 about the release of Office 2010.

Reading the Dynamics-related articles, my impression is that Microsoft is trying to sell Office 2010 as the user interface for ERP – which is what I said almost exactly 2 years ago.

For data manipulation and presentation, Excel now has ‘Slicers’, ‘Sparklines’ and PowerPivot:

  • Slicers are a better, more visual way of filtering for pivot tables.
  • Sparklines are another of Edward Tufte’s innovations of graphical data presentation which provide a simple, ‘word-size’ graphic to accompany a number in a table. This looks cool and is obviously a feature made feasible via XAML.
  • PowerPivot is a set of tools to get data out of a SQL database and into Excel and/or SharePoint.

If you have seen SYSPRO 6.1 you will know that the Fluid User Interface with XAML allows graphics like sparklines to be created, and SYSPRO Analytics already has the data management capabilities of PowerPivot – so Microsoft, no differentiator there for the Dynamics ERP products.

However, they show up one of Microsoft’s traditional focus areas – Office. Microsoft seems to have abandoned the opportunities made available from ProClarity, which could have complemented their ERP offerings, in favour of the product they know so well … and which earns them so much money.

What do you think of Office 2010? Will the Excel and other features encourage you to get Office 2010?

My Office Home experience

For at least ten years I have worked on PCs that use Microsoft Office productivity software (Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint), at work and home. However, the PC at home had an old version of Office (either 2000 or XP) and did not have PowerPoint; this became a major problem for my youngest child who needed PowerPoint for some school work. So she took matters into her own hands, got a CD of Office 2007 from a friend and loaded all the Office software on the home PC. Unfortunately, she was unaware that Office needs a product key, and since we could not find one, my eldest child decide to uninstall the software, leaving our home PC without any Office software at all (the CD of the old Office version was long lost). That created a difficulty for me as my Outlook .PST file, with six years of personal email, was on that PC.

No problem, I thought, I can buy a new version of Office from a local retail outlet; that was where my first lesson in Office started. Lesson 1: The cheapest version of Office – Home and Student Edition -  has Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, and currently costs about R900 in South Africa (list price). When I asked for a version that includes Outlook, I was astounded to learn that it would cost over three times as much, and the version that has all the Office software (including Visio and Groove) costs over seven times as much.

I remembered that I could use Outlook Express as that came standard with Windows, so I bought the Home and Student version and thought I had all my problems sorted out. Then came the next lesson, in fact two. Lesson 2: Outlook Express did not have an import option for Outlook, so I went searching on Google for a solution and found out that you cannot import an Outlook .PST into Outlook Express unless Outlook is installed on the same PC. Lesson 3: I also found out that Microsoft had replaced Outlook Express with Windows Live Mail.

Thinking that I might get better support for my problem with Windows Live Mail, I downloaded the Live Mail installer, and was impressed that it was less than 2Mb. Lesson 4: The installer is only a stub, when you run it, the following files are downloaded from a Microsoft site (note: I also opted to install a Microsoft application called Family Care):

  • – Application Error Runtime
  • – Visual Studio Runtime
  • – Communications Platform
  • – Junk Mail Filter
  • – Live Update Tool
  • – Live Sign-in
  • – Installer
  • – Choice Guard
  • – Mail
  • – Search Enhancement
  • – Synch Framework Runtime
  • – Synch Framework Services
  • – Toolbar
  • – Family Safety

After I got Windows Live Mail set up and running, I discovered Lesson 5: Windows Live Mail does import from Outlook Express, but has no import from Outlook. I thought I was screwed, until I realised that my work laptop (which is still on Windows XP) had Outlook and Outlook Express. This lead to Lesson 6: how to finally import my .PST file into Live Mail, the steps were:

  1. copy the .PST file from the home PC to the work laptop using a memory stick,
  2. create an Outlook profile on the work PC to use the .PST file,
  3. start Outlook Express and import data from Outlook using the profile I had just created,
  4. copy the Outlook Express storage directory (it’s not a simple file like Outlook) from the work laptop to the home PC using a memory stick,
  5. start Windows Live Mail and import the Outlook Express data from the storage directory on the memory stick.

By this time, I had finally recovered my history of emails, but from the time of buying the Office software to having emails available again took me over five hours.

Now I am ready to start being a Windows Live Mail user at home, and also wondering whether or not there is value in moving to a web-based mail service like Gmail.

MS Office as new ERP GUI

Analysts and bloggers have commented on the Duet project between SAP and Microsoft to make Microsoft’s Office the graphical user interface (GUI) for SAP’s ERP apps.

The move to make Office the new GUI for ERP apps has been given a further impetus by SYSPRO who have announced SYSPRO Office Integration.

Below are two screen shots, showing how you can call up the ERP in Windows Vista, and insert a field or a table.