Welcome to the Exact Product Blog

On this blog we will cover stories from all around the Exact ecosystem.

Exact Product Blog: Exact Synergy

New product update for Exact Synergy Enterprise

Written by Michiel Dorjee on . Posted in Exact Synergy

Today is an exciting day for us: product update 241 for Exact Synergy Enterprise is generally available as of now! The Synergy product management team has been working hard on understanding the way you work, how your processes are designed and how we can fulfil your needs. They have translated that insight in powerful new solutions. Our colleagues at product development for their part, did an excellent job to create the new functionality that lets you do your work in a more efficient and easier way. We are sure that every user of Exact Synergy Enterprise can benefit from this new product update.

First of all we introduce to you a totally renewed Synergy Office Integration. It provides you with new opportunities to access your workflow, planning, and nearly all other Exact Synergy Enterprise operations directly from Microsoft Outlook. We know that many, many users of Exact Synergy Enterprise also use Microsoft Outlook and these two products are now joined in one single interface.

Also, a new screen for creating requests has been implemented, already introduced to you earlier in this blog post. We asked your feedback and we got it! Thanks for all your suggestions and comments.

New search functionality in this product update enables you to search for terms with diacritics, as explained earlier in this blog post.Product update 241 also introduces support for both Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 and Microsoft SQL Server 2008.

Over the coming period of time we will highlight some of the new functionality in this product update on this blog. Please subscribe to our RSS-feeds or e-mail newsletters so we can keep you informed.

Dashboard Insight interview about Exact Business Analytics

Written by Michiel Dorjee on . Posted in Exact Globe, Exact Synergy

Exact Business Analytics (EBA) and the Exact Graphical Performance Series (GPS) are two business analytics solutions offered by Exact Software. EBA is the business analytics solution that we integrated with, amongst others, Exact Globe and Exact Synergy. With EBA you can combine and compare data and have it shown in a wide range of different graphs, reports and information views. Dashboard Insight, an online community designed to promote the business intelligence (BI) industry and its active players, interviewed our colleague Paul Challinor, as Senior Product Manager responsible for EBA.

In the interview Paul explains how Exact helps businesses during these challenging and uncertain times of economic downturn.

Dashboard Insight: You recently announced the development of a program geared toward helping businesses proactively address the economic downturn. Can you tell us more about the program?

Paul Challinor: Exact provides real-life solutions to pressing business problems for companies working their way through the challenging economic environment. From business-process assessments – which help optimize the efficient use of Exact applications – to point solutions that help businesses focus on deliverables that increase the satisfaction of their customers, Exact is committed to helping customers prepare for the eventual upturn of the economy.

Paul also shares two interesting real-life examples of businesses that have inproved their efficiency with Exact’s business analytics solutions: both Liberty Hardware Manufacturing and Parker Hannifin use business analytics solutions from Exact to combine information from different sources and to turn those data into valuable information.

Dashboard Insight: Can you tell us about some of your key clients?

Paul Challinor: EBA has been particularly successful in the manufacturing and CPG industries. Two key clients come to mind quickly: Liberty Hardware Manufacturing and Parker Hannifin.

Liberty realized that to maximize the value of their ERP application and provide a solid foundation for business decisions, they needed to improve the frequency, accuracy and accessibility of their business reporting. Specifically, business users needed the ability to perform their own analysis, without routing information requests through the IT department. Their existing reporting tool did not allow users to select data fields using business terminology, which leads to frequent questions of reporting accuracy. Also, Liberty needed a solution that could integrate vitally important point-of-sale (POS) data from their major clients, which was stored in a Microsoft Access database.

With our help, sales, inventory, purchasing, and POS data is now accessed and applied on a daily basis, greatly increasing the overall value of Liberty’s ERP solution. Integrating the POS data with other business information has also proven to be highly valuable. Sales teams conduct in-depth analysis of products and programs to measure the success of specific items or sales strategies. The integrated information also enables much tighter control of inventory levels and production planning.

As for Parker, they had a 12-year investment in their JD Edwards World ERP system and recognized an opportunity to leverage that asset to support specific business objectives, including sales analysis and strategic pricing initiatives. The company also sought to provide a standardized reporting structure for all departments and locations that would eliminate duplicate and repetitive report generation. Their goal was to ease the reporting burden on the IT department, while providing a single information resource with accurate data for all locations across their very large organization.

Exact’s ability to dynamically combine data from multiple sources was uniquely suited to Parker’s complex data environment, which includes 46 distinct JDE databases in multiple locations. GPS enables business users to access the specific information they need to see without being concerned where the data is stored.

Please read the complete interview of Dashboard Insight with Paul Challinor.

 

Photo credit: Unhindered by Talent

Context prevents misunderstandings

Written by Edgar Wieringa on . Posted in Exact Synergy

The difficulty with software seems to be that it is never ready. It is soft, intangible and the possibilities are unlimited. One can ask for the world, but everyone’s world is different. To make sure software is great, it should be designed keeping its users goals in mind. Designing for goals in a given context makes it a lot easier to design it the right way.

Last week I saw another example of this, it may look simple but I belief it is a small example of a bigger truth. In our product there are a set of searchboxes on the left -hand side to quickly jump to, for instance, an item code. Let’s say you are looking for more information on the item SYN0000 (it is one of the products you sell). You got the code in an e-mail from a colleague and you want to look it up in Exact Synergy Enterprise. So double click it, please try.

If you do this in Windows it will help (??) you by also selecting the trailing space behind it. Our product used to search for the item code including that space, hence it found nothing. So it was decided (as a reaction to customer feedback) to support you by ignoring that space. Now my actual story starts, it is not about how to solve this problem best, but about what happened after the change (cutting off the space at the end).

During one of our feedback rounds with customer stakeholders it was found out that an undocumented feature of our product now was broken. The search allowed you to enter only a space (‘ ‘) and if you would search, then you would get all items in result. By removing the space, as was requested earlier, it searched for nothing now. So a report was entered to fix this. Without any reason why: just fix it. It was first rejected. I can partly understand why: who would like to search for everything? That is not ‘searching’ but just ‘data browsing’ for which we have nice overviews with much more convient options. Which customer would like to walk-through all item data in a search? It was more work to re-introduce this and it looked like there were better alternatives; so the report was rejected.

Only then the context came in, as quite some customers seemed to have discovered this feature to easily see everything, and were quite content with it. People used it for instance to walk-through the documents created during that day within the company. So, to stay informed about all the work their colleagues were doing, searching in this way helping them to be informed and serve their customers better. With the context it was crystal clear this needed to be supported.

Adding context has two great benefits: it creates clarity and helps people to understand the real issue. And secondly and as least as important: we learn more about the actual usage of software. And that is essential to make people benefit from it even more.

Photo credit: emagic

Welcome to the Exact Product Blog!

Written by Michiel Dorjee on . Posted in Exact Globe, Exact Online, Exact Synergy

Welcome to the shiny, new Exact Product Blog. At Exact Software we continuously invest in our product offerings, ensuring that you can benefit from state-of-the-art technology that helps you to drive and grow your business. Today, we’re launching our Product Blog to keep you updated on what is happening in our world of business empowerment software. We do not only want to help you leverage your Exact solution more effectively, but we also want to provide you a sounding board for everything related to us and our products.

On this blog we will of course share product related news with you, mainly focused on our corporate product lines Exact Globe, Exact Synergy and Exact Online. We will provide you tips & tricks and we will give you insight in the future direction of our products by showing you what we are developing for new product updates. But also if you just want to know what it is like working for Exact or if you’re wondering how Exact develops its products, you came to the right place.

At Exact, just like at many other companies, a lot of interesting conversations take place near the coffee machine. Colleagues tell each other what they are working on, exchange opinions and ask each other for advice. This Product Blog is our virtual coffee place where we want to have these kind of conversations with you, so your feedback is highly encouraged and appreciated. Feel free to share your two cents on how we could make this Exact Product Blog more useful and informative. If you want to keep track of what is going on here, please use the RSS-feeds or e-mail subscriptions to receive our latest posts at your own convenience.

Feedback on new request screen

Written by Edgar Wieringa on . Posted in Exact Synergy

For the upcoming new release of Exact Synergy Enterprise we will amongst others deliver a redesigned screen for creating a new request. Since this is one of the most often used parts of our application we wanted to improve the user experience of it and needed to be sure on how to do this best. Not just the looks-and-feel but we want to support every user better in reaching her goals: starting a new workflow in a simple and easy way.

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So we did quite some research with a set of customers on how they use the current screen, how many request types they have, which ones they actively used et cetera. Now that the new screen is in controlled release we get mixed feedback on one specific part, via this post I would like to open up for more feedback to make sure we deliver the right experience to you.

Our user research learned us a couple of things which resulted in these design principles for the new screen:

  • an average company will have over 50 different request types
  • most users use about five to ten of them frequently
  • the request type categories are not very well known within the user group
  • searching for a specific less frequently used request is quite cumbersome and only a limited number of users is using the search option of Internet Explorer [CTRL+F] for this
  • the request ID box is only used by a limited number of user to create a new request
  • the majority of the users is unaware of how to use it or what to enter in it

Based on the findings we have redesigned the looks and working of the screen with the following three key parts.

  • A list of the requests most used by you as a person
  • An easy way to create a request by ID and request name
  • A list with all available request types

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The mixed feedback is especially on this last part. Since during our research we learned that a limited number of users where aware of the request type IDs (e.g. a Vacation request is number 103) we did not include them in the list. The ordering used to be on number but for people it is easier to scan alphabetically since the name of a request gives a better understanding than the number. For the unaware user it was hard to scan the list we learned. So our aim was to increase the readability and hence an easier recognition by just using the request names. The users which now the IDs are still served by the request creator, in this field you can either enter the code or the request name.

Via this post I hope to get more feedback on especially this part. Should the request IDs be re-introduced in the list and even more important what is for you the reason to use it? Maybe as a last remark, removing the request ID was not a goal by itself. During our user research of the last year we often got the feedback that the screens of Exact Synergy are quite loud, they offer a lot of options. Redesigning the complete request page has been done with keeping this in mind, make the screens easier to understand by offering less options and the options offered are a perfect fit for your goals. Please reply with your thoughts!

SQL Server 2008, Exact Globe and Exact Synergy

Written by Michiel Dorjee on . Posted in Exact Globe, Exact Synergy

I notice that quite some hits on my own personal blog and that of another colleague come from searches with keywords containing ‘SQL Server 2008’.

On April 21st, Exact Globe and Exact Synergy product update 393 has been made generally available. As per this product update SQL Server 2008 is supported, running on a Windows 2003 or Windows 2008 server. For small companies, SQL Server 2008 is also supported when installed on a Windows XP or Windows Vista desktop. Exact Synergy Enterprise will soon start support for SQL Server 2008, as of product update 241.

If you want to have a look at the unique selling points of SQL Server 2008, please have a look at the overview on the Microsoft website. For an overview of technical documentation for SQL Server 2008, please refer to Books Online.

Exact has stopped selling SQL Server 2005 as of May 1st. From now on, only SQL Server 2008 licenses will be sold. SQL Server 2008 licenses grant the right to downgrade, which means that everybody who wants to use SQL Server 2005 can still do so when purchasing SQL Server 2008 licenses. The upgrade to SQL Server 2008 can then take place at your own convenience.

A complete overview of the system requirements for Exact Globe product update 393 can be found here.

Next to the support of SQL Server 2008, a variety of improvements has been made available in product update 393. For our customers: more information can be found in the release notes and in the updated set of database documentation here (access is restricted to customers, so you’ll need your username/password for the Exact customer portal).

Photo credit: lilit

Surprising first feedback on new search functionality

Written by Edgar Wieringa on . Posted in Exact Synergy

Crafting out our new solutions is always an exciting process. It starts with the first idea – whether it is based on market input, a concrete customer case or new technology – goes into customer validation, involves design, building and finally it is there. Although we always try to keep the customer focus – we can only build good software if it really meets your needs – a certain part of it is happening ‘behind closed doors’. About two months before we release a new product update to the market we get people in from different parts of the Exact Software organization and its ecosystem and we ask them what they think of the new product update. We brief them on the highlights, supply them with all release notes and focus areas and then they have a go at the software. Product managers desperately looking at their eyes to see what makes them tick.

Colleagues and customers involved come from all parts of the organization and from all over the globe. Customer Support in China, pre-sales from the US and consultant from The Netherlands. Viewing it from these different angles is important and sometimes leads to surprises. For example: we have adjusted our search functionality for Exact Synergy Enterprise so that it now can find <Jiří> just by typing <Jiri>. So, the search now also excludes the diacritics. We used the word ‘transliteration’ for this in our release documentation. We realized that it had a broader meaning, but we thought we scoped it clearly in the other parts of the documentation. The question from China however was: can I now find  <收件人> just by typing <shoujianren>? Indeed Google does have this functionality, but this is a step we have not yet made. ‘Searching=Finding’ will however keep on having our focus.

Photo credit: Desirée Delgado