"You say you want a revolution, well, you know..."
"Chris, this is Victoria Mack."
Egad. A phone call from herself, the august editor of MCMagOnline. I am suitably impressed. Fearful, even. Gripping the phone, I genuflect, take a position that is appropriately obsequious, and answer. "I am your humble servant, Your Majesty. Command me!"
"Cut the crap, Devous. I need a column. You wanna write one?" Her tone is imperious. This is not a person to disappoint.
I stand and salute. "You can count on me, ma'am!"
"Stop saluting and sit down!" How did she know? It must be true what they say about editors: X-ray vision, clairvoyance, nerves of steel... "OK. Now, what I want a column about is Microsoft integration. You know anything about that?"
"We all want to change the world..."
Well, as a matter of fact, I do know a thing or two about that: Like everybody else with an iSeries in their shop, I have been integrating the hell out of DB2 data and Microsoft Office. In fact, at the time of this writing, I'm also working on the first "meat and potatoes" article for this column. In it, I describe the use of IBM's OLE DB and index access providers using VBA in Excel.
So what else is there? Socket servers? Socket clients? Spinning spreadsheets and documents out of DB2 data using client applications?
In truth, all of the above, and a bunch of other stuff too. So, at the suggestion of our dear editor (a lovely, smart, and well-mannered lady; don't let the bit of fiction in the introduction above fool you for a minute), I'm asking you, our readers. What would you like to know? What kind of programming techniques and examples would you like me to provide for you?
"You say you got a real solution, well, you know..."In our day-to-day computing lives, we constantly encounter opportunities for integration. By this, I mean that we run into situations in which an established and easily run procedure could create efficiencies and allow the more effective use of human resources. Jeez, I ran into two just yesterday!
All of these situations start with "I need to..." followed by a description of what it is my user needs. Yesterday, "I need to" was rounded out with "create some mailing labels for a customer mailing." Seems simple? Well, since Word directly supports Avery labels, it can be. The data is in the customer master file, and the customer master file is on the iSeries. With Office integration, no problem!
Another "I need to" was followed by "compare a pipe delimited file our freight forwarder sent us with purchase order lines." Purchase order lines are on the iSeries. With Excel, VBA, and OLE DB, again no problem!
Our company uses BPCS, an ERP system by SSA Global Technologies'. Many of you are familiar with that. We run it on an iSeries Model 720 on V4R5. We have a several-hundred-user TCP/IP network running a mix of IBM-compatible microcomputers, printers, and even a few Macintoshes. My environment is probably a lot like your environment, and if I run into these kinds of integration opportunities a lot, you must constantly encounter them too.
Need to send collection letters to slow-paying customers? It might help if you could teach Word to look at A/R data, create a mail merge file, run the merge, and print the letters.
Need to forecast? It might be good if you could develop a technique to quickly move mountains of data across limited bandwidth, collate it, and put it in a spreadsheet for analysis and what-if scenarios.
Need to get data to a field sales force? It might be helpful if your liaison could create a sales report on demand, using Excel to total and sort from a subset of customers by ZIP code, area code, state, or business type.
But these are my ideas.
"We'd all love to see the plan..."
The goal is to present, to the extent possible, complete, working solutions that you could put in front of an end user. Need to build a pro forma invoice? Do it regularly? Ok, Ms. A. Payable, here's a new spreadsheet. Press Ctrl+G, key the order number into the dialog, and there you go!
Tune in next month, same bat time, same bat channel, for column number 1!
Chris Devous is the Director of IT Systems Development at The Antigua Group, Inc., a Peoria, Arizona, garment manufacturer. Chris has been in IT since '82 and lives Arizona with his wife, three children, a bird, two dogs, and a cat.