Our Top 4 Picks for Pain-Free M3 System Enhancement

Dec 11 2012

Anyone who has lived through an M3 system upgrade knows the pain of upgrading an M3 base which has undergone a lot of modifications, so it’s ideal to enhance the system in other ways.  It will also make upgrades faster and simpler.  There are a range of options out there for doing just this – but the key is knowing what to use and when to use it.

We think there are 4 great options which can be used on their own or in combination to provide any level of enhancement according your organisation’s precise requirements.  It’s not cut and dried – often you might want to use a combination – but here is a simplified summary of our 4 picks:

For simple enhancements we recommend the use of Mashups and jScripting.

Mashups – for consolidating views

Infor Mashups for Smart Office are great way to simplify and consolidate data display by bringing together existing functionality (data, programs, other screens)  into a single screen. Mashups are extremely quick to build, so if your main objective is to consolidate screen views – then Mashups are a great tool.  From Mashups you can also call M3 APIs, Web Services and show web pages (including the Google search bar, or a ComActivity web-based portal)

Any Limitations?   Mashups can’t add new functionality. Its main purpose is to simply consolidate views and functionality that already exists. Some functionality can be added via M3 APIs and web services.

Jscripts – for simple enhancements

For the next level of enhancement, when you want to add simple functionality, Jscripts can be an excellent solution.  Jscripts will give you the facility to add new validations, fields, buttons, and even add customised detail and list panels. Jscripts can automate user keystrokes and even automate other interactive M3 functions.

Like Mashups, Jscripts provide the facility to call APIs and Web Services for additional updates.

Any Limitations? – With Jscripts you definitely get faster and cheaper development than when you make enhancements by rewriting a whole application flow, but if all you want to do is consolidate display views, it’s still faster to use Mashups. Jscripts are ideal for reasonably straight-forward enhancements, but if you are after a full blown change in system functionality and appearance, you would probably need to add some more firepower to your arsenal in the form of the .NET programming framework  or the ComActivity BPP,  or a combination of both.

.NET Programming Framework – for visually blended major enhancements

For times when you are looking to add major functional enhancements and want the application to look just like other M3 functions, you should really consider using the C# Programming Language running on the .NET framework (aka C#.NET) . It gives full control over look and feel with no limitations on how you place fields, buttons, and you can add all the rich GUI controls available in the .NET framework,  and you can call APIs and Web services from C#.NET

Any Limitations? While the .NET development studio is fairly visual, developers find it reasonably straightforward for developing and maintaining applications. However, .NET solutions will often require more coding, and therefore time, than those that are based on the rapid-development graphical tool like the ComActivity BPP. Again, it comes down to what you are trying to achieve. Also, Lawson Smart Office .NET apps run on the client side only, so an extra level of development is required to perform server-side processing.

ComActivity Business Process Platform – for rapidly developed, highly flexible enhancements

Like .NET solutions, the ComActivity Business Process Platform (BPP) will enable you to make some major enhancements to your system. It is a true “platform” that sits on top of the M3 system, and its overriding benefit is that functionality can be added through custom web-based “portlets” (aka screens) which can be built in super-quick time. Unlike .NET, the ComActivity BPP also provides the power of its PCML connector, which allows both interactive and batch M3 functions to be invoked from ComActivity applications and ComActivity Web services.  It also calls APIs and web services.

Because it gives a particularly nice visual finish and caters for significant non-standard functionality, it can be incorporated in a combined solution with the more flexible and quickly developed ComActivity BPP solutions.

Any Limitations? While the ComActivity platform-based solutions have a slick interface, and are more rapidly developed and flexible, .NET is more visually seamless with Smart Office. Alternatively, using a combination of .NET and the ComActivity BPP together allows a Smart Office look-and-feel for the front end, with the ComActivity web server handling any additional server-side processing and extra interfaces to M3.

The Key Take-Aways

To quickly summarise, here are our top 4 picks for enhancing your system without making modifications to M3:

For simple enhancements:

  • Mashups are a super-quick way consolidate existing views into one screen
  • Jscripts mean you can rapidly add simple functionality without embarking on major development
  • For more sophisticated changes .NET and ComActivity BPP are rapid development tools that enable major enhancements and additions:
  • .NET delivers a functionally rich front end that can be visually blended with the existing system
  • ComActivity BPP gives a rapidly developed, streamlined interface, and delivers flexibility.
  • Combining .NET and ComActivity is a powerful solution which can have the Smart Office look and feel.

In reality, when we are talking to customers, we always try to help them identify what changes they want to make to the system, and then we recommend an overall solution that we believe is the simplest and fastest – therefore the most cost-effective.  Frequently this uses a combination of these 4 key approaches.

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