The Power of CAS: Part III

A solid user interface is crucial to every software tool.  If the user interface, or UI, is not esthetically pleasing, or user friendly, the audience won’t enjoy the software as much and the quality of the product will be viewed as subpar.  The Accenture CAS system not only has a very rich and complex programming structure in the background, but it also contains a very sophisticated UI as well.  If domains, entities, basic data objects, and views are the foundation of the house that is Accenture CAS, the User Interface forms the roof.   This entry will discuss four major UI types as well as the tools used in conjunction with them.

The first UI Type we will discuss is the Tab Page.  Tab Pages are viewed in almost every user interface in the Accenture CAS system.  Each tab page is comprised mainly of two types of structures.  The first is a group and the second is a grid.  The group is used to display or enter data for an individual row; grids are primarily used to display multiple rows of data.

Groups save and load data from one table’s row in the database.  This can be obtained by using either a cdo or a view.  The use of a view can be more complex because by their nature, views usually return more than one row.  The view must have conditions that result in a result of one row if they are to be effectively used in conjunction with groups.

Grids are meant to display one or more rows of information.  Views become very important in accomplishing this task.  By creating a grid based off a view, all of the results of the view will be displayed in the grid.

The second User Interface Type we will discuss is a detail.  Details are essentially containers holding a group of tabs that displays in the application.  Details allow the user to navigate and view several tab pages and save data as needed.  Without this container, tab pages could not be viewed.   This gives the user an interface that is familiar to internet browsers.  Notice that this customer detail has several tabs that can be traversed through.

What makes details impressive is that the developer can set what users can view and edit tabs.  This is made possible by edit and access rights.  These edit and access rights or EA rights will set editing and visibility based on the users roles conditions being met.    EA rights are established by adding principles to a grid.  The principles will fire off in the order they were added, resulting in various edit and access rights being set for various users.

Details all have a reference to a User Interface group, or definition called a Detail Context that allows it to be opened.   There are several ways to open the detail, but generally one of two scenarios occurs.  The detail is either opened in the application menu, which looks strikingly similar to a start menu or by loading from an Overview.

Overviews are the next  User Interface Type we will discuss.  Overviews give the user the ability to select a profile to search for specific data needed to either open a detail or select data while using a Wizard.  At first site, an overview will look similar to a tab page with a grid positioned inside it, but it contains much more.  Profiles are uesd to load up a specifici set of data for searching.  Each Overview must contain at least one profile and will  contain three main features:   Searches, Quick Searches, and Sortings.  By looking at the creation of a new customer we can see how these features work.

Searches  are used to narrow the result set of each profile by entering criteria such as Ids, Valid Dates, and Names.  Notice in the screenshot above that there are three grayed out criteria entries in the general  search box.  These represent the quick search.  This allows users to just type in what they are searching for as opposed to entering them into the search box of  that particular criteria.  Finally, the Quicksort is used to Order the searche’s result set.

The final User Interface type we will talk about is a wizard.  Wizards are used in conjunction with creating new records or data or when adding rows to existing data.  This can be seen when users create Visits.  A visit, or call is one of the more prominent features in Accenture CAS.  It is a means  for users to track store visits, phone calls, sickness and even vacation data.  When the user creates a call,  a wizard will be shown.

Notice that the wizard gives the user a choice of what type of call they will make.  It also has a link to an overview for choosing customers.  Once data has been chosen and the user presses finish, the data will be transferred from the wizard to the new call.  This is done by sending the data through and “operation call.”  An Operation Call can be used in several situations.  For example, when the “New Call” is pressed, the Operation Call for the wizard is executed, and it loads the wizard data.  Once the wizard is complete, an operation call for creating the Call is executed and the data is sent from the wizard to the call.

The Accenture CAS system uses Visual Studio and Silverlight to provide users with what resembles common system interfaces.   CAS contains a rich and complex backend that gives developers the tools needed to provide clients with a system of tracking and storing data.  Accenture CAS is built from the ground up with a solid foundation of objects with several ways to deeply customize the application, displaying the data through the top layer of the system, the User Interface.  Together these elements provide the user and clients with a great tool that can help maximize their company’s full potential.

Daniel Comeaux
Associate Programmer/Analyst
Daniel Comeaux

LIMS Support Best Practices

In “Built to Last,” author Jim Collins builds the case that companies should focus on their product (or their purpose).  That is to say, a company should “be a clock builder, not a time teller.”  Within the life sciences industry, supporting LIMS and other scientific data quality systems typically falls within the responsibilities of several organizations with differing charters and motivations.  In Collins’ words, they are “time tellers,” in that support for these systems is not their organizational “main thing.”  There has been an increasing trend of outsourcing these support tasks, allowing the company to shift focus back to their ultimate purpose of R&D, sales and manufacture of quality product.

Support for a LIMS entails many important disciplines, including infrastructure, low-level and advanced technical support, master data implementation, enhancement and support for investigational activities.  These areas are disparate in their resource needs, ranging from the IT-centric infrastructure support to the scientific technical master data and investigational aspects.  Because of the varied nature of these tasks, a LIMS support organization is frequently split across IT, R&D, quality control and quality assurance organizations.  Furthering the challenge are geographical and language constraints as LIMS systems are deployed on a harmonized basis across organizational units and manufacturing sites within companies.

Being effective as a support organization can be viewed in two ways.  The first means of being effective is providing for the needs of the users of the LIMS, a straightforward goal.  The second dimension of effectiveness is being aligned cost-wise with organizational needs.

From RSI’s experiences building and maintaining support organizations within the space, the following points have been identified as best practices:

  • Begin with the end in mind.  Understand the parameters involved in support by identifying the stakeholders, organizational involvement, current resources and cost considerations.
  • Foster a sense of accountability.  Support organizations that “sit” under a single organization are more effective in delivery and avoid the support gap that can be present when multiple groups are involved in support delivery.  If multiple organizations are involved in support, clear definition of roles and responsibilities is critical.
  • Structure centrally.  Aligned with the trend towards harmonized LIMS systems and data, a LIMS support organization built centrally for an organization or organizational unit can significantly lower the total cost of support for a system by leveraging work across the unit and sharing of pertinent and relevant information such as reports and master data.
  • Employ Agile Support Practices.  Using Agile support practices shows a demonstrable benefit in several ways. By employing systems such as Kanban, visualization in the priorities and current status of the support team are readily apparent, especially across geographical or physical locations (using excellent tools such as Trello).
  • Deliver frequently.  A support organization is trusted by their stakeholders when they are able to frequently deliver upon their promises.  Delivering frequently, as opposed to coalescing large releases or enhancements, may seem counterintuitive in a quality-oriented field.  By delivering “smaller,” stakeholders are able to more quickly get value for the support effort and quality verifications can be more focused and accurate.
  • Define success and measure against goals.  Defining what a success is, whether it is codified in service level agreements, or a less-formal approach, is important to any support organization.  Established what success means allows the support team to be measured against criteria, and is a lever for making changes to the approach, team or strategy if goals are not being met.

Derek Perry
Director, Client Services
Derek Perry

RSI and SAP

If you hear us talk a lot about SAP, it’s because we work a lot with their products. But who and what is SAP?

SAP is a software company that makes enterprise software designed to help companies manage business operations and customer relations. SAP stands for “Systems, Applications, and Products” in data processing. It was founded in 1972 by 5 IBM engineers and is headquartered in Walldorf, Germany. It is the undisputed worldwide market leader in Enterprise Business Applications with more than 251,000 customers in 188 countries, more than 66,000 employees, a 41-year history of innovation and growth as a true industry leader, and annual revenue of € 16.2 billion. SAP has solutions for companies of all shapes and sizes

They have the standard ECC environment that will take care of a business’ HR, manufacturing, shipping, etc. They have add-ons such as CRM (Customer relationship Management), SCM (Supply Chain Management), AIE (Auto-ID Enterprise – Expect to see a future post on this topic!), and many more to further enhance the business’ operations and user experience. SAP has moved into Cloud storage with SAP HANA and has moved into mobile development as well. SAP is constantly extending and expanding their solutions to make it an even more rounded solution for all types of businesses.

So what does RSI offer in the SAP realm?

RSI is the only provider of SAP support and maintenance using the onshore, low-cost model. RSI provides a wide variety of offerings in the SAP space with a large pool of experienced resources. There are offerings for ECC, CRM, SRM, APO, BI, and AIE to name a few. RSI offers Basis support, functional resources, technical resources, testing resources, project management, technical leadership, etc. The SAP team is constantly looking for ways to improve and train in the latest and greatest that SAP has to offer. They stay up to date on best practices and performance tuning.

Keep an eye out on an upcoming AIE related post. Also keep an eye out on other future posts relating to SAP, such as solutions to specific issues and code snippets that will be more technical in nature.

Brandi Setzler
Senior Programmer/Analyst
Brandi Setzler