Mobile App Development

– Jill Epperson, Business Unit Director

Life is a series of trade-offs. You can choose to have lunch at a fancy, sit-down place and generally get a better meal, but the trade-off is it costs you more time and money than the fast food joint. You can choose to see that new blockbuster movie the day it hits the theater, but the trade-off is you are going to pay more for that movie theater experience than if you just wait until it is released on Netflix. You can choose to hit that snooze button for the fifth time tomorrow morning, but the trade-off is you may end up at work wearing two different shoes because you were so rushed you didn’t notice (okay, yeah, I did that one time).

The point is trade-offs are everywhere and mobile app development is no different. At Keller Schroeder, we are often asked what the best strategy is for mobile app development. Do we recommend using native languages, like Java and Objective-C? Or is it better to take advantage of the cross platform tools available today, such as Mono/MonoTouch and PhoneGap?

Choosing a mobile app development strategy centers primarily around creating a better user experience versus lowering the development investment and shortening timelines.

In general, the closer you get to native app development, the better the user’s experience is going to be because this is where you are able to take full advantage of the device’s capabilities and APIs. However, typically, it’s going to take longer to develop apps using the native languages – particularly if you are developing across multiple devices. You cannot, for example, write code for an iPhone in Objective-C and expect it to also run on Android or Windows devices.

The flipside is that you can use a cross platform tool like PhoneGap and get an app up and running pretty quickly that can, with minor effort, be deployed to different devices. However, the app is going to look and behave the same across all devices, so users may perceive a more generic experience. Additionally, it may be challenging to implement more complex behavior or functionality in a tool like PhoneGap because you are mainly using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Mono/MonoTouch, on the other hand, does a nice job of getting you closer to the native app experience and still gives you the advantages of cross platform development cost and timeline. Mono/MonoTouch allows you to write your code in C# and share business logic across iOS, Android, and Windows devices. You do, however, have to build the presentation features individually for each device you are targeting.

Tools like Mono/MonoTouch and PhoneGap, as well as other cross platform tools, will be behind the curve regarding support for new device features, and you are going to deal with their individual bugs and quirkiness. The app itself may be a bit larger in size than a native app, and/or may perform a little slower (although, perhaps not enough for the user to notice).

So how do you decide on a strategy? Start by considering what is important for your mobile app development project and which trade-offs you are willing to accept. Here are some key considerations:

• Which device types are you going to support?
• What languages does your development team already know?
• How complex is the app?
• What is your timeline and budget?

Consider these questions and then contact your Keller Schroeder Sr. Account Manager for more information on how you, together with Keller Schroeder, can navigate the trade-offs of mobile app development.

And don’t forget to check your shoes tomorrow morning.

Your Ticket Out of “The Waiting Place”

– Ray Pritchett, Business Unit Director

I was once again reminded of a classic Dr. Seuss book a few days ago, when I opened an invitation to a local high school graduation ceremony. The last book written under Theodor Geisel’s pen name, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” is certainly an appropriate theme for graduation, as it inspires the reader to view life as a great adventure, constrained only by the limits of your imagination and other self-imposed obstacles. For those unfamiliar with the story, one of the primary obstacles in the adventure is “The Waiting Place” – a place where everyone is interminably waiting for something to happen. Applying this theme to today’s business world, I think it’s fair to say that ever-increasing internet access via broadband is making visits to “The Waiting Place” shorter and less frequent for most of us, even as we all grow less tolerant of waiting.

Still, most of us accept there are times and places when lack of broadband access dooms us (as well as our business partners and customers) to “The Waiting Place” – a place where the applications and data that we depend upon are at least temporarily unavailable. But is it possible that this, too, is a constraint imposed by our lack of imagination? In the case of one of our recent projects, the answer was clearly “yes.”

The client in this case is Best Home Furnishings, a mid-sized manufacturer and distributor of furniture, who sells their products to retail dealers both large and small, through a sales force of independent reps. Their product line is both deep and broad, with large numbers of models, fabrics, features, and options from which to choose. While they have long since used the web to extend the reach of their product catalog, customer order management, and sales analysis applications and data, their sales reps still regularly find themselves in geographic locations and other situations where web access is either non-existent or insufficient.

Best Home Furnishings’ ticket out of “The Waiting Place” came in the form of a custom-developed iPad application with its own local database. Reps can now create and display sales presentations, complete with high quality images of any products they choose, virtually anywhere and anytime. They can browse the catalog with customers at their sides and assemble quotes and orders at a desk or from a sofa on the showroom floor, while they receive immediate feedback from the customer. They can record inventory status from warehouses, and drill into a customer’s sales history, even in rural areas where cellular broadband access is spotty or unavailable. Then, when they return to their office, hotel room, or local Wi-Fi coffee shop, rather than logging on to the web site to key orders and/or generate and retrieve customer sales histories for the next day’s appointments, they simply click the “synchronize” button on the iPad app. The iPad then automatically sends orders to the customer order management database, and retrieves any new or updated catalog or customer data, all while the rep heads out to dinner with the customer (although synchronization typically completes in a matter of seconds).

Are you wasting time and money in “The Waiting Place”? Are there great new places that mobile versions of your applications and data could take your business? Contact your Keller Schroeder Account Manager for more information or a demonstration of this product and how you, together with Keller Schroeder, can benefit your environment.

Business Process Automation with SharePoint

– Rob Wilson, Business Unit Director

Since 2005, a few of us at Keller Schroeder have focused a great deal on SharePoint-related projects. No doubt it is a great product – better now even than in 2005. Maybe you have SharePoint installed and are using it for document management or collaboration, but are you using SharePoint to its full potential? One additional area where there is an opportunity to get a return on your investment with SharePoint is business process automation. More local companies are catching the wave for sure, but many, it seems, are not. If this is you, what is holding you back?

One thing that seems to be an obstacle for many is that they view SharePoint as a turnkey solution rather than a platform. There is nothing more frustrating than getting 80, 90, or even 95 percent of a solution completed using SharePoint and its out-of-the-box tools, only to find that there is no simple solution to the final step(s). Then you are faced with the dilemma: do I change my business process or do I find another solution? Sometimes, the best answer is “neither.”

Let us consider the employee on-boarding process for example. With SharePoint, we can create InfoPath forms to gather pertinent information and develop some rudimentary workflows quickly to assign tasks and route the form for approvals. But what if you want to automate the actual tasks themselves? What if you want to create an Active Directory user account for the new employee, rather than assigning that task to the security officer? What if then perhaps you want to create an Exchange mailbox? Maybe you want to allow workflow participants to approve or reject requests from their mobile devices. The out-of-the-box SharePoint tools do not have these features, but with .NET programming or third party products, you can add these features.

I am a firm believer you should never change your business process to accommodate a tool – you change the tool. At Keller Schroeder, we consider ourselves a technology company in the performance improvement business. That is one of the reasons we promote SharePoint, because it provides an opportunity to complement your business processes. If SharePoint is not the right tool for the job, we are the first to let you know. However, sometimes with the help of a little custom code or a third party solution, SharePoint is just what the doctor ordered.

Contact your Keller Schroeder Account Manager for more information or a demonstration of Sharepoint and how you, together with Keller Schroeder, can benefit your environment.

Licensing: The SQL

– Dezarae Miller, Inside Account Manager

Microsoft SQL Server 2012’s availability is approaching. Part of this significant release there are changes not only in the product itself, but its licensing structure. The Microsoft SQL Server Editions have been revamped to better align with the current customer deployment models. Microsoft SQL Server 2012 will be released with 3 new editions: Standard, Business Intelligence, and Enterprise.

Standard Edition will be focused on basic database, reporting and analytics capabilities. Business Intelligence (BI) will include all the features of Standard Edition plus premium BI features. Enterprise Edition will include all available Microsoft SQL Server 2012 features. The Developer, Express and Compact Editions are still available.

The new editions also produce a new licensing model for Microsoft SQL Server 2012. Their previous two licensing offerings – “computing power-based” model and “per server/CAL” model – will still be available. However, the computing power-based model’s base will shift from a “per processor” to a “per core” calculation. The Enterprise Edition will be sold using only this new “per core” model, the Standard Edition will be available in either “per core” or “per server/CAL” models, and the Business Intelligence Edition will be available only in the “per server/CAL” model.

The new Core-based licenses will be sold in two-core packs and to license a physical server correctly, it must be licensed for all cores in that server with a minimum of 4 cores per physical processor.

As with any new release, there may also be a fluctuation in price. We expect little difference in the “per processor” and “per core” models. There is an expected 27% increase in the “per Server/CAL” model. With the expected release date of Microsoft SQL Server 2012 in the first half of 2012, now is a great time to purchase the current SQL version with Software Assurance, guaranteeing your access to the free license upgrade to Microsoft SQL Server 2012 upon its release.

For any additional questions, please contact your Keller Schroeder Senior Account Manager for more information, from identifying the Software Assurance and migration benefits your company is eligible to receive to purchasing or renewing your existing licenses prior to these changes taking effect.

Off the Beaten InfoPath

– Rob Wilson, Business Unit Director
It happens all the time! You get one of those pesky emails with a PDF attachment that you are supposed to fill out, scan, and email back to the recipient. You think to yourself “If only I were a programmer, I could show these people how to create this form better as a web page.” But while you’re extraordinary at what you do, and understand your business processes better than any other person in the whole world, you could never develop a digital solution to streamline a process, right? Wrong!

It turns out that you may have had the solution at your fingertips all along, but just did not realize it. If you have Microsoft Office Professional Plus, then you have at your disposal the premier electronic forms solution – InfoPath. If you open it up, you will find that InfoPath is as easy to use as Microsoft Word. In addition, you can put text boxes, date pickers, list boxes, and numerous other controls onto a form. You can even add an attachment field so people can attach images, documents, or other artifacts to the form. Yes, YOU can do this! When the form is completed by the recipient, it can be printed, emailed, saved as a PDF, or saved into a database. In addition, InfoPath has a big brother that separates it from the other electronic forms solutions you may have checked out – SharePoint.

When you add SharePoint to the mix, InfoPath goes from “awesome” to “awesomer!” Eh, we mean “more awesome.” SharePoint provides you with a place to centrally manage, serve, and secure your forms. Forms can be routed with SharePoint workflows. Form data can be extracted from the form to a SharePoint list where you can slice it, dice it, filter it, sort it, group it, even export to Excel. Suffice it to say you can do a lot of stuff. If you have SharePoint Enterprise, the form can be published as a web page so that the user does not have to have InfoPath installed on their desktop to fill the form out.

If you are a small business who does not have SharePoint 2010 Enterprise at your disposal, there is an InfoPath 2010 forms solution in some of the new Office365 cloud offerings. Your Keller Schroeder Sr. Account Manager can help you determine which solution would be best for you.

How to know if you could really use InfoPath and SharePoint:
– Do I have paper forms that my employees, customers, patients or partners do or could fill out electronically?
– Do I have cumbersome business processes that could be streamlined?
– Do I have good visibility to a form in an approval process or whose inbox the request is currently in?
– Do I have infrequently business processes that could be better structured to keep them from falling between the cracks?
– Do I need a way to easily slice and dice the data gathered from recipients filling out my form?

Just one “yes” to any of the above questions makes InfoPath worth a look. Common use cases we’ve witnessed include new or terminated employee forms, expense reimbursement forms, material requisition forms, time sheets, etc. Keep an eye on our SharePoint blog for an upcoming series on InfoPath, and contact us for more information.

Microsoft Partner: Customer Satisfaction Survey Results

As part of an annual qualification process, Microsoft Gold Competency partners participate in a customer satisfaction survey completed anonymously by active clients.  Over the years Keller Schroeder has consistently exceeded partner averages in every category, and that trend continues.  This year, Keller Schroeder also scored a perfect 100 on overall performance while the average of all Microsoft Partners dropped to 65.

Area Keller Schroeder Partner Averages
Overall 100% 65%
Ease of doing business 100 71
Quality of communication 92 68
Value received 100 62
Likely to recommend 100 91
Likely to repurchase 100 88
Ability to meet your needs 100 69

Some firms specialize in infrastructure (such as server and database software), and others specialize in applications (such as SharePoint and .Net development), but Keller Schroeder’s deep expertise includes both.  This adds strength to Keller Schroeder’s Microsoft practice, and is evidenced by the 100% score for “ability to meet your needs”.

“I want to thank our clients for their trust and confidence, as well as their continued business partnership!” says Keller Schroeder President Larry May.

“Oh Syn-Apps”

– Tim Deem, Sr. Network Consultant

As a Cisco Advanced Unified Communications (UC) certified partner, our implementations of UC solutions will often include additional applications, appliances and other approved products that provide specific features or functions not in the UC solution itself in order to enhance the client’s benefits and satisfaction.

One such partner is Syn-Apps. Their specific niche includes hardware and software most easily classified as notification within the world of Unified Communications. Syn-Apps provides solutions that integrate with the Cisco UC environment in order to enhance and extend notification capabilities that can be deployed in any industry.

Syn-Apps software applications can be installed on client servers, however, we recommend the Syn-300/Syn-600 appliances, which come pre-loaded, ready for configuration and deployment. These appliances work beautifully and provide a means to ensure dedicated resources for the notification applications. As part of a Cisco UC solution, we recently successfully deployed the SA-Announce application. As a self-contained appliance, it met the need to provide a mechanism of paging over both Cisco IP phones and an existing overhead paging system, while simultaneously minimizing training efforts by providing a simple end user interface.

In addition, the application allows for additional methods of notification such as integrating with a Facebook account (advantageous for universities), relaying Amber alerts, and even streaming the National Weather Service to the phones’ XML display. Complimenting their applications, Syn-Apps can also provide basic & two way IP speakers, clock kits, and more.

To learn more about the Syn-Apps solutions, including a demonstration, contact your Keller Schroeder Sr. Account Manager.

SharePoint 2010: Game Changer

May 12th, 2010 was an exciting day for SharePoint enthusiasts around the world.  Locally, professionals from Jasper, Vincennes, Mount Vernon and Evansville in Indiana and Owensboro, Kentucky converged on the Oaklyn Library to watch the live launch of SharePoint 2010.  Anticipation had been building up for weeks and the launch was an undeniable success.  The excitement continues to swell – not because IT professionals have a new toy to play with, but because they see a product that can make a legitimate difference in their organizations.  Would you believe me if I told you that this product could have the biggest impact on how you work since email was introduced?

The SharePoint “feature wheel” has been revised to reflect the areas where SharePoint can help you improve productivity.  Feature areas include: Sites, Communities, Content, Search, Insights and Composites.

The question is “what does that mean to your organization?”  The answer is one that you must provide, but we can help.  Having been involved in dozens of SharePoint projects since 2005, I can honestly say that no two of them have been identical.  There are three editions of SharePoint 2010: Foundation, Standard and Enterprise.  Which one you deploy will depend upon your objectives (both near and long term), your internal skills/resources and your budget. 

Would it be nice to have a trusted partner to help you make an educated decision?

Keller Schroeder is on a mission in 2010.  The mission is to help you determine the best way to implement SharePoint and related technologies at your organization.  My mantra is “Every organization needs SharePoint…some just do not yet know why.” I am more convinced of that every day.  Some companies deploy SharePoint for robust content management on an intranet or public web site.  Other popular uses are forms automation and workflows.  SharePoint also continues to thrive as a custom application development platform.  Dashboards provide you with at-a-glance insight into your organization’s performance and competitive intelligence.   Security, records management and retention policies assure regulatory compliance.  You may want to use it for one or all of the above, or you may have a completely different need.

SharePoint is no longer just a great idea about empowering your users to be more productive.  SharePoint provides the tools and framework for productivity.  It is more scalable, customizable and governable than ever.  We introduce you to many of the new features on our blog at  We welcome the opportunity to meet with you to help you understand how to leverage SharePoint to meet your objectives.

Rob Wilson Selected INETA Community Champion

Rob Wilson, Business Unit Director – Microsoft Applications at Keller Schroeder, was recently selected as a Community Champion by INETA for his contributions to the SharePoint User Group in Evansville and to other communities in our region.  INETA is a non-profit, independent organization, chartered with supporting all user groups interested in the Microsoft .NET platform.  Keller Schroeder has been a long-time supporter of technology user groups – including coordinating, hosting, sponsoring and speaking.

“What we’ve got here…is a failure to communicate.” – VMI: Vendor Managed Inventory

Vendor Managed Inventory Replenishment

Have you been approached by one of your customers about starting a Vendor/Supplier Managed Inventory (VMI or SMI) relationship, or are you considering implementing one with your suppliers? While there can be benefits to both parties in a VMI relationship, there are pitfalls to avoid in order to establish a successful partnership.

Potential benefits include:

  • Shorter lead time
  • Reduced inventories (for both parties)
  • Greater manufacturing efficiencies
  • Stronger relationship with your customer/supplier

Potential issues include:

  • Accuracy of data: Without accurate and timely reporting of current inventory quantities and planned consumption (planning schedule), it is impossible for a supplier to keep their customer properly stocked with inventory. 
  • Exchanging data: Are both partners “on the same page” with the transmission methods (traditional EDI, XML, spreadsheets, proprietary formats, etc) and frequency? 
  • Managing the data: Depending on the number of products a supplier provides to a customer, the volume of data to be managed on a daily basis can be staggering – current inventory quantities, month’s worth of planned consumption data, min/max inventory levels, etc. As a supplier, are you going to add to your staff to manage this additional data, or will you be looking for a software solution to help your existing staff manage all of this new data? 
  • Consignment inventory: Some companies implementing VMI are also wanting to convert the inventory to consignment – meaning that they don’t own (or pay for) the goods until they pull them out of inventory and send them to the production floor (or sell them in the case of a final product). This relationship model adds more overhead to the supplier, in addition to the data exchange between the two parties.

Properly implemented and managed, VMI can strengthen the relationship between a supplier and a customer, and provide tangible benefits to both parties. However, if not properly implemented, this relationship can cause issues for both parties, driving up costs, causing production downtime (due to a lack of available inventory), and can ultimately damage the relationship.

Keller Schroeder can assist you with the process of planning and implementing a successful VMI relationship. Please contact Dan Ehrhart at (812) 474-6825 to discuss this topic in greater detail.