Applications

by Carissa Carissa No Comments

Time to Level Up?

 

Craig Schulte  – [Sr. Application Developer/Architect]

Do you sometimes feel like your web applications are not all they could be?  Do your users grumble about slow page loads?  Are your applications swimming in a sea of JQuery that make them harder to maintain?  If so, it may be time to take your web applications to the next level using a framework like Angular or React!

Angular and React are two competing technologies that receive a lot of attention these days.  So which should your company use when developing a web application?  This article will explain some of the key differences that will help you decide if one of these frameworks should be in your future.


Overview

Angular and React Apps PlatformsLet’s start with a short introduction and description.  Google first created Angular in 2010, followed by Facebook with React in 2013, showing both have the backing of major industry players.  Both are popular web platforms written in JavaScript, which primarily run in your browser.  Much of the code that traditionally ran on a server has migrated to your browser, and Angular and React have helped to push this trend forward.  A common goal shared by both is to decouple an application’s logic from its user interface (UI), and both strongly focus on dynamic page updates (aka AJAX) – meaning your entire browser window does not reload when updates are made, only the content that changes needs to reload. This generally leads to a much nicer experience for the user.

A common sentiment is “Why should I use Angular or React when I already have JQuery?”  Angular and React are fundamentally designed to embrace building modern applications that seamlessly update the UI and gather data via AJAX / Fetch requests.  Of course, this has long been possible, but Angular and React take this concept to the next level, often to such an extent that they are coined “Single Page Applications” – a web application that never reloads the browser window.

When building these types of applications, JQuery may no longer be the best choice.  Using JQuery requires extra code to keep the UI synchronized, a manual task that may grow complex and difficult to manage.  In contrast, both Angular and React help to automate and simplify this chore, resulting in optimum performance.


Size & Scope

React Apps Platform SampleAngular is typically classified as a full framework while React is considered a library.  This means that Angular includes everything plus the kitchen sink, but React only concerns itself with the user interface.  React is more lightweight than Angular, but includes less functionality out of the box.

Which approach is better, the all-encompassing framework or the specialized library?  Well, that depends. Angular already includes all the tools you need within easy reach.  Meanwhile, React may need to be supplemented with additional libraries, but you have the flexibility to choose which ones.


Learning Curve

Angular Platform dashboardSince Angular is a full framework, it naturally has a longer, steeper learning curve.  Angular also requires the use of TypeScript (a statically typed version of JavaScript), which is an additional skill that must be learned.  On the upside, Angular includes a tool for almost every scenario, so there’s usually a standardized, well-defined path forward.

In comparison, React requires less time to achieve a fuller understanding of the platform.  React does not dictate a highly opinionated architecture, allowing for better reuse of previously learned knowledge and skills.  However, due to React’s open-ended approach, there’s probably a greater risk of running astray, and developers must take special care to ensure they are following best practices.


Popularity

According to a variety of sources (such as Stack Overflow, NPM, GitHub, and Google Trends), React has the edge when it comes to growth and popularity.  For example, according to Stack Overflow’s annual developer survey, React usage narrowly surpassed Angular in 2019, “a switch from last year”.  Perhaps more importantly, 75% indicated they would use React again, while only 58% would use Angular again.

Why is popularity an important metric to consider?  Primarily, it can indicate a measure of quality.  Secondly, it may also influence the amount of online resources and availability of job pool candidates.  No matter how you look at it, both Angular and React rank among the most popular web technologies, with only jQuery topping them in usage.


Summary

Both Angular and React provide great platforms to build web applications upon, and there really is no right or wrong answer.  Before making any decisions, do some research. In the end, the right technology is the one that best fits your team and the project at hand.  It could be Angular, React, or something else entirely.

If you would like to learn more about Angular or React, please reach out to our Applications Solutions Group to start a conversation with us.

by Carissa Carissa No Comments

Let Your Data Tell Your Story

 

Matt Mulherin - Keller Schroeder Applications ConsultantMatt Mulherin  – [Applications Consultant]

Currently, AI or Artificial Intelligence is quite the buzzword.  AI is defined as intelligence exhibited by machines or software.  AI is growing leaps and bounds in the business world and AI investment increased by 300% in 2017 according to IDC.  Deloitte reports 82% of organizations will be investing in AI by 2020. There are many levels of AI, some more advanced, costly, and complex than others.  Many smaller organizations hesitate, and rightly so, to take the plunge into the newest, costly AI technologies.  How do these organizations get started without having to invest too much time and resources into AI technologies?

Our answer is Microsoft Power BI, an affordable business analytics solution that visualizes data and allows you to share insights across the organization.  It can connect to many data sources and bring data to life with interactive, live dashboards and reports.  Power BI can integrate with Azure Machine Learning Services, which are a subset of AI, to analyze data and make future predictions about the business.  Power BI is available as a SaaS option running in the Azure cloud or as an on-premises option as Power BI Report Server.

Even if you are not quite ready to go big with AI, your business will benefit greatly from Power BI because of its easy-to-use capabilities to create reports and dashboards to gain insight into your data.  Different departments in an organization have different needs for the type of data, reports, and visualizations they use to monitor performance.  For example, Finance might want to see visualizations around revenue, profitability, and expense management, while individuals in Operations have a need to see inventory performance and resource consumption trends.

The great news is that Power BI is affordable.  You can sign up for a free account to give it a test drive or subscribe for $9.99 per month per user.  There is a premium license available for capacity-based pricing.  Compared to other tools it can be much more affordable to get started, providing you more time to get buy-in from the organization before investing too much up-front.

Power BI is a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms. This is quite an achievement for only being in the market for 4 years, but Power BI is a cloud-based platform built using technologies from Microsoft that have been around for the last 20 years.  It is an industry-leading product and can scale as your data analytics and AI practices grow within your organization.

Power BI Desktop is a free downloadable client desktop tool used to configure, model, and build visualizations and reports in Power BI.  It is designed for a power user, someone with data and technical skills, but not necessarily programming skills. Power BI Desktop uses Excel like expressions called Data Analysis Expressions (DAX) for extending your data model for reporting purposes.  No coding is required.

The process for getting started using Power BI is straightforward.

  1. Connect to your data using over 100+ built-in data source connectors
  2. Easily clean the data using the user interface options and load it into Power BI Desktop
  3. Shape the data to match your analysis and reporting needs using DAX
  4. Create relationships and enrich your data model with new calculated columns and metrics
  5. Create reports with dozens of customizable pre-built visualizations
  6. Publish the reports and datasets to the Power BI service for collaboration and consumption by others in your organization

As a consumer of Power BI, you choose datasets and fields you want in your reports, filter the data, build dashboards, share with others, use natural language to ask questions of the data, and view visualizations anywhere on your mobile device.

In the data culture we are currently living in, gathering data from multiple sources and analyzing it in order to clearly understand what story the data is telling can be a daunting task.  Power BI enables you to easily connect, model, and then explore your data with visual reports so that you can collaborate, publish, and share.

Keller Schroeder can help you purchase, configure, model your data, and build visualizations that will change your data into insights using Microsoft Power BI.  Gaining insights and telling a story with your data can be the first steps to utilizing AI in your business and modernizing your organization’s data strategy.

If you would like to learn more about Power BI, please reach out to our Applications Solutions Group to get started.

by Carissa Carissa No Comments

SharePoint News Update

Matt Mulherin - Keller Schroeder Applications ConsultantMatt Mulherin  – [Applications Consultant]

Microsoft has been very busy developing new and exciting features for SharePoint.  Now that SharePoint is online as part of Office 365, it is continually being updated and improved.  Microsoft’s vision for SharePoint going forward encompasses four key areas: share with confidence, transform business processes, inform and engage employees, and harness collective knowledge.


Share with Confidence

Microsoft Teams SharePoint

One of the newest updates is the ability to add a SharePoint page to a Teams channel.  Teams is a social and chat application that encourages quick and immediate collaboration.  For example, if you have a team of employees and you communicate regularly in Microsoft Teams chatting, by sharing files, etc., you then realize that you have a SharePoint page that needs be referenced by the team.  Instead of adding a link to the team chat window for everyone to click, which directs them away from the Team channel, you can simply add the page for reference directly in Microsoft Teams.

SharePoint and OneDrive files on Demand is another new feature that allows you to easily access your personal and professional files from your favorite device.  The files are not downloaded on your device until you choose to work with them.  This new feature is a major development because as a collection of files and folders grows exponentially in our personal and professional lives, we need a better way to manage and keep visible all of this important information.  We also need quick and easy ways to share this information from our devices, which you now can do by dropping the file directly into instant messages on your iOS device, or by simply right clicking directly in Windows Explorer on your desktop.


Transform Business Process

Microsoft Power Apps Sharepoint

You can improve your business processes by using SharePoint hub sites.  Hub sites give structure and topology to your SharePoint sites, allowing users to quickly find and access sites within your organization.  You can create one or many hub sites and organize your sites by associating like sites under the same hub site.

Create custom SharePoint forms and digital experiences with Microsoft PowerApps that surface directly in the context of a list or library.  These new forms provide better context to the user and are much more engaging and interactive.  Any user can transform a team’s organizational processes because PowerApps provides the creation of customized forms without the need to write any code.

Microsoft announced major improvements to lists.  Some of these features are available today and some in late 2018.  Cognitive analysis on list data, column and row formatting, more easily create lists based on excel data and other lists, edit lists more quickly, and real-time list updates (no more refreshing pages) are some of the new list improvements announced.


Inform and Engage Employees

Microsoft Sharepoint Communication SiteCommunication sites are dynamic sites that provide the ability to reach a broad audience within an organization.  Think of a communication site as a way for the organization to share news, inform and engage employees, while fostering open communication.  These sites look great on the web, on a PC or Mac, on mobile browsers and in the SharePoint app.  Publish news content on your communications site and it will automatically surface on the SharePoint home page in Office 365.  Configuring the layout of the communication sites is very user friendly with new multi-column sections and drag-and-drop authoring.

SharePoint provides many new out-of-the-box web parts, but custom web-parts are still possible.  Microsoft has a new SharePoint Development Framework (SPFx) that gives developers a better way to develop web parts and extensions.  SPFX is available today with SharePoint Online and it will be possible to develop SPFx custom code on-premises after the release of Feature Pack 2 this fall.

Microsoft just announced an exciting new feature called SharePoint spaces that is currently in limited preview.  It is an immersive, mixed reality experience for users, which allows visualization and editing of content from any angle on any device.  Microsoft suggests using spaces for recruiting and onboarding, learning, and product development business cases.


Harness Collective Knowledge

Microsoft SharePoint Server 2019For SharePoint On-Premise deployments, Microsoft is committed to on-premises and hybrid customers.  SharePoint Server 2016 has several features that confirm this commitment.  One is the on-premises feature packs that can be installed, which include some of the previously released SharePoint online features.  In addition, Microsoft provides hybrid features that allow organizations to have both an on-premises and online SharePoint environments working together to offer users a single user experience, such as merging search indexes and allowing users to view search results from both on-premises and SharePoint online.  Essentially, users are simply given content based on their search criteria, regardless of where the content is stored.

Microsoft is planning to release to preview SharePoint Server 2019 any day now and to general availability in the second half of 2018.  More hybrid features, Next-Gen Sync Client support, Modern UX throughout, and more Flow/PowerApps integration will be included.  In addition, SharePoint 2010 workflows and InfoPath forms will continue to be supported in SharePoint Server 2019.


SharePoint continues to grow as a popular and widely used enterprise-wide collaboration platform and we do not anticipate the growth will diminish.  According to Microsoft’s Office 365 Roadmap, 62 updates are beginning to roll-out and 190 are currently in development.  We only touched on the surface of all of the new and exciting features coming to SharePoint.  Please contact your Keller Schroeder Account Manager to learn how SharePoint can positively impact the performance, collaboration, and engagement within your organization.

by Carissa Carissa No Comments

B2B, EDI, and Data Transformation Made Easy

Mark Heuring- Keller Schroeder Applications ConsultantMark Heuring – [Applications Consultant]

As you move throughout your digital transformation, the need to share data between systems and entities becomes greater and greater.  You may need to share data with your vendors, customers, partners, or compliance agencies, or you may need to share data between two internal systems.

Business-to-Business (B2B) integration, or the automated exchange of data between two companies, is not a new concept. Although sharing data sounds simple enough, there can be many challenges. The entities you share data with might all have different format requirements, different supported communication protocols, different frequency for updates, or any number of items that make them unique.  Whether sharing data with third parties or internal systems, the data will likely need to be transformed into a compatible format for the exchange.

These unique requirements frequently require custom data transformation applications to be written for each use case, which lead to high development and maintenance costs. These high costs may prohibit or diminish your ability to share data in a real-time, automated fashion, which may in turn reduce or hinder your growth potential.

Some companies use EDI, or Electronic Data Interchange, to facilitate their B2B integration needs. While Keller Schroeder offers EDI Managed Services to assist companies with the maintenance and support of their EDI systems, many companies do not require or need a full blown EDI system to handle B2B integrations.  The need for automated B2B data transformation and exchange is a requirement across industry verticals and throughout departments within companies.Keller Schroeder is introducing a new B2B service to help address the challenges of data transformation and exchange.  Our new B2B Integration Solution can be used to exchange information with third parties or between internal systems and will not require custom coding for each use case.  Our solution utilizes a cloud based data transformation service that has quick and easy setup and configuration, leading to less development and maintenance time.

Keller Schroeder’s B2B Integration Solution:

  • Automates the transformation and exchange of documents between two parties, including customers, ERP solutions, suppliers, regulatory agencies, warehouse managers, internal line of business systems, etc.
  • Supports many communication protocols, including AS/2, FTP(s), sFTP, web, email, SOAP, and more
  • Supports many message formats, including XML, Excel, EDI, CSV, and even custom file-formats
  • Allows you to mix and match incoming and outgoing formats and communication protocols
  • Maintains the highest quality and strictest security management processes as recommended by ISO27001
  • Removes communication protocol barriers with your trading partners and between your systems
  • Pricing based on number of messages with no minimum, which leads to a low cost and low risk barrier to entry

Please contact Keller Schroeder to learn more about our new B2B Integration Solution or our EDI Managed Services offerings and how we can partner with you to positively impact your digital transformation.

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