Anybody who has worked with Infor M3 (or the older Movex versions) knows what a pain output management can be.
The basic reports which come out of M3 look like they were created back in the old greenbar paper, dot-matrix printer days (because, well, chances are they were). Getting data out of the system in a manner which users want is often a struggle that leads to developing a separate reporting platform, using software like Crystal Reports or Microsoft Reporting Services.
The forms, such as invoices, purchase orders, and order confirmations, have to be developed for each implementation, typically using StreamServe. If you’ve ever developed documents in StreamServe, you know how fragile and finicky that platform can be. The service can break down without an obvious cause, issues with a particular document could lie within a script which is difficult to find, and the process of mapping M3 data to the field in which it shows up in StreamServe is harder than it should be.
And if you need a field to show up on a form that’s not included in the stream file coming out of M3?
Sorry, pal, that requires a modification to the system, which means you have to get programmers involved, train them on how to use MAK, and incur all the other costs and headaches that come along with modifying code. There is long-term maintenance required, and any time you want to upgrade, you have now added another dimension of risk and cost to that project.
In short, output management has traditionally been a real hassle in M3 implementations, but given the overall functionality of the system, it’s a hassle that most customers can live with. When choosing the right ERP system for an organization, there are much higher priorities, such as industry-specific functionality, technical architecture and interface capabilities, manageability of the configuration, etc. Reports and forms are usually the last things considered in an ERP implementation project, so it’s no surprise to see M3’s output management stuck in the past.
Perhaps, however, the situation is finally changing.
M3 Configurable XML Output To The Rescue
With the 13.4 release of M3, Infor is rolling out Configurable XML Output, a new manner of handling output that promises greater flexibility and ease of use.
Instead of traditional stream files, where each line in the file shows a pairing of [FIELD] and [VALUE], with Configurable XML you get a true XML document to work with.
But that’s only the beginning, there are three major benefits which Configurable XML Output brings to the table.
1) Add New Fields to Forms Without Mods
Best of all, if you need to add new fields to a particular output, there is now a program where you can do just that, instead of bringing in programmers create a system modification. Basically you go into CMS005 and work with a printer file just as you would one of the list programs. You can link to related tables, bring in calculated fields, and more.
I imagine this single feature will help customers eliminate more modifications than anything Infor has brought to M3 in years.
2) Use StoryTeller To Configure Forms
Instead of using StreamServe’s Design Center to work with PageOut templates, OpenText’s StoryTeller is used for form design with the new XML output.
Supposedly it’s easier to use than the old tool set (here are some specific examples from one user), and this is perhaps what I’m most looking forward to learning about in the coming weeks and months. Anything would be better than wrestling with the old StreamServe Design Center!
3) Implement XML Output Step By Step
A nice feature within basic M3 that will make adoption of Configurable XML Output easier is that you can do this in a gradual fashion, one form at a time. Thanks to existing functions such as MNS204 & MNS205, you can set up a new output service which creates Configurable XML, and have M3 direct output through that service down to a specific form, division, location or user. Sure, it takes a little careful management of your configuration, but being able to transition your forms gradually will be a great help.
For example, you might start with customer invoices for one particular division to go through XML, so all you do is set up a separate output service in MNS216 which creates XML, and then in MNS204 you can set a combination of Division and Printer File that will direct to this new service instead of your regular Stream output.
This way you can incrementally change over all your old documents to the new format, and works towards the day when M3 Stream files go in the dumpster forever.
That will still take some time, because they don’t have printer files created yet for all the documents in M3, but that work is progressing and will be rolled out in the form of incremental patches. So stay tuned!