Integrating Visual Basic Applications with Lotus Notes 8.5

The OpenSpan team has released their Windows application container for Lotus Notes 8.5 and Lotus Expeditor 6.2. It's not just VB apps though, it is any Windows based application that can be used within a composite application.

OpenSpan recently announced the OpenSpan Windows Container for IBM Lotus at IBM's 2009 Lotusphere Conference. This new offering enables and extends IBM Lotus Notes (version 8.5+) or IBM Lotus Expeditor (version 6.2+) to integrate and automate applications not currently supported by Expeditor, including native Windows desktop applications.

They also have a pretty slick video that shows the basic concepts.

Excellent use of Composite Applications

A developer I met at DNUG last week named Florian from a company called We4IT showed me this composite application his company wrote for one of their clients. It is a great example of a composite application. He went ahead and sent this summary and screen shots to me to share.

From Florian:

DocHouse BRM is a Lotus Notes CRM suite created by KUMAsoft. We4IT is a DocHouse sales partner and also uses the CRM suite on a daily basis.

*click to make larger

As you can see in the screen, DocHouse is a collection of many databases, each used for a special purpose like sales, office or caredesk functionality.

The idea was to create an application with a portal character, where the user can find the requested data very quickly. We didn’t want to create something new from scratch but use existing and working components, so we gave the composite application a try.

DocHouse GO! is the result of that idea.

We also were trying to keep the DocHouse suite design standard, so we won’t have problems with templates and update cycles in the future. By creating additional design elements in the DocHouse databases and setting the “prohibit design refresh or replace to modify” flag in these elements we should be safe here.

*click to make larger

Let’s have a look at the numbered sections and components in the screen “dh_go_compapp_we4it.png” now.
Nevertheless the captions are in german, they should be self-explanatory.

(#1) Button “Neu…”
Create new CRM documents like mail, opportunities, activities or meeting protocols.
You don’t need to open the corresponding DocHouse database – you can do it right here.

(#2) Header form with customer information
If a customer is selected in section #4, the important and frequently used data is displayed here.
Using link hotspots, you can take action immediately – like creating an e-mail immediately or call the customer by softphone.

(#3) Search form
Enter the contact or company you’re looking for and hit “Suchen” (search) to show it in section #4.

(#4) Contact/company index
This is the active part. Anything you change here will change the entries in the sections #2 and #5 to #8.
Just select a contact or a company and the filters of the sections mentioned before will be set.

(#5) Correspondance
Every correspondance document concerning the customer contact is displayed here: Ingoing and outgoing e-mail, phone messages, letters, meeting protocols, offers, …

(#6) Other documents
Here you can find documents such as projects, supports tickets, contracts and archived documents.

(#7) Sales: Activities
(#8) Sales: Opportunities

These sections are mostly used by the sales department to coordinate their processes and to do’s.

DocHouse GO! was initially created with Notes and CAE 8.0.1, which was quite an adventure…

Using Notes 8.5 and visiting the recent composite app workshop in Stuttgart (thanks again, Bob), we’re about to revise the DocHouse GO! application.

The plan is to create several portals, each with a focused and special content for every department like sales, user helpdesk and regular office users to increase productivity even more.

I’ll keep you posted on that.


Should quality engineers also be black belts?

I subscribe to a couple of job boards and get the usual emails about different openings. This one caught my eye because of the desired skills. This is from a government contracting company and the security level is “secret”. I guess you will be doing more than software stuff.

Software Quality Engrg Mgr

Desired skills
* Certified Green Belt / Black Belt
* Process Development, Roll Out / Validation
* Experience in planning and implementing methods and metrics for assessing process health.
* Change Agent Mentality
* Process Focus
* Experienced auditor/assessor
* Knowledge of CMMI / AS9100 Standards
* Cost Estimation
* Proposal Experience
* Budgetary Oversight

Some pictures from Deutsche Notes User Group (DNUG)

Heiko's company (SIT GmbH) sponsored this workshop. The first morning was mostly presentations and demonstrations of the new container framework and Composite Application Editor enhancements in Notes 8.5. The content was very well received.

Me, Heiko, and his wife Martina in a local restaurant in Herrinberg.

The view from my hotel:

This is me talking to the first few sets of slides:

Heiko took me to the Porsche museum – it was awesome:

Update to Lotus Notes Mail Rule Utilities

By popular demand, I went ahead and added a new preference screen for the mail utilities. Check out the updated files at the bottom of the article where you can download them. You can now configure what database the mail rules run against. This means you can configure it to run against a mail archive or always be a local replica – regardless of what mail file you opened. The behavior if the fields are blank is the mail file will be used – the last one open.

I also fixed a problem where the icon does not show in Notes 8.5.

You will then see the path for what file is used. If it is a local file then it will look like a file path.