Monday, 8 December 2008

To Bordeaux and Beyond

Just read through the latest presentation uploaded to eService.

Bordeaux (not quite as far as Sedna) is coming, the new version of the 6.0 platform, which will replace the frankly old Sedna stuff. About time too.

It seems that this will not be a big rejig of the whole interface as in 6.0, but be a 5 - 5.1 - 5.7 transition. Keeping the back end the same, but adding functionality. Somethings that tweak my interest

  • Choice of Smart client & thin client (thin client is back!)
  • External data access - excellent, no longer producing bespoke asp pages.
  • Reporting services for reports - at last, getting rid of the Crystal environment. Do you think the price will come down as they don't have to pay Business Objects
  • Visual workflow - is this a pivotal agents replacement? I hope so.
  • Integrated dev environment - no toolkit? At all? Going to miss it.
  • Windows Mobile is going to be supported. Now just have to get support for iPhone, Symbian & Android to fully be a mobile solution.
No release dates yet, but I can not download the accompanying webinar, so might have missed some detail.

Hope Bordeaux is a better release than SP1, the treeview is really a big step backwards.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008


I notice that there is a wiki started by a member of Pivotal CRM Forum.

Looking at the thread, it is a wonder that CarlC started it all, with what seems like a lack of support from the rest of the community, with the exception of those that responded to the thread.

If you want to get involved, improve on the poor documentation that Pivotal provides us, and to document how to use Pivotal correctly, please go to

and add some content, suggest some stuff, and generally help out.

Friday, 17 October 2008

5.9 SP3

I have just finished playing with the latest and greatest hot fix for 5.9, and, after been tipped off by one of the posts on, can't believe that the smart portals don't work.

Pivotal have, for all my time working with the product, excelled themselves by breaking bits of the application when fixing another part, and this is something that affects all developers, especially with a complicated application that 5.9 surely is. I have been known to do this myself in the past, and I'm pretty good ;)

The only way to prevent this is to ensure your quality assurance processes and people are up to scratch. There should be a set of simple tests that are done for every release, whether it is a Pivotal release or one of your own, which are conducted in all the release versions you make, before they make it in to production and again as the first thing you do after the production release.

If Pivotal haven't got this process in place, haven't got the staff to do the work, what ever the excuse, then what are we paying our maintenance for? Are we in the wrong to expect a release from them not to break other bits of the application?

I know their concentration must be with Sedna now, but there are a lot of people on the 5.X platform that will be staying with it (and paying their maintenance) up to and beyond the date when support stops, surely we should expect some QA process to assist us going forward? Are they just relying on the likes of you and I in doing the testing for them?

The first thing Pivotal says when I come across any problem is to install the latest hot fix. I won't be doing so in the future unless they can prove my issue has been fixed, and it has been QAd effectively.

P.S. There is a fix for the issue with smartportals, coming in HF2 (SP3 less than a month ago), but if you need SP3 before then, there is a workaround documented here

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Pivotal CRM Sucks

Whilst you might think this title is a little strange for a blog post by someone who makes a living from Pivotal software, but this is was the fourth highest search phrase used by visitors getting to the blog by a search engine.

Admittedly, this phrase has only been used 5 times by my readers (says something about the number of readers I have, poor me!) but I would generally like to know what makes Pivotal suck. 4 of the searches were from USA and one Australian, well their IP addresses are anyway.

Are those 5 disgruntled users who are stuck with a R99 windows client implementation? Have they been forced into using a badly designed system, or is it a genuine gripe about the functionality that Pivotal provide? Maybe someone will make a comment, that I will publish, which will enlighten me and the handfull of other professionals that read this.

Hopefully none of those searching are using Sedna, but would be interesting to find out.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Sharepoint again

Following on from my previous post on Sharepoint, I thought I would follow up on what the final solution was.

The customer has now implemented sharepoint storage of documents through out their business, relying on web segments linked to various points of the sharepoint document library. I have learned several things on the way, more to do with the complexity of using the Sharepoint webservices and the limitations of Sharepoint than functionality within Pivotal.

Simple one liners to create folders are easy to come across on the web, but it is tricky to ensure you are creating a folder in the correct location and file structure.

I think Sharepoint integration should be a standard feature, instead of storing in the local database, as Sharepoint is free and has version control etc which is not possible (well, probably possible but difficult to implement) with standard documents within Pivotal

Monday, 29 September 2008

Pivotal Visual Studio Plugin

I thought that I would share with you all something I have been working on for quite a while, in between work and family stuff.

It is a addin for Visual Studio 2005 & 2008 which aids in building .NET appserver rules, available here

The addin places a new toolwindow into the VS ide, listing all the tables within a Pivotal BM. From here, you can drag and drop fields, queries and tables into your code, as well as generating full constants and appserver scripts. On installation, there will be a new option, Pivotal CRM Addin under the View / Other windows menu. You will have to connect to the appropriate database on first run, as well as load the configuration file.

It has the following features in this first release.
  1. Drag and drop fields, queries and tables from addin into current project code, including mulitple select.
  2. Create full appserver rule definition, or constants class
  3. Detailing of Active Forms, Tabs, Segments and fields, including properties etc.
  4. Jump between foreign key field and it's linking field
  5. Jump to the field definition for an active form field
  6. XML configuration of constant and class generation
  7. Support for Microsoft SQL Server & Oracle databases.
The project is released under the Apache license which allows everyone to use and modify for their own purposes. What I would like is to you to have a play with it, and suggest improvements (and bugs) on the codeplex project page. What would be great if someone out there is willing to help me improve it. The codeplex page has limited documentation at the moment, but I (and hopefully you) will improve this over time.

I want to expand it to be more useful to Sedna projects, but I have not got my head around the XML that a form generates yet, but someone might be able to help with that.

Think I should also mention that this is no way endorsed or developed by CDC Software or it's subsidiaries. Pivotal and other trademarks are owned by CDC Software.

Let me know what you think, and whether it is worth expanding on.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

5.9 SP3 Available

Just been on and see that Business Server & Rich Client 5.9 SP3 is available.

Whilst these service packs don't really add much for me, it got me thinking about other versions. Taking a look at

Product Support Roadmap

anything below 5.9 is now out of Mainstream support, with 5.7 finishing in May 2008 (a little later for the French & Japanese versions). 5.9 will come out of mainstream support in July 2010, so I assume that there will be a further service pack before then.

For all 5.7 and below customers - what is the next step? Upgrade to 5.9 to eek out a few more years (and have the difficulties involved with the License Server)? Take the plunge with Sedna? - God help you if you are a WAM client.

For all 5.9 customers, you have less than 2 years to get your systems over to Sedna, and with these lean times for IT projects I am not sure many will. The expense in converting is a real incentive to look at other products.

Pivotal - make our lives easier, and take some of the burden in getting on Sedna. Maybe reduce support costs if the client migrates, free consultancy etc. The only way you are going to get enough people on Sedna is to either make the pain of migration go away or give customers some incentive to inflict the pain on themselves.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Error handling

Whilst I, like all of you I am sure, never write code which would need an error handler, I am intrigued on how this is approached across the various deployment I have seen.

Some deployments leave errors in the lap of the gods, and to be honest, the error handler in Pivotal meets a lot of peoples needs. Others rely on logging all errors to an external file, even others create a separate error class in the event viewer to show what is going on.

I just have a feeling that all this error handling adds to the complexity of the situation, and can be the majority of the code.

With the essential try...catch in C# I am coming to the conclusion that it is essential to log as much as possible at the lowest level when an error occurs, as the user never gives us the whole picture, certainly not remembering exactly what they did and copying the error message. A vague 'Pivotal is broken' is the usual phone call I get.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

New site

It still amazes me how little I know about Pivotal.

I am on a new site, where Pivotal has been running for some time, and seeing how they have customised and developed their solution gives me new ideas and ways of approaching customisation of the system.

It is a 5.9 Rich client system, heavily customised in most areas, and their use of non OOB functionality is great. What it tells me is that you can teach an old dog new tricks and there is more than one way to skin a cat.

The client is planning on moving forward with 6.0, and I hope to be at the forefront of this development.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Been a while

Sorry there has not been any post for a while, been tied up with vacations and work.

With the 5.9 support deadline only a year away (that is for new HF / SP, and will probably move) I still don't see any of my clients moving to Sedna. Not sure how it is in the non-partner world, those supported by Pivotal directly, but there does not seem to be any push from us to get the upgrades going.

Most are taking the opportunity to re-evaluate CRM in general, and whether Pivotal is consider depends on the history between the supplier and client a lot of the time, rather than any technical considerations. If people can remember the poor service / support response they got, then they are blaming the product rather than the partner / Pivotal.

I am hoping Pivotal is marketing Sedna heavily in all communities, but I have not seen any.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Generally Available

Sorry for the delay since the last post, the real world caught up with me for a month.

After attending the CDC Connect conference in the Williams Conference centre (what a venue, never mind all the cars etc, as a conference centre for that many people, it would be hard to beat) I was bouyed by the number of clients their for CDC in general, and Pivotal in particular. A good mixture of both clients I knew about and I did not.

Mathieu and Scott did a good job presenting Pivotal 6 again, but nothing new, apart from it was using the GA release. I think Mr Booth lost alot of people with his upgrade stuff, but it was good to hear my views echoed by a seasoned consultant such as him. He really made it clear that for WAM users it will be a big leap of faith for going to Pivotal 6. I am not sure that the investment needed gives you the benefits.

Maybe I am wrong, what are the views out there?

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Cheat Sheet

Think I am moving forward with Sedna now, thanks to the Cheat Sheet, which I found invaluable when rebuilding my demo systems.

Cheat Sheet

This document is essential for all of us whilst we are still learning how to get the new version up and running.

I have finally taken the plunge and gone with a separate Sharepoint VMWare, which is also my domain controller, and this configuration works really well. You do need a sizable machine (I am running on a dual core Dell with 4Gb ram) but the domain controller / sharepoint server makes it more like real life.

I am a little concerned about the numerous versions that seem to be flowing out of R&D recently, the second one released end of last week, 25th, with versions release on 8th April and 17th March. I would prefer to see these as hot fixes, as I don't want to go through the pain of installation again, and want a stable base to start really selling this stuff.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Pivotal 6 thoughts

Well, I finally have a demonstrable version of sedna up and running.

My Thoughts....

  • One click install - an improvement over the install nightmares I have seen in Windows clients.
  • Smart Client interface - very clean, very useable, very customisable
  • Forms - well, they could not get much worse than in Active client
  • Client / Server Tasks - once I have got my head around it all, I am sure, as we are in the .NET world, we can really take huge strides to produce efficient, complex solutions.
  • Ability to use vbscript / VB dlls
  • Sharepoint Portals - What a luxury!
  • Outlook integration - I think this is going to be the killer part for people to upgrade.
  • No Pivotal agents - The import utility is useful, but not a patch on what could be done in Pivotal agents on the fly. Leads to more work for customisers to do the bespoke import jobs.
  • Documentation - still pretty poor.
  • Need CMS 6.1 desperately.
  • No pretty looking Portals OOB, would prefer to see several graphs etc being used.
  • No undo in the form designer

Monday, 17 March 2008

Fustrated again

Still in the middle of getting Sedna up and running.

First things first, the documentation still sucks.

I wanted a document which was - do these steps to get Sedna up and running using the OOB CMS as we have it.

What I am doing is going across many documents etc which are not clear which steps to do first, which are essential etc etc.

The client seems slow as well, but then I am running on VMWare, on a laptop, so will reserve judgement until I see it in production, well a better spec machine anyway.

Does look good though, I am still working on it, and will do a full review if I get time by the end of this week.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Sedna (Sorry Pivotal 6) at last

Just a step away from getting the new release up and running...

Only taken me all day, last stumbling block was no SQL 2005 SP2.

Will let you know how I get on later

Monday, 10 March 2008

MIA Still

As I have been MIA for a couple of weeks, I thought that when I came back to life Sedna would be everywhere. But it has not been released yet!

13th March is the latest release time, but I won't hold my breath.

Wonder what last minutes bugs / features they are fixing?

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Sedna - Still MIA

I watched the Sedna webcast on Migration yesterday, and I think I have seen it before, around November time.

What struck me when I was watching it was the bits that we haven't seen yet.

  • Queries and reporting - promised in the next webcast
  • Import tool - the replacement for the good old Pivotal import routines
  • Pivotal Agents replacements - I remember (not sure where I got this from) that there was a planned replacement for Pivotal agents, using something similar to Biztalk Workflow. This will greatly aid those non-developers out there that love agents.
  • Pivotal Agent Explorer - mentioned lots of times, but no visibility yet

The other think that is not quite MIA, but moving backwards, is the release date. First week in March is the current plan, wonder what is causing them issues?

Also, the release in March will not be capable of being sold to new customers. I assume that this is because the CMS is not up to scratch yet. What level of CMS will be included with the first release?

I, like others I am sure, will be downloading the code as soon as it becomes made available. Work commitments permitting, I will report back as soon as it is installed.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Sedna Webcast - Migrating to Sedna

Link to the latest webcast, all about Migrating.

3pm GMT or at other times later.


Monday, 18 February 2008

Webex Player link

Especially for Sumit

Below is a link to the Webex player which you need to use to play any of the pre=recorded webexes on Sedna or any other topic.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Sedna - Client / Server Tasks - My thoughts

After watching the client / server tasks yesterday afternoon, I am getting more excited.

The "soft required" functionality is pretty cool, and really a good way to prompt users what is required for a function to operate, gives you more of an indication that a normal error message.

I assume the messagebox that was being used is going to be replaced by a more aesthetically pleasing version like the CMSMsgbox, but we wait and see.

The flexibility of Client and Server tasks will be the great benefit of Sedna, even more so than the flexibility of 5.X, which I see as it's key feature and a killing selling point if you are going some where that the OOB (including the Financial / Housing versions) don't go.

Overall, I think the presentation was poor. I know it was a hard task to get through a very techie topic, but I thought the presenter should have been more clear on what he was doing and the results, as well as using best practices rather than written constants everywhere, but I did get a lot out of it.

Bring on the release. I may have time to get it installed next month.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Sedna Webcast - Client / Server Tasks

Just a link to the latest webcast, 3pm GMT today, Wednesday 13th February, all about Client & Server Tasks in Sedna.

There is also one later in the day for those in the Americas.

I am looking forward to this one, trying to grasp how client scripting has been changed is essential to allowing customisers to really get the best out of the application.

See you there (well, not really)

Friday, 8 February 2008

Sedna Again - Form Design

Forgive if you have already know this, but there is more and more information coming out of Vancouver about Sedna.

If you log-in to or and select Product Downloads \ Upgrade Kits and search for Sedna, there are currently 4 download-able zip files containing one or more webcasts showing how to do things within Sedna.

One of them is Installation and administration, which I have already discussed.

The Form Design one got me quite excited. Seeing someone create a Smart Client form from scratch and add functionality to it (all be it basic stuff) was quite exciting.

I love the way you can drag information from Parent tables (they demo showing the email address of a Contact associated with a Support Incident) without creating a field or disconnected field as in RC 5.X.

The integration of .NET form design with Pivotal functionality seems rather good, and easy, allowing simple tasks to be done quite easily. You also seem to be able to get at more properties, such as background and foreground colours, without resorting to using the DOM explorer.

The tab sequence definition is also straight forward, as well as creating forms in multiple languages. Not that I see that often in my current role, but good to know it is there.

Above all, I love the freedom a customiser will have to make the forms easy to
use by the end users.

Maybe all of this is taken for granted to current .NET bespoke application developers, but for someone who has been restricted to the current Pivotal restrictions for so long, I am getting excited. Roll on February 28th.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Sedna Webcast - Installation & Administration

Viewed the latest webcast for Sedna yesterday, and I have to admit thinks look like they are falling into place.

Installation seems just as easy as with 5.X, though the ease at which the deployment of portal pages is still a worry. I will wait until I use it in anger to pass a real judgement. I like the fact that they are using .NET 3.0, which for once is the latest and greatest.

I have one outstanding question, in that will a normal user require administrative access to their own machine to allow the installation / update of the Smart Client code? Will there be a silent install option for installation and update?

Administration seems more intuitive, all in one place, without the need for the administrator to have a licence. The PAC (Pivotal Administration Client) or eREM to his mates is another TLA I will have to learn to use instead of the previous one.

One thing that did impress me is that they have removed the licensing restrictions on customisation systems and increased the demo licensing to 50 users (+ 20 mobiles) which is great news for everybody, and will probably reduce the administration of licensing within Pivotal as well.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Sedna Webcast Schedule

Just received a notification that there is a series of Webcasts scheduled over the next 4 weeks to showcase parts of Sedna. Not sure that this has gone out to all customers / partners / prospects, so hopefully more of you will know about them now.

Link to the first below
at 3pm GMT or other times if you are not east of the US.

The schedule is

6th Feb
- Installation & Administration
13th Feb -
Client task and Server tasks
20th Feb - Migration to Sedna
27th Feb
- Reports and Queries; Search Results

Will post my thoughts as soon as I can, as well as links to the next ones when I get them.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

The New Year

Apologies for taking a time to post again, been a busy month for my family and I, and work has not been too good for taking a break as usual ;)

What are my hopes for Pivotal in the New Year?

Well I hope Sedna is as good as it promises and is not too buggy. I am expecting lots of little things that will only come to light when someone develops in the environment in anger. Lots of 'I can do this in 5.X, but can not seem to be able to do the same in Sedna', which happened for me moving from 3 to 5 to 5.9.

I am looking forward to working with Sedna, and hoping (a bit of a desperate hope I admit) that the documentation is up to scratch. Just a quick 'This is the stuff that is new, look at the one I made earlier' would be good, as in point the developer to OOB scripts that use the functions that you are documenting. It is so much easier to see a line of code in 'action' rather than making sure you are using the right object, have instantiated it properly etc etc.

From my previous rants, you will know that I want Pivotal to market themselves more effectively. I have invested a lot of my time and career in this product, and I want it to evolve and have more installations. Stagnation will happen if the thing doesn't sell.

I am hoping to have a play with the Pivotal AppServer Rule Conversion Tool (PACT) recently announced in the next couple of weeks, but don't hold out much hope. I am finally comfortable with .NET ASRs and know how different a VB6 one is. It may be converted, but it certainly won't produce streamlined code.