David Clover


    Office Schedule tool in XPages written in two days

    David Clover  12 September 2013 10:10:38
     A neighbouring department had an urgent need for a utility to meet a work planning need. The office supports a wide range of activities across the organisation. To date, the office had been using a shared MS Excel spreadsheet to manage work scheduling, and this approach had been used for several years despite a number of disadvantages – only one person could use the spreadsheet at a time, records could be accidentally over-written or deleted with no audit trail and the amount of data that could be displayed was limited. Excel is not a suitable tool for a task of this complexity. The schedule also employed a complex system of colour coding to indicate priority, status and due date, and these colours all needed to be applied by hand where relevant: a time-consuming manual task.  Despite these limitations, this Excel schedule was the main record of ongoing, upcoming and completed work for the whole survey office  team and as a result was integral to the office’s smooth running.

    While moving to a web-based tool for managing their scheduling has been a desirable idea for some time, it became a higher priority following an incident where the office found that a record had been accidentally deleted, causing inconvenience to a client who was expecting some results and considerable disruption to the office as work had to be hastily re-arranged to prioritise work that had been missed.

    So an IBM Domino web-based tool was created by a member of our MCT IT-Development Group running under XPages, and because of the urgency, it was developed in two days of intensive programming and analysis.

    The main benefits of the new approach are:
    • Everyone can use the schedule at the same time;
    • It’s impossible to delete a record by accident;
    • ‘Info’ entries (the purple bars across the whole sheet) will automatically disappear once their date has passed;
    • The client group will be able to record more details about jobs than are currently possible – a notes field has been added which can hold an unlimited amount of text;
    • Each member of the client group has a personal view so each person can see just those jobs that are relevant to him or her;
    • People outside the survey office, including managers, can be given access to use the link to see jobs in progress without needing access to server folder shared area;
    • The green/blue shading for this/next week’s jobs will be applied automatically over time rather than needing manual updating;
    • Jobs will automatically move to the ‘finished’ tab when they have been completed.
    The client department is thrilled with the new environment and it represents another significant achievement for the rapid development potential and flexibility of our Domino 9 XPages rapid development environment.

    Here's a screen shot of what the user sees:
    Image:Office Schedule tool in XPages written in two days

    1Niklas Heidloff  13/09/2013 06:28:25  Office Schedule tool in XPages written in two days

    Thanks for sharing, David. Nice story. Do you have a higher resolution screenshot?

    2DavidcClover  13/09/2013 06:42:03  Office Schedule tool in XPages written in two days

    The content of the exact page shown page is private so it's kept small to prevent overlooking. But I guess we could supply you with an empty copy to play with Niklas. Let me know if you'd find that useful.

    3Brendan Long  13/09/2013 08:24:16  Office Schedule tool in XPages written in two days

    Two days? That's impressive, and a great story to tell.

    I can remember the old "One weekend and unlimited pizza" adage for how long it took to throw together a small solution in Notes/Domino, so I'm glad to know that skilled developers can still live up to this in XPages (even if I'm not in that category yet).

    Nice one!

    4Jeffery Lay  13/09/2013 09:20:52  Office Schedule tool in XPages written in two days

    I'm not sure I'd say I am in that category either - I wrote the system in question, but I'm very aware of how much I *don't* know, far more than I'm aware of how much I *do*, and I've yet to reach that nirvana point where looking at code I wrote a year ago no longer makes me cringe in shame. Of course, I suspect most half-decent career programmers would say the same!

    I can make the code available, but I don't think it would be a good resource for anyone: it's not good code. It's:

    1) spectacularly inefficient: using @Today in view selections, and repeated lookups instead of scoped variables, for example, which could easily be optimised out, but this is only going to be used for a tiny group of people and speed of development was the priority,

    2) specific to a particular team of people and the way they work, and hardcoded to that task rather than made flexible or retargetable (again, speed of development)

    3) not particularly smart or clever: it doesn't do any kind of resource allocation or checking, time management or workflow… it's basically a two very simple input forms, a date-filtered view, and a repeat control that constructs a view-like table with CSS classes applied to rows and cells on a per-date and/or per-flag basis.

    Basically, you can have it if you want it, but it's better as an example of bad practice than good. The success story here is more one of a quick-and-dirty solution (that doesn't *look* quick or dirty) that was able to meet requirements fast.

    5Richard Shergold  13/09/2013 09:51:42  Office Schedule tool in XPages written in two days

    Good work Jeff! I am sure you are not doing yourself justice when you describe the application's bad points. Although I know exactly what you mean about looking back and cringing. Sometimes, you just have to get the app out there though and its the users that count at the end of the day. Glad to see you have stuck with Domino/XPages and are doing good things with it.

    6Paul Withers  16/09/2013 21:48:06  Office Schedule tool in XPages written in two days

    Great work, as always. One of the hardest challenges, I think, for Domino developers is getting the business to understand what can be done with XPages rather than just creating a spreadsheet. Hopefully this will be a case study to point others to.

    7Emma Street  26/09/2013 10:27:44  Office Schedule tool in XPages written in two days

    As one of the clients who is in receipt of this brilliant new tool, and the person who had a major headache when my work got deleted from the old tool, I'd just like to say how very appreciative I am of your work in providing us with this new fool proof safe system that is so much quicker and efficient for our team to use.

    I'd thoroughly recommend you rolling this out to anyone else who uses a team work schedule, it saves so much of our time.

    Thank you very much to Jef, Dave and anyone else who was involved, and enjoy the appreciation cake!

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