by Len Barker, Managing Partner – Lotus Practice
This summer I have been doing an experiment. I wanted to see just how easy it is to take a smart young person with no programming experience, and teach them to create very useful business applications using Lotus Notes. The goal was to make this a very low cost endeavor so there would no one-on-one instruction or classroom training involved. Success would be measured by my subjects ability to take simple application specifications and create an application that would actually be used as a daily part of running my business. That was the plan, and it was a smashing success.
My first task was to find a smart young person with no programming experience that needed a summer job. My daughter Lauren fit the bill perfectly. She had just finished her junior year in high school, was into science and technology, was very comfortable with computers and had never done any programming. Well hardly any, I think she may have done a little for robotics competitions but nothing that would help with Lotus Notes programming. Oh yeah, and she needed a job… college is looming. The next task was to figure out how to get her training. Davalen does have instructors that I could have used but we had no classes scheduled and I didn’t want to pay for her to go to an instructor led class. An important part of my experiment was that I wanted the training to be inexpensive and to be on-demand, not at the mercy of a class schedule. TLCC’s self-paced training turned out to be just what I needed. For $1,300.00 I purchased the Lotus Designer Certified Developer class, gave it to Lauren and told her that in one month I would give her a job to do. I had my student and she had an inexpensive way to learn; all I needed was some design specifications.
An important part of managing any business is the ability for management to get a regular look at key business metrics. I had recently identified several reports that I wanted to see every week to shore up some holes in my view of business operations. From this list, I created my design specifications for Lauren’s first Lotus Notes application. The new application would have four forms to capture information and several views or reports to arrange the data in a meaningful way. The forms I asked for were:
- Cash Flow
The employee form would be used to capture HR related data so that I could easily see: employment anniversaries, salaries (encrypted field only visible to select individuals), and last pay increase.
The cash flow form would be used by accounting to attach a spreadsheet that contained an eight week cash flow forecast and a single field for this week’s cash flow estimate.
Contracts would be used to provide a quick look at any leases or contracts that would be expiring by month.
Tasks would be used by each employee to record the tasks they would be working on during the coming week and any potential trouble spots or help needed.
After writing this up in real specification format, I handed the document to Lauren. In less than two weeks she had a fully functioning, good looking application. I had a couple of 30 minute sessions with her to give her pointers and help with some formulas but that was it. For the Notes developers reading this, I will say that this was a Notes client only application, there was no Lotuscripting and no workflow. It did make proper use of Forms, Views, Framesets, Pages, Outlines, Shared Actions, and all of the supporting code that they require. But the important point for business owners that need a flexible and inexpensive way to create software applications to help them run there business, is that for a $1,300 investment in training and $10/hr for labor I got this wonderful application. More importantly, I now have a trained developer that can crank out all of the reports and databases I need.
Spread the word – Lotus Notes still has an important role to play in the business world.
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