JDA Focus 2015

I don’t normally write about my work here, but I just spent the last week in sunny Orlando, FL at JDA Software’s Focus conference. I figured I might as well sum up the experience here before its all over and begins to fade.

For those of you not familiar with JDA, they’re a software company who has a range of products spanning the entire supply chain from manufacturer right down to actually placing the product on the shelf. My work brings me into the macro and micro space planning realms. Or rather, I support the people  in my company who use the Floor Planning and Space Planning software.  This involves automating that software and interacting with JDA’s database product.

With that in mind, the most exciting part of the conference for me was anything to do with Space Automation Pro. You see, SA Classic is a proprietary, BASIC based language that, to be honest, is awful. It has several flaws, but the fatal one is that it has no concept of procedures or functions. Sure, I could mimic them with GOTOs, but I decided a long time ago that it was better to be repetitive than to start creating mounds of spaghetti. The other very nasty flaw is the lack of a reasonable debugger. Other than inserting hundreds of message boxes into your code (and commenting them out later), there’s no way to see the state of your code as it executes. It is seriously time consuming and frustrating to develop any system of any non-trivial complexity with Classic.

Pro is a huge step forward. Why is that? Because it has all of the power of the .Net framework and Visual Studio underneath it. The product is jumping from a language that doesn’t have procedures or a debugger, to a fully object oriented language complete with generics and delegates. This is huge for me and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

Suddenly anything is possible. If you can dream it, you can do it. First of all, it’s an environment where our SA code becomes not only debug-able, but maintainable and testable as well. The testable part is huge too. I’m currently spending an absurd amount of time manually testing and verifying each and every feature in a tool when making the littlest of changes and even then, I’m never really sure that I didn’t break something in the process. Developing in Visual Studio will turn days of work into hours and allow us to dream bigger than we dare to in our current environment. I don’t know when we’ll be migrating where I work, but we’d do it yesterday if it was my choice.

Okay. Down off my soap box to wipe the drool off of my mouth and talk about other goings on at Focus `15.

I attended most of the Special Interest Groups for the products we use and, as always, it was a great opportunity to get caught up on what’s going on with the products and the other members. There’s just something about being in a room with your peers that fosters conversation in a way that a quarterly phone call just can’t and never will. If you’re using JDA’s products, I highly recommend that you become a member. It is, without a doubt, the best way to learn about and stay current with the changes in recent releases.

In fact, it was in the Floor Planning SIG that I learned about a really interesting change. The concept of sub-Planograms. Basically, this allows you to assign a host Planogram to the floor plan, and then also assign a completely separate POG inside of that same space. The two separate Planograms have their own life cycles and, potentially, even their own analysts. This brings a whole new level of granularity to macro space planning that I’m excited to explore after our next upgrade.

I could probably go on like this for a while, but there’s a lounge chair by the pool calling my name. Next time I’ll update you on the state of Rubberduck’s integrated Git solution and tentative release plans.

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