Individual requirements to be met by the project management software can be accommodated quickly and flexibly on various levels by the add-on PLANTA Customizer. The system ensures that when there is a new version of software, any customer-specific modifications are retained.
Module customizing means the creation of new processing and analysis modules or the modification of existing ones. Customizing will be required if the user wishes to make individual modifications, for example to:
- produce special reports and forms
- remove unwanted fields from forms or reports
- incorporate additional fields of the standard DB in forms or reports
- generate special layouts
The pre-configured user roles can be modified to meet company-specific requirements. For each role, a user menu is compiled, containing the modules with the necessary functions and data, required for the user’s activity profile. This user menu can either be made up of standard modules, or alternatively can also contain individually-created modules.
In configuring forms and reports too, the system has the latitude to cater for users’ individual requirements. For this purpose, PLANTA offers a Module Customizer, with the help of which existing processing and analysis modules can be duplicated, and then adapted to individual requirements in the form of customer-specific modules. This ensures that when there is a release change the individual enhancements are retained. Module customizing can be carried out either by PLANTA or by the user organization itself. Doing so calls for no knowledge of programming. Modules are created and modified using a graphical development environment.
Creating and modifying modules
Module customizing enables the user simply and rapidly to create a new module. The new module is given a module title, and assignments to user roles. After this, the data areas are created and edited. When doing this, data fields such as project, project budget are inserted into data areas from the data dictionary by a drag+drop procedure, or existing data areas are copied, assigned to the module in whatever order is required, and modified as appropriate. In doing so it is possible, for example, to specify whether search criteria are to be effective only for an area, or across the company, whether data areas are to be displayed or the user is to have the option to switch the display on and off, and whether the areas involved are normal, grouped or totals areas.
For example, when data fields are being edited it is possible to specify whether they are to be sorted in ascending or descending order, whether they are input or output fields, how they are to be summarized, what format the dates or numbers have, and the color, size and font to be used for the symbols. It is possible, on a module-specific basis, to activate menu items, format windows, define sort and search criteria, create user-specific legends and specify the positions of data fields.
The data areas and data fields can have assigned to them symbols with various font styles and sizes, colors, hatching or frames. Numerous formatting elements can be selected for this purpose. In addition, the editing and creation of new modules is simplified by predefined modules, groups, data areas, scale/totals/graphics areas, plus selection lists for formatting numbers and dates.
Activity sequences which comprise constantly recurring worksteps can be automated using macros. For this purpose, PLANTA provides a macro recorder, which records the work steps carried out using the menu bars or the keyboard.
Macros can be set up for use within specific modules or across modules. They can subsequently be modified manually.
To make it easier for users to create new modules, and to promote uniformity in working procedures, PLANTA has laid down rules for names and the use of colors. These rules can be used for the naming of bar and date scales, and for the colors used in data fields, in modules, in the project management application, in forms, in barcharts, on time scales and for links.
Import and export
The Module Customizer can be used to create modules for importing or exporting data. Data can be imported and exported by means of a macro, for example so that the imported data is automatically saved, or to automate the regular export of data. Exported files can be write-protected, can be conveniently administered by means of coded identifiers, and can be imported online into other applications. The import and export formats and file contents are configurable.
System customizing allows changes to be made in PLANTA system affecting the logic, data model and user interface. Because such changes have system-wide implications, system customizing is generally carried out by PLANTA or by one of the customer’s system specialists.
Modifications to the user interface
PLANTA software displays can be changed on a system-wide basis. It is possible to change the settings for the user interface, the colors, the menu items, the fonts and bar symbols, the formats of dates and numbers, and for the logo in the menu bar.
Adapting the data model
All the information about the data model is contained in a data dictionary in a meta-database. If it is necessary to create a data model which deviates from the standard one, the data dictionary, with its data tables and individual columns, can be correspondingly extended or modified. It is possible, for example, to define the text type or format concerned for data items, or whether the data items are OLE objects, whether they represent date scales which are to be displayed graphically using date bars and structures, or whether they are to be displayed as histogram scales or bars.
When entries are made into data fields, they can be subject to checking or calculation. For this purpose, the possible inputs can be listed or calculated and checked by means of formulas.
Example: Entry check
The operators which are permissible in calculation formulae are the arithmetic operators, brackets, logical and binary operators and comparison operators.
Each data record in the database contains a unique identifying number. These identifying numbers can sometimes be distracting or a hindrance, and so the system customizer can be used to permit suppression of the display of the identifying number, or to issue new numbers automatically, in accordance with a particular rule.
With each data record (e.g. project, task) a note is saved of who set up the data record and who last changed it.
Planning the customizing
Particularly where major modifications are involved, it is advisable to make precise plans, to ensure complete implementation and full documentation.
Model procedure for customizing
PLANTA’s customizing procedure model shows all the steps required for successful implementation of an individual application.
After establishing a schedule for the introduction of the software, a general specification of the objective, the planning model, the users or user roles, plus the interfaces to other systems, is drawn up for the required PLANTA application. An adjustment of the standard data model against the required one will indicate whether all the data fields are already included, or whether the data tables need to be extended with the help of the system customizer. After the user roles and groups have been defined, together with the functions which they exercise and the data they process, then the processing and analysis modules, which are to be provided within the modules, are created with the appropriate menu items. The changes thus made are documented in an individual user manual, which also gives instructions on using the modules. An integration test ensures that the application which has been created is complete across all user roles. After successful trial operation with a few users, the individual application can then be released for all users.
Integration of Python
PLANTA has integrated the open source programming language Python into the PLANTA Customizer in order to even more increase the adaptability and flexibility of the software.