Zetadocs Express – A Missed Chance

On October 31, months after MS announcement at Directions EMEA 2011, Equisys shipped Zetadocs Express, a freely available and low entry, light document management module for Dynamics NAV.
It allows you to Drag & Drop any file onto a record in the RTC to store it in SharePoint Online, start a SharePoint approval Workflow from within the RTC and Save & Send Dynamics NAV reports through Outlook and on SharePoint Online.
Of course you can find more information on this dedicated web page.

After having been part of the beta program, for weeks we had been looking forward to get the final version and go ahead with our first customer. In this blog I wanted to share our experiences that partly are of relevance to any of you who have thought of using Zetadocs Express in customer projects.

Business Value

As soon as we had heard of Zetadocs Express we reckoned that it would be of great help in our projects being a low entry, i.e. low investment, document management solution for a number of our small business customers. Indeed not a costless solution as  you need to have an Office 365 subscription for each of your users. Office 365 Small Business $ 6,- / month or Enterprise E1 ($ 10,- / month), E2 ($ 16,- / month), E3 ($ 24,- / month), E4 ($ 27,- / month).
Low entry and as such a first and easy step to a more complete/mature solution (see the Zetadocs for NAV product family).

Beta Program

The beta program had learned us that Zetadocs Express was easy to install, although I have to mention that it took a little while before I did get the SharePoint part working. On one hand this was due to having little SharePoint experience, on the other this was also complicated by the fact that, at that time, the installation guide was only available in English and my Office 365 was in Dutch including all SharePoint specific terms. However, do not despair, with the actual release of Zetadocs Express documentation is being provided in the following languages:

  • Danks
  • Deutsch
  • Español
  • Français
  • Italiano
  • Nederlands
  • Norske
  • Suomalainen
  • Svenska

The beta program also learned us that we were dealing with eager and dedicated professionals. Thumbs up for that, guys!

But there was one thing , in retrospect, we ourselves failed to handle in this stage: to try and implement it into our own add-on. Ouch, this is were our ‘love at first sight’ was substantially diminished. We had skipped that part due to some other urgent matters and based on our own short sightedness; i.e. we hadn’t read the documentation well enough apparently and assumed just an important bit too much.

Lessons Learned

So what did we ran into?

As soon as the final product was released one of our developers was set to task of implementing Zetadocs Express into our add-on. I.e. provide every relevant page with the Drag & Drop FactBox and Save & Send command. Not a big thing to do as it was just adding some lines to each page object using Araxis, etc.
Drag & Drop working fine, but Save & Send not at all. So I got a mail from the developer informing about this including more detailed info onto the why (based on his debug results and analysis of the code behind). At first I couldn’t believe my eyes, blurred by my assumptions and disbelieve.
But it was clear that Save & Send was only enabled for Sales and Purchase documents. And actually we could (and should) have known as this clearly was stated in one single line in the (beta and final) installation guide.

Missed Chance

Of course I blame myself for not having registered this initially and I will not try to cover that, but there are still some points that itch me to the bone and which I reckon to be missed chances for this product, and true, which I still do not fully understand why they have been missed. I’ll list from major to minor:

  1. Save & Send (A)
    • Both Page and Report ids have been hard coded in the product and as the code has been ‘sealed’ (i.e. we can not customize the code) we are stuck here as we cannot add any other page and report to this code
    • As said Report ids have been hard coded the standard Report Selection functionality is fully disregarded
  2. Save & Send (B)
    • Is only working on a single NAV document and not on multiple, i.e. a batch
  3. Drag & Drop
    • Is only working on a single document and not on multiple, i.e. a batch
  4. Save & Send (C)
    • Although Zetadocs Express is build for Office 365 it does not make use of it’s Outlook functionality; you will need a local Outlook client

The last 3 points are to us really minor matters and “part of the game” of setting a restricted scopes for a express product. The first was a real showstopper for us. Of course it’s a nice feature on those sales and purchase documents, but that’s only part of the need of our customers, so it’s unfortunately worthless. You cannot make a car run on two wheels!

From product development point of view I still have a hard time to understand why the scope has been set like this:

  • Providing this add-on to standard NAV to us all
  • Hard coding report and page ids and as such bypassing standard functionality (i.e. report selection)
  • But not allowing us to customize the code which is, let’s say, by tradition the case to all ‘standard’ features

As our product manager I had to decide , with ‘pain in my heart’ as we say over here, to abandon this potentially ‘great’ add-on and develop the Save & Send feature ourselves.
Meanwhile I am still hoping Equisys, in close collaboration with MS, picks up the virtual gauntlet I am throwing at them now.

Epilogue

By no means I am trying to pull a leg to anyone, I am just sharing our experience and my thoughts hoping this will help you to make your own decisions.

As such I also asked Equisys to read this before this would go out and was responded by word of Gregory Cole, ZetadocsProduct Manager:

True to your word you have produced an accurate account of the situation. It is right to point out that there is an additional cost for Office 365, assuming the NAV customer does not already have a subscription, but the key point is that it’s a no cost solution from Equisys.
In terms of the restrictions. We needed to keep the scope of Zetadocs Express tight to ensure the cost of supporting a no cost add-on was not going to be high. We have experience from supporting our complete solutions in the field that the cost of support rises significantly when troubleshooting custom NAV objects. Although we only provide Community support for Zetadocs Express, at this stage and I guess for many months Equisys staff will be the only people supporting it.

Notes

  • Zetadocs Express is freely available within the Business Ready Enhancement Plan
  • Office 365 Small Business does not enable SharePoint workflow

One Comment

  1. Hi Walter,

    Thanx for the addition. One extra to blame myself for 😉

    b rg

    Luc

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