White Box, Inc.
Books ERP System
"We fought with the user interface implementation for over a year before we discovered Iron Speed Designer.... To get to a Web Form solution, Iron Speed Designer saved us countless thousands of dollars."

- Les Cardwell, President of White Box, Inc.

The Books ERP System

White Box, Inc.
Mt. Hood, OR USA

The Books application is a new, double-entry enterprise accounting system based on standard accounting constructs and processes. It includes all General Ledger, Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, Checkbooks, Fixed Assets, Payroll, and various sub-modules.

Since core accounting processes are fairly static across most enterprises, and most of the application customization occurs in the Inventory Control and Manufacturing modules, this application does not contain any Inventory Control modules in the core accounting product. By separating the two, we can easily integrate Books into other custom applications without having to touch a lot of the accounting code. It also allows us to do vertical upgrades of the accounting core across the entire user base, regardless of the nature of their business requirements, whether that is an Inventory Control (Line-Of-Business) application, including Service modules, CRM (Customer Relationship Management) modules, Leasing/Rental modules, or any other front-end modules our customers may have implemented.

Application size and scope

All of the accounting tables are included in a single database.

There are more than 300 web pages, 75 tables, and 600 stored procedures within the Books application.

The number of records in the database is only limited by Microsoft SQL Server and the requirements of the business in question. We've designed the Books Application to conform to Microsoft "Best Practices" to allow for high concurrency, data-correctness, and data-integrity.

The project

This project is still in development although it is nearing completion now. We have been working on it using various approaches since mid-2003. However, that includes the long ramp time to C#, .Net, a lot of R&D trying various code-generators, first versions as a Win Form application, to its current state as a Web Form (Iron Speed Designer) application.

Fred Kingston, a venture capitalist, and I established "AKC Developers LLC" to create a line-of-business industry-specific application which will use Books as the accounting core for vertical distribution within that industry (future article on that application forthcoming), and provided the impetus for the development of Books.

It only took a few weeks for us to produce the Alpha version of the Books application, but by the time we'd been introduced to Iron Speed Designer, we had already worked through a lot of the surrounding issues.

This application did not require many code customizations. Our strength is in the RDBMS (Relational Database Management System) arenas, and we perform almost all of the business rule implementations and execution on the back-end, using database views to handle much of what others would handle in the user Interface.

Code extensions and customizations

Most of the code extensions were referential integrity implementations, where cascading dropdown list boxes are used against composite key joins. We also added filters and some data-validation customizations. Very little additional code was required.

We have not added any third party components as of yet. We may consider some graphic add-ins for financial reporting unless we decide to leave that to the end-user using "Exports" and a spreadsheet. Given the nature of end-users who want to manipulate the data, that remains the most logical and flexible solution.

Page layout customizations

The only page customizations required were simple adjustments using the Iron Speed Designer configuration options. We really do believe in high-level RDBMS concepts and practices — traverse and collect data methodologies, high levels of normalization, view utilization, etc. In fact, our General Ledger table is really a view over the top of the source data table(s), enforcing little or no data-redundancy.

For the most part we used the Iron Speed Designer "Mount Redmond" design theme.

Metrics for success

We designed the entire solution from the bottom up as a turn-key implementation, including using Microsoft Small Business Server as the core where appropriate, and scaling up from there as demands require. The application(s) will be run on a separate server to maintain application integrity, and to allow for isolated integration into larger systems to avoid the pitfalls often seen with shared implementations. Because we render all things data-related to the back-end, we have a great deal of flexibility in performing performance tuning against those constructs using native tools.

Iron Speed Designer impact

We fought with the user interface implementation for over a year before we discovered Iron Speed Designer. We did arrive at a viable solution, but the implementation was long, tedious, and subject to a good deal of work when changes were desired.

It would have been feasible, but the price-point to consumers would have been higher, especially for customizations. To get to a Web Form solution, Iron Speed Designer saved us countless thousands of dollars.

Next steps

Once we've deployed and integrated the application to existing projects, and have had a chance to work through early version issues, we intend to make it available as a vertical shrink-wrapped solution, as well as an integratable solution for other developers to utilize in their own programming efforts.

About the developer

Les Cardwell
President of White Box, Inc.

Les Cardwell is the President of White Box, Inc. based in Mt. Hood, OR and an affiliate of AKC Development Corp. Les has been with White Box, Inc. since 2004 and specializes in providing custom software development, system analysis/design and IT project management services to customers in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Prior to joining White Box, Les spent nine years in project management and consulting as the Vice President of PLM Consulting, Inc. Les holds a Master's of Information Technology, and graduated summa cum laude from American Intercontinental University.

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