Software Developers’ Terrible 10: Programmer Frustrations

I understand the 10 frustrations listed in this article. I’ve programmed for a long time…and I’ve experienced all of them.

But in the world of business software, this article completely misses the biggest frustration: changing specifications. I’m not talking about feature creep, that insidious disease that has killed many software projects by bloating them with features that aren’t needed and won’t be used. I’m talking about a very specific agreed upon description of a program feature that changes after the software is written.

A professor in Photo of a person at a desk with head in suggested to our class that the right way to do a specification for a software project was to write the manual for the software in advance. Great idea, I thought. So I tried it early after I started Data Guidance Group. I wrote the manual; the client approved it. We wrote the software, and we delivered it.

The software was a piece of billing software that calculated some key Section 8 housing limits. The client loaded the information into the software and my phone rang. “These calculations are wrong,” he said.

“Ok,” I said. “I’ll come by tomorrow morning and we’ll look at the numbers.” The next morning, I showed up bright and early to check the numbers. On one particular calculation, the computer came up with $320.00. I pulled out the software manual and got a piece of paper. After a few minutes of figuring, I came up with the answer. “Are these the right numbers from the software?” I asked. They were.

“Well,” I said, “I came up with $320.00.”

“The formula is wrong,” he said.

“But I followed the formula in the manual we wrote and you checked,” I said.

“Formula is wrong,” he said.

That’s what I mean by changing specifications: it’s not a matter of miscommunication. It’s a matter of changes to agreed specification. It’s an old saw in the software development industry: the user never knows what they want until you give them what they asked for.

We finally figured out how to solve the problem. But that’s another post.

ERP Usage Survey Coming…

We are Picture of person taking survey.preparing for our first ERP usage survey. The reason is simple: we want to design training and education for the new year that helps your business become more successful with their software.

If you have employees or associates that aren’t getting this newsletter, they won’t get the invitation for the survey. Please send this to anyone you think might be interested and we’ll make sure to include them in the survey.

Here’s the link to sign up for the ERP usage Survey.


Will Your ERP Handle AHA Reporting Requirements?

This year is the year. Well, actually, next year (2016) is the year you have to file the report. The AHA reporting requirements kick in for all employers with 50 or more employees. Congratulations, if you have 50 employees, you’re a “large employer.” Here’s the link to the IRS page for Large Employers, you lucky devil, you!

Remember that if you have between 50 and 100 employees, you’re eligible for “transition relief” for 2015 (meaning relief from penalties). However, you’re not exempt from reporting even if you get transition relief.

To avoid this headache now, contact your ERP system support (or your payroll outsourcer) and find out what you’re going to need to do to be compliant. If they can’t help, contact us. We may know of a solution for your product.

Sage Announces Change in Sage 300 PR Support

For years, Sage 300’s PR has required an annual tax table subscription. Since the invoice goes straight from Sage to the customer, I don’t know the pricing unless a client mentions it to us. It seems like it is somewhere around $695.

Last week, we got an email from Sage telling us that this was about to change. From now on, the annual fee for payroll support (which included payroll tax tables) will be more for users that process more employees. For 1-15 employees, the annual fee will change to $1,000, and it rises from there to 501+ employees. The email we received said that Sage customers (users) will get the notice in November.

AOffice desktop with stats, calculator, pencil, papers and folder named Payrolls Sage spins it, “Sage 100 and Sage 300 payroll customers now pay only for the employees for whom they process payroll.”

That is the way ADP, PayChex, and a number of other Payroll software companies handle it, after all. I guess I’m just sensitive because smaller clients in our area have been piqued at the $695 cost. I still remember the calls I got when Sage took out the feature in the DOS software that allowed us to change the payroll tax tables ourselves. But I also know that we and Sage got more calls because of messed up tax tables than we could shake a stick at.

Back to the change…I think there are several things driving this change:

  • Fifteen years ago, many of our small business clients with 50 or so employees processed their own payroll. Some of them did it on spreadsheets, so updating to computer software was a big improvement. Most of our clients wanted Payroll in their systems. Today, I have to think to count the number of clients who are actually processing their own payroll. And we have several that have payroll software but don’t use it.
  • The number of regulations and reports even a small company has to keep up with today are multiplying: E-verify, W-4, I-9, new employee reports, employee separation notices, worker’s compensation, AHA, COBRA, state insurance laws, unemployment, etc. Outsourcing payroll just to get someone else to watch out for these things and take care of them has been on the rise for several years. Even companies with 1000+ employees are outsourcing pieces of this puzzle.
  • Both of these items put together mean that there are more features an average piece of payroll software has to have, but there are fewer companies to spread the cost across. Voila: price increase.

After all, that’s really what it is, isn’t it Sage?

Firewalls, Routers, and Bad Things Lurking on the Internet

When being connected to the Internet was new–about 15 years or so ago–businesses worried about “hackers” getting into their data. Price lists were secret. It was a different way to do business. Customers generally called businesses they “trusted,” and only businesses with purchasing departments usually shopped more than one or two sources.

In the first place, such information just wasn’t readily available. It was intentionally hard to find out what the competition was charging for a product. And it wasn’t too unusual for a customer to call business X in the morning to talk to John and get one price, but call X back in the afternoon to talk to Jane and get another price.Faceless hooded anonymous computer hacker with programming code from monitor

Now everything connects.. If you’re buying a used book on Amazon, you can compare prices right there on the screen, even including shipping.

It seems to me that many businesses have forgotten about the bad things lurking on the Internet. The Ashley Madison data breach has certainly gotten the attention of the pay-for-affairs crowd, and reminded all of us that there are security concerns when your work network attaches to a network of millions of people who want to see what you have.

One of the most popular router brands in the world, Cisco, has discovered its operating system replaced by malware. This potentially gives the hacker control over all the data that passes through the router. It makes it easy to redirect you to spoofed sites.

The router is the piece of equipment that connects you to the “address” of the places on the internet you want to visit. Let’s take a simple example of what might happen in this case. The internet address of eTrade is Of course, you just type, and the browser goes out and looks this up for you. If you want to prove to yourself that this number is the same as etrade, just click it.

You don’t see this number under normal circumstances. So let’s suppose that I clone (copy it exactly) and post it as a phishing site. My goal is to get you to enter your personal login information, then to get access to your account and transfer your funds. So I hack your router (or your ISPs router), and insert the address of my site (say when you ask for the eTrade address. My site comes up. You don’t know the difference.

All the advice not to click phishing links in emails doesn’t do you any good, because you can type in your browser all you want, and you’ll still wind up on my site.

Watch out for the bad guys out there!

Sage 300 ERP – Gosh, I missed the memo

In the interest of correctness, I’ve just realized that I’ve been referring to software we support by the wrong name.

Sage 300 ERP has become Sage 300. Let’s see now…

It’s been Sorcim/IUS (in the grey/green box)

Businesswoman getting crazy in front of her laptopIt’s been Plus Series (in the blue box)

It’s been ACCPAC Plus

It’s been ACCPAC Advantage Series

It’s had editions 100, 200 and 500.

It’s had a small business edition.

It’s been Premier and Enterprise.

It’s been Sage ACCPAC ERP

It’s been Sage 300 ERP

It’s now Sage 300.

No wonder I’m confused. So are clients, Sage! I’ve had more than one discussion with a client about why Sage ACCPAC Advantage 100 Edition wasn’t the same as Sage 100, but was the same as Sage 300 ERP.

Arghhhh! What marketing people do to justify their continued existence! And to make it worse, the announcement page has a stock photo of a “businesswoman holding folder laughing.”

Do you really want to send everything you do on your PC to Microsoft? Windows 10 Installation: Some screenshots

When Windows 8 came out, we warned you to take a look at the default installation options, and possibly not to choose the Express installation. You can read that post here.

So when I installed Windows 10, I decided not to take the default offering. Here’s the first screen you get:

Windows 10 Installation Screen

Notice that you get a somewhat sketchy description of what Express Settings are going to choose in your behalf. Sorry, by the way, for the quality here. I had to snap these with my cell phone since I was installing on the primary machine, not a virtual. Also notice that the “Use Express Settings” is a nice big, inviting button while the “Customize Settings” is a somewhat less appealing blue in a smaller font than the rest of the page. I took the Customize settings route.

Here’s the next screen:

Customize Options for Windows 10 Install

I’m not going to comment on those questions, because I didn’t look up the specifics. The wording itself is enough to put me off. Do I really want to send speech, typing, and inking data to Microsoft? Everything I say to Cortana, write with a pen on the screen of the tablet, and type at the keyboard? Off. Off. Off. Off.

Here’s the next screen:

Another Windows 10 Customize Settings Installation Screen

Ok. So it’s your call as to whether you turn this stuff on. A little too much like Big Brother to me.

Microsoft, you’ll just have to live without my personal information. Sorry to disappoint.