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4.60 Release Definition

posted 25 Nov 2008, 10:15 by Triaster Support   [ updated 17 Feb 2010, 05:55 by Professional Services ]

 

Introduction

Following extensive customer consultation, the Triaster 4.60 final cut of features and fixes for Triaster 4.60 has been finalised.
 
Version 4.60 is an interim release of features that has been brought forward from v5.0 in response to customer requests for the Microsoft Excel and Visio Connectors, the Planning Chart and some Publication Server Enhancements. Customers have also requested more licence flexibility, a simpler licence and a simpler product set.
 
The purpose of this document is to provide a catalogue of all of the changes that will make the 4.60 build, and a short description where appropriate. 
 
More extensive and detailed documentation on the business benefits of these features will be released in the coming weeks.
 
In addition to the new features released with 4.60, there are also significant licence enhancements and these are discussed in this document.
 
But to begin with, the 4.60 Release Criteria are stated.
 

4.60 Release Criteria

 
Background
 
There are now thousands of users of the Triaster Solution, with tens of thousands of process maps, and hundreds of thousands of hyperlinks contained in those processes. Triaster customers have invested significant time, effort and money in creating process libraries for their organisations. The libraries themselves are often the combination of several teams working together, and the content from the libraries are in daily demand from large workforces.
 
In this context, the team at Triaster have decided that above all else, Quality and Reliability must come at the top of the list of priorities governing the 4.60 release. We must avoid at all costs the introduction of defects or software changes that disrupt existing process libraries. Furthermore, we must be disciplined enough to release the software when it is ready, rather than according to an imposed timescale.
 
We have therefore adopted the following Release Criteria. 4.60 must:
  1. Have no known errors that are both
    1. Likely to occur
    2. Have no workaround
  2. Have no known errors that prevent the Publication Server completing a publish
  3. Pass a stability test equivalent to 1000 hours of continuous operation without stopping (41 days of continual Publication Server activity without human intervention) on both Visio 2003 and Visio 2007. The input test set for this stability is test is drawn from a range of tests constructed by Triaster in order to trigger failure, and every map we have in our possession.
  4. Have no known errors associated with maps submitted by customers for testing. Triaster are willing to exhaustively test all existing customers' maps for them. See Triaster Offer Free Exhaustive Testing Service to Publication Server Users.
The conditions for the RC1 release are less stringent, and it is recommended that customers only use RC1 in test environments or on a parallel system to the live environment. In order to receive RC1, customers must undertake the following:
  1. A full quality audit of the current system performed by Triaster - this is an exhaustive test and certification of the existing installation
  2. A full test of all existing process maps performed by Triaster on RC1
  3. A 4.60 RC1 upgrade
  4. A post-upgrade quality audit of the system performed by Triaster
 
 

Licence and Product Line-up Enhancements

 
Mapping Edition and Analyst Edition Merge into Process Navigator
 
In 4.60, Mapping Edition and Analyst Edition will merge and be called Process Navigator. This is to reflect the actual usage patterns the vast bulk of Triaster customers adopt where in fact the Mapping Edition users are Business Analysts and increasingly require functionality contained in the Analyst Edition (especially the growing functionality contained in 4.60). Maps will be created and edited from menu options supplied in the Analyst Edition interface.
 
All existing licences will be automatically upgraded to Process Navigator.  The upgrade will pair off Analyst Edition and Mapping Edition licences. Each pair will become a Process Navigator licence. The remaining un-paired Mapping Edition licences will also be upgraded to a Process Navigator licence.
 
So, if you have 12 Mapping Edition licences, and 3 Analyst Edition licences, you will have 12 Process Navigator licences after the upgrade.
 
In practice, because all Triaster customers have the same or more Mapping Edition than Analyst Edition licences, the effect of the upgrade is to finish off with as many Process Navigator licences as there are Mapping Edition licences.
 
This is a highly significant and cost-saving benefit to existing customers. It will both increase dramatically the amount of functionality available to the business analysts, and reduce dramatically the amount of administration required to use Triaster software legally. It simplifies the product set and makes it easier to plan deployments.
 
The RRP of Process Navigator is the same as the RRP of the combined Mapping Edition and  Analyst Edition.
 
In-line with Triaster's long-standing policy regarding free licence enhancements that carry additional Support and Maintenance costs, existing customers will not be charged any extra Support and Maintenance for this enhancement until the expiry of their current Support and Maintenance contract. At that point, as in all previous similar changes, any increase towards RRP will be capped at 10%.
 
Process Navigator available as a Term or Perpetual Licence
 
Process Navigator can be purchased on a Term basis as well as a Perpetual basis.
 
This is again a highly significant benefit that many customers have been requesting for a long time. It is now possible to supply a licence of Process Navigator to a named individual for as little as 3 months. They can then draw up their process maps during the 3 month period, and when finished, there is no continuing licence, support or maintenance cost for that user.
 
Single-Site Publication Server Discontinued, Multi-Site Publication Server renamed to Publication Server
 
In 4.60 all Publication Servers will have multi-site capability. It will not be possible to have a Single-Site Publication Server.
 
Triaster will work with the small number of customers affected by this to identify the best upgrade route.
 
Process Navigator Template released Free of Charge
 
The Mapping Edition stencil and template are available free of charge to 4.60 customers. There is no functionality behind the template (auto-layout, Properties, rule enforcement etc....), but this is a convenient low-cost way for occasional users to draw process maps and to then import them using the Visio Connector.
 
 

Process Navigator Enhancements

 
 

Generate Planning Chart

 
In many organisations, the processes captured in the Triaster Solution are recurring processes that happen each year. For example, the annual Student Registration process in a University, or the annual Staff Appraisal process in many organisations.
 
Commonly, 'Year Planners' are used to give an overview of the major processes happening within an organisation, with the calendar months read across the top of the planner, and the processes appearing in the page with their leftmost edge positioned at the opening date of the process, and their rightmost edge positioned at the closing date of the process.
 
Process Navigator can generate diagrams of this nature by instancing on a Planning Chart diagram any process where the Node's Properties are set appropriately.
 

Import from XML Catalogue

 
Process Navigator can now generate diagrams from XML Catalogue format as well as export to XML Catalogue format. Maps can therefore be round-tripped through XML.
 
This is a technically motivated enhancement to enable deeper integration with other XML based applications if required. For example, the XML Catalogue could be generated from any system that also uses processes, such as a workflow engine, or a performance measurement or balanced scorecard type tool. Once in the Catalogue format, the corresponding maps will be automatically generated and published.
 
The XML Catalogue format can also be used as a convenient back-up tool, or as a way of sharing maps between different organisations. It is not however a format that users can directly edit very easily, please see the Microsoft Excel Connector for an example of a user-editable data format that the Triaster solution can also round-trip with.
 

Shape Replace

 
Process Navigator can now replace all instances of a shape with another shape.
 
This is a very useful way of applying shape functionality upgrades to existing content - a facility that is not possible in Visio because of the underlying way shapes reference their masters.
 
For example, suppose you require your Activity shape to display not just one property underneath it, such as Responsibility, but another property too such as Contact Number. This requires the existing Activity shape to be customised to provide the new functionality. But there is no way to then provide this functionality to existing Activities without manually deleting and replacing them.
 
With the Shape Replace functionality, you can create the new Activity, and then replace every instance of the old Activity with the new one. Furthermore, when doing so, you can also copy the properties from the old Activity to the new one automatically.
 
Shape Replace can also be used when importing raw Visio files into the Triaster solution. For example, if you have say a Basic Flowchart diagram, and you want to publish it with the Triaster solution so that the content becomes available to search using the Browser Toolkit, then you:
  1. Import the diagram using the Microsoft Visio Connector
  2. Replace each shape in the flowchart with a corresponding Triaster shape
  3. Publish the map
This ability is both very powerful and very dangerous! Replacing shapes cannot be undone, so always replace shapes on copies of your maps first and thoroughly test the replacement before permanently adopting it. As a specific point of consultation, Triaster are keen to learn if access to the Shape Replace functionality should be restricted in some way in the product.
 
 

Improved Activation Mechanism

 
The Process Navigator activation mechanism will no longer use a web service. In previous versions, to activate Triaster software a web service was called that resides on the Triaster Activation Server. Although this meant the activation process was very simple, and in most cases simply requiring users to enter their Activation Reference and password, in some cases where firewalls blocked access, it became laborious.
 
In 4.6, the activation process has been re-engineered to bypass altogether the web service complications from within the user's firewall.
 
The first time a user runs Process Navigator 4.60, they will be required to enter their Activation Reference and password onto a web page. They will then be e-mailed their activation key which they paste into Process Navigator. To be able to activate, all users therefore require:
  1. Access to the internet
  2. Access to an e-mail account
In the rare event that either one or both of these things are unavailable for some reason, the user will need to telephone Triaster and we will enter their information onto the web site for them and read out the activation code over the telephone.
 

Microsoft Excel Connector

 
The Microsoft Excel Connector allows maps to be generated from an Excel XML file, and exported to an Excel XML file. Maps can therefore be round-tripped through Excel.
 
Much more will be written of the benefits this can bring in other places, but some of the more significant benefits and capabilities are:
  1. The ability to publish process maps containing 'live' data drawn into the Excel workbook from other sources. This enables performance traffic lighting and actual performance measurements to be pulled through and published to the process library.
  2. The ability to store processes in a brand-independent repository. This enables the maps to be re-created in alternative branding, and hence opens up the ability for organisations to share their processes or for standard process libraries to be generated again and again for different organisations in different brands.
  3. The ability to generate maps in different languages. Language translation strings stored within the Excel file are exported to the maps as attributes. Each process element therefore carries with it the ability to display itself in any number of different languages.

Microsoft Visio Connector

 
The Microsoft Visio Connector allows maps to be imported from a Visio VSD file, and exported to a Visio VSD file.
 
Much more will be written of the benefits this can bring in other places, but some of the more significant benefits and capabilities are:
  1. The ability to almost instantly take all existing Visio based documentation and have it published to the Process Library and available through the on-line search tools.
  2. The ability to convert UML, BPMN amd flowchart format diagrams into the Triaster Noun-Verb format.

Various Technical Enhancements

 
All forms of logging are now discontinued. Instead, the content of the Progress and User Actions Required windows can be written to a text file using the /P and /A command-line options respectively.
 
 
Most of the Template and Stencil enhancements are in response to customer request and user feedback and these are listed below:
  • To make it easier to customise the Node shape, a Control Handle has been added to allow easy resizing of the corporate logo
  • The template has been amended to automatically include a Node on the first page
  • Minor field alterations to the Node's visible fields in-line with customer requests, File Location and Last Revised By have been removed (but can still be stored as Properties)
  • The default field that appears under the Activity, External Activity and Decision is now Responsibility in-line with customer requests
  • Interface to enable the user to select Level and ID or Responsibility to be displayed under the Activity, External Activity and Decision
  • The Feedback E-mail shape snaps to bottom right on drop
  • New 'Info' shape specifically for document links
  • Info and Hyperlink Circle both resized to be smaller
  • Menu Button and External Activity both added to standard stencil
  • Duplicate reference to Process Navigator.vss removed from template
  • Various spelling corrections and wording enhancements across all dialogs as appropriate
In addition, some of the enhancements are more strategically important and these are listed below:
  •  Off-Page Connector shape override.
If a shape exists on the stencil with master name "OPC", then that shape is used whenever an off-page connector is generated, instead of the standard shape. This means any shape with any customer-defined functionality contained within it can be used to link one process to another. Apart from the obvious visual enhancements this can lead to, it also means that all OPC shapes could for example be colour coded based on the process owners they link to.
  • Auto-Layout Positional Override
Auto-layout uses an algorithm to position shapes on the page rather than the user have to do it. Layout algorithms are notoriously difficult to get right in every circumstance however, they are both heuristic and non-deterministic in nature. This means that calling Auto-layout twice in succession may lead to different layouts, and a slight amend to the connectivity of the shapes may lead to a completely different layout.
 
To give the user more control over the eventual layout, and to make it easier to define the ultimate layout from the Microsoft Excel Connector, it is possible in 4.60 to force the layout algorithm to position certain shapes either in a fixed position on the page, or to be always in the same position relative to any other user-specified shape on the page. 4.60 applies the auto-layout first, and then applies the overrides. This mechanism gives much more user control over how the end flow looks.
 
A simple, commonly requested capability enabled by this feature is the ability to always keep a Hyperlink Circle, or Info shape next to the relevant Activity or Delvierable even after an auto-layout.
  •  Level Override
Many customers require the ability to 'push a Node down' in the hierarchy so that off-page connectors appear even when the Nodes are in different levels of the hierarchy and when Enforce Level Matching is enabled. In the RC1 release, setting the LevelOffset attribute of a Node to 1, 2, 3, ... etc pushes the Node down the specified number of Levels.
 

 Publication Server Enhancements

 

Enhanced Publication Server Automation

 
Publication Server 4.60 can automatically perform all of the following tasks as part of the publication process:
  •     Export To HTML
  •     Refresh Off-Page Connectors
  •     Set Multi-Map Root
  •     Export To XML Hierarchy
  •     Export To XML Catalogue
  •     Export To Project
  •     Apply Transform (XSL Style Reports)
  •     Generate Report
  •     Replace Hyperlinks
  •     Set Intranet
  •     *New Generate Maps from Excel
  •     *New Generate Maps from free-to-use Visio Template
  •     *New Replace Data
  •     *New Generate Planning Chart
  •     *New Generate Process Hierarchy
  •     *New Upgrade Without Save (technical usage for Triaster testing of client processes as part of upgrade QA)
This enables much more of the Business Analyst Edition functionality to be repeated on the Publication Server and has many practical uses. For example, the ability to Replace Data automatically on publish enables all version numbers to be automatically incremented with each publish. The ability to Generate Maps from Excel enables seamless incorporation into the process library of real-time data, language translations or departmental updates to the properties of Activities or Deliverables within the process.
 
Command Line Automation can now take string descriptions of tasks instead of numeric. See String Task Types on the Publication Server.
 

Enhancements that may make the Final Release but have not made the RC1 Cut

 
Features that remain under development or that have not yet passed sufficient testing to make the RC1 cut and that may appear in the final 4.60 release include:
  • An ability to drill-down on a Node so that several versions of a process can be stored in a single map (a User Group approved request mady bt the University of Bristol)
  • An ability to scan the host machine for all files that are installed by Triaster
  • A set of enhancements to the User Interface
  • Video-based training and learning aids

Post-Announcement Updates

28th January 2009
 
It is possible in the 4.60 Replace Date functionality to force the creation of Properties that do not exist in the target shape.
 
All product documentation and help information is now on-line in the form of articles and resources delivered from this Knowledge Base. This enables the documentation to be kept live and up-to-date and combined with multi-media resources.
 
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