Data Utilities – Convenience or Crutch?

Recently I’ve been assisting a company with discrepancies in inventory master and inventory on hand tables. One problem is negative quantities in their inspection which can’t be removed, and they also have problems with inconsistencies in their on hand quantities of various parts.

So, a user brings the Material Availability (RPMAVL) and the Inventory Evaluation (RPIVAL) Reports to me and we compare them with a search from the On Hand By Location (INVOH) Screen. None of them show consistent data.

I explained to the user that M2M has data utilities, which are the first step in troubleshooting these kinds of issues. They are found under Utilities, Maintenance, and Data Utilities.

Data Utilities

I’m sure many of you have used them, and I’d bet that everyone has had to run “Ship Fix” at one time or another. We take these steps for granted when we need to fix issues. However, this user asked, “Why doesn’t M2M just fix these issues so that we don’t have to run these utilities?” This set the hamster wheel in my head moving, and I thought I would share those thoughts with you.

Why are utilities necessary?

Well,the most obvious answer is that utilities compensate for bugs in the Made2Manage software. These bugs can be in the software directly, or they could simply be a case where the software is not protecting the user from making a mistake. For example, Made2Manage will allow you to receive obsolete parts or even part revisions that are not in the item master to begin with. There may be valid reasons for this, but most often these are mistakes that need to be corrected. When the user attempts to do so, they can cause problems like I described above. In my opinion, regardless of the cause of the error (M2M or User Error), the problem lies with M2M.

All of these problems can of course be fixed without the use of a Data Utility by directly manipulating the SQL database, which is exactly what these utilities do. Data Utilities offer a more convenient way for users to fix these issues rather than copying and pasting SQL scripts into Query Analyzer. Also, consistency is more certain when data utilities are used rather than scripts provided by support.

Why don’t they just fix M2M so the utilities are unnecessary?

  1. M2M is a complex system and it’s simply easier and less expensive to fix occasional data inconsistencies than to properly diagnose problems with the code or user behaviors which are problematic.
  2. These problems tend to be infrequent and are therefore difficult to catch. The issue is similar to intermittent problems with your car. Your car never makes the noise in front of the mechanic.
  3. Customers would be inconvenienced by the troubleshooting process. In all fairness, M2M can only do so much testing of their product. They cannot afford to employ a testing team the size of a typical M2M customer company to enter data for years on end in the hopes of finding these problems themselves. They would request volunteers from a group of customers which receive this error a lot and ask them to troubleshoot this problem using SQL Profiler or a similar tool. This could hamper database performance and many customers aren’t willing to endure the inconvenience.

For those reasons, I can understand why M2M uses the data utilities.

However, what excuse can be made when even the data utilities are buggy as well?

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