IBM Maximo is an enterprise asset management system but it also has a very advanced application development tool set. This toolset is used to customize existing business objects and screens; and also to create custom application to cater for additional user requirements.
Maximo application development tools and Microsoft LightSwitch take a somewhat similar approach to allow rapid development of business applications which are also easier to maintain and enhance. They contain visual application designers which can be used to quickly generate the screens with full functionality based on the data model. But at the same time, the generated code for screens and business objects is highly extensible.
LightSwitch is a nascent product in its first beta version right now while Maximo is pretty mature. In following passages I have listed down some important features I wish to be there in future LightSwitch releases as I compare it with IBM Maximo.
LightSwitch Feature Wishlist:
Workflow engine is an important component of any business application. It enables us to visually (and declaratively) design the process flow for business transactions. A simple example of workflow could be the approval process for a purchase order where we define who will review and approve the Purchase Order based on certain conditions like total purchase order value.
Having the business process defined in declarative form with the built in capability of creating assignments and tracking document flow gives us tremendous power. It brings visibility to the processing of each transaction as it moves through the process and also provides valuable stats about the process steps which can be used to create KPIs (Key Performance Indicators).
Another key benefit of having business process in declarative form is the agility factor. With the workflow engines, IT system systems can keep pace with changes in the business process because even business users can modify the workflow using visually designers.
LightSwitch looks like a promising product but to be my platform of choice it must have a built-in workflow engine.
Currently LightSwitch supports ASP.Net Authentication and Authorization provider. For each privilege, we have to create an entry in configuration file and then write some code to disable the unauthorized operations for the logged-in user.
In Maximo, all default and custom developed operations of a business object are available in security profiles screen to be assigned to users. No coding or changes to configuration file are required, this is supported out-of-the-box. Moreover we can create data restrictions on a business object to expose only a subset of data to a user profile.
Hopefully future releases of LightSwitch will improve on what he have right now in terms of security profile and authorization.
Notification & Escalation:
It is a very common task to generate emails from a business application to notify user about their tasks or simply inform them about some events. Like IBM Maximo, I wish to see the capacity in LightSwitch to design email notifications for desired events.
Report & KPI Designer:
Maximo has a powerful reporting engine along with KPI and Dashboard designers. These designers also available to application user so that they can cater for their reporting and BI (business intelligence) needs without writing any code.
There are some reporting and BI add-ins developed for LightSwitch by third party vendors. Hopefully Microsoft will come up with its own built-in reporting and BI designer also.
LightSwitch supports creating relationship between two tables. But there is some room for improvement here. For example:
- relationship between two tables can be too complex to be defined just by equality of two fields. Application Designer should allow for creation of more complex relationships which have multiple conditions.
- when designing screen for a table, screen designer should also allow to pick fields from tables which are joined through the relationship.
Another important feature in business applications is to have the ability to attach documents to the records. I wish in future LightSwitch will provide this functionality out-of-the-box.
Advantages of LightSwitch over IBM Maximo:
Even though LightSwitch is in very early stages of development, still in some areas it scores better than IBM Maximo.
- LightSwitch supports multiple data sources. These data sources can be different RDMBS like Sql Server, Oracle or can even be a sharepoint list. Comparing it with Maximo Database Configuration, there we can work with only one data source.
- In case we write custom code to implement some feature, the develop, build and deploy cycle is relatively time-consuming and tedious in Maximo. While LightSwitch provides a much faster and smoother development experience with a better integrated technology stack.