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Before beginning, a little bit of disclosure. I have been professionally involved in CRM since about 1993, I am an ex-employee of Siebel Systems and I run a consultancy firm dealing with Siebel CRM and the issues confronted by customers and integrators alike. I also correspond from time to time with the author but I wrote this article entirely from the perspective of future readers, and I received no guidance or suggestions from anyone.
Chapter one gets underway with a guided tour of the user interface and introduction to the basics, the text is clear and concise and the explanations are a good foundation for what follows. Some of the diagrams were a bit basic for powerpoint fanatics like us but everything held together well.
Chapter two covers the mechanics of life as a developer, and goes through all the key steps like check out / in and so on. I did miss coverage of the "Import from Archives" (plural) and a more detailed overview of the Diff... functionality with the editing features and SRF Compare though, for completeness.
Chapter three introduces the AHA organization. I kind of expected Alan Partridge to be the CEO (sorry, British humour). Nice attention to detail here and referencing the different requirements and chapters in the book.
Chapter four is the sujet épineux of Strings and translation. I liked this chapter a lot as the process is key, even in single-language deployments, and I get fed up of hearing about String Overrides becoming standard practice.
Chapter five begins the visual work, working through examples related to the Case Study of AHA and showcasing the web editors. Good stuff and as always, great to have a reference guide.
Chapter six, Views and Screens. Alex has done a good job of clarifying the largely impenetrable vocabulary (Aggregate Category, Aggregate View and so on) for the new configurator.
Chapter seven covers the major topic of Business Components and Fields. As a trainer, I found myself nodding vigorously when the chapter explained the basics of Joins, Fields and Join Specifications, simple concepts that need to be very carefully embedded in the brain of a configurator from day one, otherwise there will be endless confusion especially with Joins. Many configurators will benefit from the clear diagrams and screenshots.
Chapter Eight, following the logical structure of the book, reviews the Data Layer and there are a great many points here that are worth the cost of the book alone to prevent unnecessary "messing about" with the data model as well as good pointers for how to approach things. The Case Study examples here really add value.
Chapter Nine, Business Objects and Links we particularly liked as it covered in detail 1:M extension tables and the various properties that tie up the collection of Business Components.
Chapter Ten, Picklists of all shapes and sizes has some really nice descriptions of some of the more arcane stuff, the unpronounceable UpdateOnlyIfNull amongst them.
Chapter Eleven introduces the inimitable and oft maligned MVF, MVG and MVL not to mention the Primary, EXISTS() and a whole load of good stuff that you can find, mis-described and misunderstood, in a great many online resources. This really puts the record straight.
Chapter Twelve, good old Visibility and Access Control. Very clear but there was no coverage of the Product Group Visibility - now showing in a Siebel 8.1 Financial Services near you.
Chapter thirteen, the Pandora's box of User Properties. Alex wisely avoids going into overly arcane examples and fills the configurator's toolkit with the most useful and practical (and supported) examples. Very well done, this should be pasted up on the wall, especially the framework description for Named Method.
Chapter Fourteen eases off the gas pedal and we discover drilldowns of all varieties, well done for documenting drilldowns in form applets, something that comes up regularly.
Chapter Fifteen delves deep into the Web Templates, CSS and other external custmizations and everyone should be happily changing the logo in the menu bar by the end of it. And for my customer who kept asking for a round applet, sorry, but now you can find out why that is not on the list of options.
Speaking of menus, Chapter Sixteen gets us adding menus and commands and generally gives the framework a complete description which gives me a great burst of pleasure since it is usually misunderstood and misquoted and half-inferred. Good job.
Chapter Seventeen, still going great guns, explains everything you ever wanted to know about Business Services and how to read, test and generally exercise them. A nice overview and I am sure there will be more to come in the chapters on Automation later on.
Chapter 18 - Supporting Integration Interfaces
The chapter is about as clear as can be on the subject of Internal Integration Objects and their Wizards (not all of which are particularly wizard-like, especially after you have deactivated 9 million fields by hand - where is the magic wand when you need it?). I understand the rationale for not including much about External Integration Objects (perhaps they will be in the next book) . I did like the table at the end of the chapter with the different User Properties - again, something that Alex has rendered readable, a true challenge.
Chapter 19 - Siebel Workflow
Good overview and an excellent Case Study that talks about a Customer Situation I have faced more than once in CRM, and the elegant example makes the whole thing stick.
Chapter 20 - Advanced Siebel Workflow Techniques
This chapter deals with the sort of thing that should be mandatory reading for all Workflow specialists, or should be in the Siebel Training they receive - error steps, sub-processes, utility services like Echo and so on.
Chapter 21 - Siebel Task User Interface
Ah....the Task UI. Once the most hyped, talked-about, radically-departing from the old style user interface option of all time. Now, with a lot of customers scratching their heads as they think about the effort, cost, duplication of work (this is only available in High Interactivity remember), it tends to be dismissed (and has had it's fair share of issues as well - for example) but can definitely be a useful tool in green field deployments. The example is good in this chapter because it doesn't just enter data, as so many examples do.
And on another note, it explains clearly, the role of the Task Pane View - will be appreciated by many people who get confused when manuals forget to put key words in Bold I know. As Bill Bryson almost said once on his arrival in a boarding house in England for the first time, "What the f**k is a Task Pane?"
Chapter 22 - Extending Siebel CRM Functionality with Scripting.
Abandon performance and migratability, all ye who enter here. Alex wisely sticks to the core messages in this chapter, including
"There is a risk of reinventing the wheel when developers ignore the rich library of standard business services delivered by Oracle."
"Only when the declarative possibilities of Siebel Tools do not suffice for us to implement the requirement should we resort to scripting."
Chapter 23 - Advanced Scripting Techniques.
This chapter delves into some of the useful ways to use Browser Script, but never takes it's eye off the ball and keeps reminding us of the high responsibility we have for the project and the risks we introduce with scripting of any kind. It also includes the most useful Script Profiler from Siebel 8.1.
Chapter 24 - Deploying Configuration Changes between environments
Where would we be without REPIMEXP, DEV2PROD and ADM? Good stuff. CFGMERGE was missing, I know it is concerned with the configuration store file but it would have been nice to have a pointer to it as part of the "Deployment Kit".
The various appendices deal with setting up a demonstration environment and how to use the funky code files provided with each chapter. Finally the last chapter is where to get more information, and we can only repeat here what has been a long standing issue with people getting the knowledge they need for Siebel Projects.
"The money saved on training (or no training) will be spent equally fast on project delay. It is paramount for the Siebel professional to expose him or herself to high quality instructor-led training, which is provided for example by Oracle University and its training partners throughout the world."
Alex has gone a long way to providing those people, who do spend the time and effort needed to go on Siebel training, with valuable reference books for their future career. Well done!