Thursday, March 26, 2009

Automating Release Management - the XMLP way

Most organisations have a process where a document containing all the objects of a Peoplesoft project that is to be migrated to another environment is prepared. This document will be the reference point for the DBAs or the release management team who will be responsible to migrate Peoplesoft projects across environments. For a developer, the task of preparing the document is an over head especially if it's a project with a large number of objects - it's close to being a painful exercise of going through all the objects in the project and reflecting that in the document. Amongst the innovative tools developed here at TESCO we had a .NET based Automatic Release Notes generator. The user just had to input the name of the project and the tool would produce a file (again we had the choice to select the output type required - .doc or .xls) containing the details of all the objects in the project including the comments attached to each individual object definition wherever possible. But this tool had few limitations - (a) The output format was not in the template dictated by our standards (b) The tool was not available locally, we had to login to a remote desktop to access that and (c) The source code was in .NET and that was not appealing to a bunch of Peoplpesoft developers!
So the team could not use the tool and had to resort to a manual preparation of the release notes. It was then that we came up with the idea of writing an XML Publisher report to do the same. XML Publisher is a perfect tool to produce letters and documents because we directly develop the template in MS Word and that was just perfect in our case. For the initial version, we decided to just print the details of the objects in the project and not the comments for each object. Printing the comments would mean that we had to query the metadata table of each of the objects and that would be nearly impossible with a simple PS Query.
The datasource of the XMLP report was a simple PS Query that pulled data from the PSPROJECTITEM table. We added some prompts to the PS Query so that the user could input details to be printed in the release notes like the change number, name of author, change description etc. It's a very simple template which I am sure your organisation can develop with minimal effort. This tool has surely automated a non-value add area in our development process and helped our developers spent more time of development rather than documentation!
A small presentation on the report and how to use that is given below:

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