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Case Study

UI/UX modernization for IBM i – open for web and the future.

Thanks to the fast action we were immediately on the same wave length as PKS. The modernization of our application therefore fit holistically into our concept. Just like Hoegner, PKS also works innovatively with a sense for the value of the existing assets. In the further cooperation, PKS not only acts as an extended workbench for us, but above all as a competent partner at eye level.“

The company

As one of the last independent paint wholesalers in Germany, Hoegner Farben is represented primarily in southern Germany with 13 locations. The company, now in its eighth generation of family ownership, serves and supplies its customers in the interior design and renovation business with paints, varnishes and plasters.

Hoegner Farben is particularly valued for its proximity to the customer and the resulting optimal service in delivery and customer support. The family business has existed in its present form for over 260 years - this is evident in the trustful co-operation of over 150 employees, the innovative spirit in the service portfolio and the reliability in dealing with customers. In this way Hoegner Farben presents itself as a flexible and traditional company with a future for craftmanship.

A look back

The custom-made core application at Hoegner comprises about 400 screen masks. The IBMi with its self-developed merchandise management system i provides the interface and thus the central link of all company processes. The tool eXcite has already been in use for many years for the online customer web shop. Mastering the day-to-day business and the further development of the system is a great challenge. Over the years, head monopolies have formed in the internal IBM i team, which is dwindling in size and for which no new generation is in sight.

In the course of a comprehensive modernization, it is also a matter of course for the paint wholesaler to question existing processes and, if necessary, redefine them. Hoegner Farben had already analysed standard solutions for this purpose, but due to the lack of flexibility and high initial costs compared to their own application, these were out of the question.

Complication and challenges

The Cobol code generated by CA-Telon is a machine-generated code, offering a certain comfort to the developer allowing very efficient software development. However, the generated Cobol code is not suitable for further development, it is not easy to maintain and interspersed with copybooks and standard routines. A solution had to be found that would enable the customer to reverse engineer the generated code into a maintainable scenario.
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Hoegner therefore faced the following pressing questions:

How can existing processes be trimmed down and thus workflows be made more efficient?

How can we position ourselves as an innovative employer both for junior staff in the development department and for end users?

How can we overcome the internal head monopoly without letting the reins out of our hands?

When working with PKS, it was especially important to me that I was relieved of work without losing track of the application.

Insight

The managing director and IT manager of Hoegner Farben decided to tackle this challenge together with PKS Software. In a needs and inventory analysis that included both user habits and the nature of the application, the roadmap for the upcoming modernization project could be defined.

The system-wide implementation of the in-house application with eXcite ensured a quick start. This meant that in just a few steps a great deal of added value could be generated in terms of both functionality and visual topicality. At the same time, the existing menu structure was implemented in Valence and thus made intuitive to use on the web. Valence automatically adopts the menu entries from the green screen application and displays them like a native HTML menu. From here, all eXcite applications can now be launched as integrated apps with tabs, autocomplete and other functional additions. For the end user, the switch between the two technologies was hardly noticeable from this point on.

Each step of the project was accompanied by experienced usability experts, who provided their input based on analyses of user behavior in dealing with the application, thus creating a completely individual application. On the one hand, the innovations included an improved visual appearance, which was implemented in both the classic web layout and the ergonomic dark layout; the elements used are based on the corporate design of the company and thus form a unit with already existing media. On the other hand, processes were re-modelled and complete applications were redeveloped.

Conclusion

Thanks to the multi-phase approach, PKS was able to initiate a continuous development at Hoegner: With eXcite, the complete application could be brought to the Web within a few weeks and simultaneously expanded with a coherent design, modern GUI elements and efficient process improvements. The valence menu controls the resulting application and supplements it with practical enhancements such as history and favorites. Gradually, processes are improved and the application is rolled out in the stores. Hoegner was directly involved in many development steps and was thus able to build up comprehensive know-how in the area of eXcite and Valence.

The internal IT team feels empowered to handle all the technologies used and thus to control growth itself. Thanks above all to PKS‘s ability to act quickly from the very beginning, Hoegner was able to present results after just a few months and profit from quick wins.

A look ahead

The Hoegner project is now entering the phase of further development and expansion. In the coming months the web portal will continue to grow and be filled. Based on the findings of the usability analysis, applications and processes will be completely redesigned and now implemented as Valence Apps. Here, PKS will act both as a stimulus as well as an extended workbench for the IT team: This is the only way to dissolve the head monopoly and distribute it over several shoulders in the long term.

Einblick

Vor diesem Hintergrund entschieden sich Inhaber, Geschäftsführer und IT-Leiter für eine Zusammenarbeit mit der PKS Software GmbH:

Im Rahmen eines mehrmonatigen Assessments unter Federführung von PKS wurde die Kernanwendung in allen Bereichen auf den Prüfstand gestellt; angefangen bei der Abbildung der Prozesse über die Technologie, den Source Code und den Wartungsaufwand bis hin zu den Entwicklungsmethoden und den Qualifikationen der Entwickler. Das Gutachten ergab, dass eine Modernisierung der Altanwendung viel einfacher und günstiger zu realisieren war als eine Neuentwicklung. Denn die Ermittlungen zeigten, dass die eigenentwickelte Software einen hohen Wert besaß, der mit 1,6 Mio. Euro beziffert wurde. Heißt: Hätte man eine neue Software mit derselben Funktionalität schreiben wollen, wären ca. 1,6 Mio. Euro allein an Programmierkosten angefallen – Spezifikationen noch nicht eingerechnet.

Nach der ausführlichen Evaluierung der Schadenregulierungs-Software im Herbst 2015 und der Erstellung einer Modernisierungs-Roadmap gaben die Eigentümer im Mai 2016 das Startsignal für das Modernisierungsprojekt.

Das Projekt wurde in mehrere Schritte unterteilt, den zentralen Bestandteil bildete die Implementierung einer elektronischen Schadensakte anstelle papierbasierter Prozesse. Zudem wurde von PKS eine Weboberfläche für das komplette System auf Basis der eXcite-Technologie bereitgestellt und ein Abfrage-/BI-Tool auf Basis von Valence implementiert.

By combining eXcite and Valence, we were able to quickly make the application web-enabled, both graphically and functionally. This enables us to adapt the processes step by step to a modern user interface based on Valence in a great cooperation with the customer.

Fazit

Mit dem IBM i Software-Assessment ist es der AVUS gelungen, innerhalb weniger Monate Klarheit über Inhalt sowie Gestaltung und Strukturierung der Software-Strategie zu erarbeiten. PKS konnte der AVUS durch die Unterstützung bei der Bewertung technischer Handlungsfelder sowie insbesondere auch bei der Erarbeitung der notwendigen organisatorischen Maßnahmen wertvolle Impulse geben. Besonders wertvoll war die an das Assessment anschließende Umsetzungsunterstützung durch einen erfahrenen PKS-Projektleiter sowie die Bereitstellung der notwendigen Entwicklerkapazitäten, die das nur 3-köpfige Entwicklerteam der AVUS unterstützten und fachlich erweiterten.

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Dank unserer langjährigen Expertise in komplexen Software-Projekten konnten wir allen Anforderungen gerecht werden und die Projektziele des Kunden in Time & Budget erreichen.

Ausblick

Durch die Umsetzung der Modernisierungsroadmap ist es der AVUS gelungen, ihre Wettbewerbsvorteile zu stärken und für die Zukunft abzusichern. So können dank der Individualsoftware mit einzelnen Kunden sehr unterschiedliche Service Level Agreements vereinbart und umgesetzt werden. Im weiteren Verlauf gilt es nun, auch das Entwicklerteam erfolgreich durch den Generationswechsel zu begleiten.

The advantages for the customer

Efficient and gradually controllable new development
Dissolving head monopolies by expanding the team with PKS developers
The own capacity to act remains intact. No binding to additionally aquired software systems or external resources.
Customized apps, which are based on the user’s requirements

Tools and procedures

  • eXcite
  • Valence
  • Sencha Architect
  • Nitro Query App Builder
  • RPG
  • Usability analysis

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