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RPG Programmer Dives into New Web Developer Role with WebSmart ILE

"I feel like I have moved into a more specialized, more creative, and more challenging area of application development."

Carolyn Struck, an RPG programmer of 24 years, is a Senior Systems Analyst for Minnesota Rubber and Plastics (part of Quadion LLC), a worldwide manufacturer of molding and assembly products made from elastomers and thermoplastics.

Carolyn used WebSmart ILE with ExtJS, a JavaScript framework, to replace several manual Excel-based processes with streamlined web applications. The applications, which are accessed from a secure, centralized menu tree, have saved the organization "an incredible amount of time" and improved decision making by providing various departments real-time information about the health of the company. Carolyn, who started out as a novice web developer, now considers web development one of her primary job functions.

We asked Carolyn ten questions about her experiences with WebSmart ILE. Here are her responses:

Why did you decide to begin developing web applications for your IBM i?

We needed to present data better than a green screen could. Most of our users are accustomed to a Windows environment and thought green screens were confusing and hard to use.

Why did you choose WebSmart ILE?

We decided to use WebSmart because it's a complete web development tool. The templates that generate standard PML, HTML, CSS and JavaScript code have made it easier for our in-house staff to learn web development.

What types of applications have you developed with WebSmart ILE?

All of our web applications run inside of a Domino portal that was created by another member of our staff. It handles the user login and limits user access to these applications based upon security that we setup for each user.

Many of the applications I developed have replaced processes that were previously accomplished by manually updating Excel spreadsheets then uploading data to the IBM i. I used ExtJS, my JavaScript library of choice, with WebSmart to provide a consistent, modern look and feel for the applications and the menu tree that they are accessed from.

Some of the applications I've developed with WebSmart are:

  • Daily executive BI dashboard and reporting.
  • Sales analysis, daily operations, budgeting and expense reporting.
  • Plant performance reporting including equipment utilization analysis, which provides a visual representation of real-time data with charts. It also includes the option to save the charts as an image, providing a visual snapshot in time.
  • Sales forecasts with responsive AJAX-based data population. Sales Reps can update their forecast immediately and Managers can now quickly access sales forecasts for each facility.
  • Price increase maintenance with "what" if analysis, which includes color cues, advanced search, flexible paging and the ability to generate notification emails (with an HTML rich-text editor and the option to send PDF and Excel reports).

What is your programming background and how much web development experience did you have prior to using WebSmart?

I've had 24 years of RPG experience. Prior to WebSmart, I had previously done a little work with PHP.

Which WebSmart-developed application are you the most proud of? Why?

Although WebSmart's main purpose is developing web applications, I'm most proud of a wizard-based report creation tool I created with it. The tool accesses DB2 data and enables employees to take initiative by designing their own reports, bar graphs, line graphs, pie charts or files based upon selecting fields in a data mart. The tool includes privacy settings, the ability to schedule expiry dates, and the option to export to Excel. All of the processing is done completely with WebSmart, RPG and SQL, so it is very flexible.

How has your organization benefited from WebSmart?

We have saved incredible amounts of time by replacing manual processes with standardized, streamlined web-based versions. Now, we can see the health of the company at a glance and have better visual reporting.

How has WebSmart ILE changed the way you or your IT department are perceived within your organization?

I feel like I have moved into a more specialized, more creative, and more challenging area of application development - I really like what I am doing. My job description has changed and users are really pleased with the application solutions that I have developed and are always requesting more.

What applications do you plan to create for your next WebSmart ILE project?

We plan to move towards mobile application development and look forward to using WebSmart's mobile templates for this.

Would you recommend WebSmart ILE to other people? Why?

Yes, it is a good way for RPG programmers to learn web development - a good, solid tool.