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Success Story - Mason Computer Consulting

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Mason Computer Consulting


Modernization


Utilities


WebSmart ILE

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MCCI is a web application warrior, modernizing custom RPG code with WebSmart

Read IBM's own Case Study: MCCI is a Web-application warrior, modernizing custom RPG code with WebSmart. BCD tool helps this consulting firm energize clients that love the simplicity and reliability of the System i platform.

Using BCD's WebSmart ILE tool routinely cuts our developers' Web-application programming efforts by as much as 90%, even though they do not know Java coding techniques. And because our delivered applications are so affordable, our clients keep coming back at an amazing rate. In any given year, WebSmart plays a part in 80% of our business.

Chuck Mason, President, Mason Computer Consulting


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Imagine delivering a large programming project ahead of schedule and at 70% less than the quoted $100,000. That is precisely what Chuck Mason, president of Mason Computer Consulting, Inc. (MCCI) did, thanks to a powerful development tool from Business Computer Design International (BCD).

Overview

Solution provider profile

  • Mason Computer Consulting, Inc.
  • Headquarters: Hagerstown, Maryland
  • Founded in 1995, provides IS services on iSeries platform
  • 50+ clients in U.S. Mid-Atlantic States

Challenge

  • Provide customized, affordable, Web-enabled applications
  • Leverage RPG skills

Solution

  • Use a rapid development tool for Web applications
  • Key components: BCD ProGen WebSmart ILE ILE RPG CGI and HTML and IBM HTTP Server (or Java applets and servlets, and IBM WebSphere application server) AJAX SQL IBM DB2 UDB for i5/OS, 100+ free BCD templates/biz routines, built-in change management

Benefits to solution provider

  • Reduces programmer effort up to 90%
  • Delivers custom applications fast and cost-effectively
  • Coders need no Java expertise

Benefits to customers

  • Very affordable, customized applications
  • Solutions run fast in iSeries batch mode
  • Secure Web applications

Tool provider profile

  • BCD International, Inc.
  • Sales Headquarters: Hinsdale, Illinois
  • Technical Headquarters: Sidney, B.C., Canada
  • 30-year provider of application development tools
  • 10,000+ customers
  • 30,000+ product installations
  • 1 million+ users
  • 30+ industry awards
  • 100+ business partners worldwide

Imagine delivering a large programming project ahead of schedule and at 70% less than the quoted $100,000. That is precisely what Chuck Mason, president of Mason Computer Consulting, Inc. (MCCI) did, thanks to a powerful development tool from Business Computer Design International (BCD). The client was so amazed that he happily spent the rest of the $100,000 on additional programming projects. This is the story of how MCCI solidified its strong reputation for delivering high value per development dollar spent.

Building MCCI's business with WebSmart

Mason is quick to attribute significant programming feats to BCD's ProGen WebSmartT ILE (ILE RPG-CGI) tool. Of course, stories such as this travel fast, and according to Mason, continue to open many doors in the Mid-Atlantic States where the consulting firm offers its IBM? System iT (System i5T, iSeriesT, and AS/400?) programming expertise to small and midsized businesses. Mason credits WebSmart (a tool that has evolved into an easy-to-use, visual Web application development and deployment environment) with literally having helped him build his consulting business back in 1998 when he began using BCD development tools.

Creating Web applications in 5 minutes

MCCI's four developers, as well as some of the firm's RPG-proficient clients, use the rapid application development processes included with WebSmart to build and maintain applications 8 to 20 times faster than when programming with traditional RPG coding methods.

Mason, whose style is to explain things with a mixture of understatement and exuberance, says, "The graphical interfaces we build with WebSmart are good enough to thrill our clients." However, without understatement, Mason swears that using the graphical development environment that allows programmers to switch between the code and the presentation, routinely cuts Web-application programming efforts by 90%. Developers do not need to understand JavaT coding techniques even though they are developing Web applications. They can use browser. And running in batch mode does not mean that the generated applications run slow; in fact, they respond very fast.

Linking data in the interest of public security

Even though it is easy to store data in DB2 UDB for i5/OS tables securely by using encryption and conventional System i object security functions, one of Mason's more interesting clients, the police department for the City of Cumberland, Maryland, had a higher need for security. This police department wanted to send confidential incident-reporting information and other sensitive information over the Internet to provide its police officers with instant, on-the-beat access to critical suspect and criminal profile data. The security-related functionality that is packed into the WebSmart product through an easy-to-use wizard was able to fit the profile perfectly for this 24/7, Web-delivered application.

Word of the Internet-based project got around to neighboring police agencies, and they wanted to be included in the instant sharing of police records. Now completed, the MCCI Police Reporting System executes SQL calls from a WebSmart application template for each search. The 911 Emergency Response Center uses the system to dispatch incidents to the proper agency and officer. Multiple agencies share all types of data via a secure, consolidated database that resides on an iSeries system. This secure data includes photos, videos, and even digitally recorded testimonies from victims, each tied to a relevant incident report. And, as the Internet promises, the information is available, in real time, to any authorized law enforcement official.

Mason explains that the police reporting system has even more impressive features. Users themselves can further customize the application as needed, for instance, to include a new dropdown menu item or to change their browser color scheme. WebSmart-generated applications use secure SSL and 128-bit encryption, thus maintaining the sensitivity of the data. The iSeries application associates a user ID and password with each person's security clearance level and agency affiliation. The MCCI Police Reporting System validates user profiles via the System i user profile. Each program is rechecked to determine if a user has the required authorization. The MCCI application currently supports more than 200 police officers and dispatchers in nine agencies, and thanks to the scalability of the System i platform, Mason sees no logical restriction on the maximum number of agencies that can ultimately share police files. He jokes that, any day now, he expects a single-vendor Request For Bid (RFP) from the U.S. Department for Homeland Security.

Profiting from a continuum of happy clients

Reusing the WebSmart tool through the years has proven to be an excellent formula for steady business, repeat customers, wordof- mouth advertising, and high profits for MCCI. Mason explains, "We have seen many longtime RPG developers 'die on the vine' because of their resistance to learning object-based coding techniques. But at MCCI, we have not had to immerse ourselves in learning Java. WebSmart is RPG and SQL-based. Nor have we 'died on the vine.' Our clients seek us out precisely because of the robust, Web-based solutions we can deliver in short timeframes and at small price points." In fact, MCCI has just picked up a new client with 600 to 700 RPG green-screen programs that Mason and one other developer expect to convert to Web applications in a short sixmonth timeframe. About 30% of these programs are report generators, which WebSmart will handle with ease. The CGI code will parse the HTML data to separate out relevant print parameters, which the IBM HTTP Server will provide to the RPG program it calls on the back end to execute the request. The resulting report can be printed as PDF output (by using IBM InfoPrint Server). The CGI code will also parse the same browserbased HTML input to determine which local printer the user wants to send the print output to. Additionally, Mason can invoke the Verisign technology built into the WebSmart applications for credit card orders related to this clients' online order processing needs.

Training is no hurdle

Mason has many stories to tell about how to train a programmer to work with the WebSmart tool and each story has a familiar ring. One RPG programmer was productive in one week; another was productive in just two short weeks. A third programmer who had only COBOL experience took a whopping three weeks to become proficient in the use of WebSmart for developing Web-based applications that access tried and true RPG business logic and DB2 UDB data. These days, MCCI also hosts four-day training sessions for BCD users who reside along the eastern U.S. seaboard. "The learning curve is always fast; developers quickly get a sense of its power and flexibility. They learn HTML tag logic, parsing methodologies, and quickly grasp the process for calling into an RPG program from a browser to calculate taxes, look up pricing discounts, or for some other similar business logic task. Because of this, we provide custom WebSmart training classes and host basic and advanced BCD training courses. BCD is always right there with phone and Internet-based support," says Mason.

For more information

Contact your IBM sales representative, Mason Computer Consulting, Inc. (www.masoncci.com), BCD International, Inc. (www.bcdsoftware.com), or visit IBM at: ibm.com/server

Trademarks and special notices

© IBM Corporation 1994-2006. All rights reserved.

References in this document to IBM products or services do not imply that IBM intends to make them available in every country.

The following terms are trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation in the United States, other countries, or both: IBM, System i, System i5, eServer, AS/400, iSeries, WebSphere, ibm.com, and the IBM logo.

Java and all Java-based trademarks are trademarks of Sun Microsystems, Inc. in the United States, other countries, or both.

Microsoft, Windows, Windows NT, and the Windows logo are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States, other countries, or both.

Other company, product or service names may be trademarks or service marks of others.

Information is provided "AS IS" without warranty of any kind.

All customer examples described are presented as illustrations of how those customers have used IBM products and the results they may have achieved. Actual environmental costs and performance characteristics may vary by customer.

Information concerning non-IBM products was obtained from a supplier of these products, published announcement material, or other publicly available sources and does not constitute an endorsement of such products by IBM. Sources for non-IBM list prices and performance numbers are taken from publicly available information, including vendor announcements and vendor worldwide homepages. IBM has not tested these products and cannot confirm the accuracy of performance, capability, or any other claims related to non-IBM products. Questions on the capability of non-IBM products should be addressed to the supplier of those products.

 

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