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A Cooperative Effort

Control Systems Software and LANSA team up to modernize a core application

Control Systems Software and LANSA team up to modernize a core application
Terry Osburn, development manager (left), and Carol Stewart, CEO, say CSS’s new software solution adds drill-down capabilities and a much-needed GUI.
 

Benefiting Everyone

Based in Urbandale, Iowa, CSS was formed in 1999. Its customers—owners in this case—are agribusiness companies. These companies, in need of cost-effective financial software written specifically for their market, drove the development of the CONTROL application, which runs on member-hosted IBM Power Systems* servers.

The Stratton, Colo.-headquartered Stratton Equity, for example, which has been in business for around 100 years, runs grain elevators and buys agronomy products and equipment for its cooperative members. It uses CONTROL on Power* 520 hardware running IBM i to maintain records relating to these and other transactions. (Stratton Equity also owns a hardware store, a convenience store and three car-care centers, according to Jostes.)

Records maintenance is essential given that Stratton Equity is itself owned by co-op members, including farmers who want to operate under the power-in-numbers ethos. “Co-ops such as ours were formed to allow area farmers to pool all their commodities and then find someone to market them for a better price. After all, it’s better to market a million bushels of grain than 5,000 bushels,” Jostes says. That also works on the other side, whether the members are buying fertilizers or fuel. They can get a better rate if they buy mass quantities.

And that’s where CSS comes into play. “We couldn’t afford to develop this software on our own,” Jostes says. “But as a group—as members of a cooperative—we can keep costs down. At the same time, we’re getting the exact solution we need. If, for example, one business needs a specific feature added to the software, it’s likely that we’ll all need and benefit from it.”

CSS’s Stewart agrees: “If some of the members are calling in with the same needs, we’ll reach out to everyone and ask, ‘How many of you would like to see this particular feature included in the software?’ Based on what the majority has to say, we’ll then prioritize that request. In the case of changing the application interface, it was unanimous.”

When CONTROL was initially developed, it was green screen only, which at the time was to be expected. But as user expectations changed, especially with increased use of PC-based software and other graphical interfaces, members began asking for an easier-to-navigate front end. Additionally, CSS, which uses an IBM Power 550 Express running IBM i for its development environment, was concerned that prospective members might be put off by the workstation nature of the application.

“One of our member companies—which happens to sit on our board—brought someone in to look at the system. When they saw it and that it was green screen, they said they didn’t want it because it was ‘old technology.’ So to remain viable in the marketplace, we decided we needed to move quickly and change the look and feel of CONTROL,” Stewart says.

 

 

Jim Utsler, IBM Systems Magazine senior writer, has been covering the technology field for more than a decade. Jim can be reached at jjutsler@provide.net.


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A Cooperative Effort

Control Systems Software and LANSA team up to modernize a core application

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