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Procuro Modernizes Its Systems From Back to Front


Wire cars, like the one pictured below, helped inspire Procuro Systems’ recent modernization effort, according to Managing Director Heinrich Smit — Photo by Albie Bredenhann

The decision to go with newlook was driven by several factors. For one, newlook makes it relatively simple for users to transform green-screen interfaces into more eye-pleasing GUIs. Second, lookserver lets users deliver existing code, including RPG Open Access, to mobile devices with few or no changes required on the back end—and mobile access is something Procuro wants to offer its customers as they increasingly adopt that emerging computing model. Third, and significantly for Procuro, looksoftware has a working arrangement with TEMBO, which is supporting newlook as its preferred interface model.

This was key, because Procuro was simultaneously drafting its Project Draadkar requirements, already knowing that TEMBO would be doing much of the heavy lifting in this regard. To have two closely aligned companies working together on the same project was a blessing to Procuro, which wanted few operational interruptions.

“We were able to increase our percentage of monthly premiums by 6.5 percent. Without this massive undertaking, we wouldn’t have accomplished this—and we’d be looking backward instead of forward.”
—Heinrich Smit, managing director with Procuro Systems

“We cannot afford to be offline at any point, except for maybe Christmas and New Year’s Day, which is a drawback to some modernization efforts. We don’t have dual systems and we’re in a live environment, so everything has to be nondisruptive,” Smit says. And that was indeed the case, as Smit further explains: “After the conversion of the entire database, our users were not at all aware of any changes happening on the insurance solution. It was truly nondisruptive.”

 

Sooner Rather Than Later

Procuro’s database-conversion effort entailed using TEMBO’s database modernization tool Adsero Optima (AO) Foundation to largely automate the movement of application-database interfaces from the applications to the database itself, with no application recompiling needed. This might sound like a no-brainer, but many programmers—who may have been raised on traditional RPG coding—don’t think in that way. As a result, they instead code triggers, referential constraints and database validations as part of the application-development process. This leads to a tangled web of application-specific database interfaces that may have to be changed every time an application is modified. Coders often become rightly frustrated with this.

The situation can be avoided by moving the application-database interface to the database, using the IBM-provided SQL engine. This means the triggers, constraints and validations can be separated from the business logic, giving programmers a way to sidestep the in-application coding of these interface functions. As a result, changes to applications don’t require modifications to the interfaces, sparing programmers many maintenance nightmares while also creating greater application agility.

“We had to ask ourselves what our modernization objectives were—just putting a new face on an old application, or actually modernizing it to keep up with changing times and requirements. Not only that,” Smit continues, “but we had to consider the burden we were putting on both our existing and new programmers. As things were, only a few programmers understood the intrinsic nature of our applications—and they didn’t really like talking about it. So we had to take a different approach by employing the ubiquitous SQL so everyone could understand everything we were doing.”

This may sound like technical gobbledygook, but from a business perspective, it simply made sense. Not only did Procuro relieve its programmers from niggling maintenance burdens, but it also created a more modern system model. This has enabled the company to offer its customers refreshed solutions and move elegantly into the future.

“We didn’t want to focus simply on maintenance. We wanted to ready ourselves for emerging technologies such as cloud computing, which we decided we had better do sooner rather than later. By modernizing everything—and taking a holistic approach to it—our programmers can be much more productive and proactive,” Smit 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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