In-Depth

LeasePlan USA

2006 ADT Innovator Awards

I. Project Information

a.Company and division name: LeasePlan USA
c. Project designation

High priority

d. Brief explanation of the goals of the project

The goal of ePlan was to create a secure and user-friendly electronic interface where our clients can fully manage their fleet 24/7/365. We wanted to provide a strategic business-to-business (B2B) web application designed to increase the amount of control that fleet managers have over their fleets.

e. Brief description of the business risks involved

In 1998, The World Wide Web was in its infancy stage when ePlan was first under development, so developing an eBusiness product like ePlan was considered risky. In addition, moving to this type of product was a major shift in the way LeasePlan conducted business – moving away from a call center environment and empowering clients to manage their data themselves. In addition, LeasePlan decided to use Java/J2EE even though it was only in Beta testing, also considered a risky venture. With new technologies emerging, changes occur quite frequently, which was also a risk which was considered when ePlan was developed. The architecture behind ePlan, however, is flexible enough to address these changes.

f. Brief description of how the system helps users

ePlan allows clients to manage their information on-demand in real time. It saves time and money, increasing efficiencies while also allowing LeasePlan to increase profits thanks to quicker turnaround times for vehicle orders and reduced manual labor costs. ePlan and its enhancements have allowed LeasePlan to help clients maximize their fleet management capabilities.


II. Organizational Objectives

a. What short-term and long-term benefits did the organization achieve from the project?

ePlan was critical to clients who wanted the ability to manage their fleet information in real time, whenever and wherever they needed. Benefits were measured by annual ordered vehicle volumes. Manually, a vehicle order would take several days to process due to slowdowns associated with emailing, faxing or mailing the order. However, by giving clients direct access to ePlan, order turn around time was cut substantially, allowing LeasePlan to complete vehicle orders quicker and increase profits while reducing manual labor costs.

Did the solution meet the projected goals for saving time and money?

Yes.

How were benefits measured?

LeasePlan measures benefits according to the usage of each functionality within ePlan such as the percentage of vehicle orders initiated through ePlan.

Was the system mission critical to the organization?

Yes.

b. Describe the business purpose of the new system.
ePlan's purpose is to allow clients to manage their fleet 24/7/365 in a secure and easy-to-use environment.

c. Describe the features of the new system.

Full fleet management can be performed including reporting, accessing images of important documents, ordering vehicles, vehicle comparisons, managing driver information, personal settings and other management functions.

d. Explain the functions of the new system.

ePlan allows clients to manage their fleet in a way that is consistent with their own organizational business model. Access roles can be set up to allow clients to give specific viewing and/or editing rights to specific users. There are also security settings which allow users the ability to access specific information based on their user identity settings.

e. Who were the internal sponsors of the project? Which officials or groups were opposed to developing the application? Why?

The electronic solution received full support from the operations and executive management teams because it allows the client and LeasePlan, as their provider, to further develop a strong business relationship. It also allows clients to maximize their fleet's capabilities and cost structures.


There was some opposition from internal groups that didn’t clearly understand ePlan and the value it could bring to clients.

f. Were users of the system involved in the project during the planning and development phases? If so, how?

We have internal users [employees within our own company] and external users [our clients] who use ePlan. The development of ePlan is under a continuous development cycle with direct input from our clients and prospects so that LeasePlan is continually working to meet the needs of the market.


For example, if a client has an idea to further enhance a particular functionality within ePlan, LeasePlan has a team that reviews the request and then looks at how that request might affect all clients. LeasePlan then contacts other clients who have participated in past projects for development, to verify agreement or disagreement with the proposed request.


In most cases, LeasePlan proceeds forward with the request for enhancement. The client submitting the idea becomes a part of the development team and assists in testing the new enhancement. Once testing is validated, LeasePlan verifies the functionality of the new enhancement with the client as well as internal testers. Once those are complete and the client signs off on the enhancement, LeasePlan introduces the change to all clients utilizing ePlan.

g. What were the greatest challenges in completing this project? How were they overcome?

Since ePlan is a continuous development process, there are times when challenges occur with implementing recommended enhancements. When those challenges are identified, the LeasePlan team responsible for managing development takes the issue to the appropriate areas of the business or the client for further clarification or information. Communication is critical to address challenges and/or acquire the tools necessary to resolve the issue (hardware-related tools, for example.)

h. Were the goals changed as the project progressed? If so, what were the changes and why were they made?

Overall, ePlan's goals at the strategic level have not changed. The tactical objectives have changed from time to time to better align the product with client and market feedback. LeasePlan is always working to meet our clients’ changing needs.


III. Category

E-business Application Development

THE PROJECT


IV. Methodology/Process

Describe how productivity tools or techniques were used in the project.

ePlan employs the Rational Unified Process in software development which uses a disciplined approach to assigning tasks and responsibilities to the development team. It uses industry "best practices" in every aspect of software development - from the inception of requirements, to analysis and design, implementation, testing and deployment.


New functional requirements are being managed by LeasePlan’s Business Excellence group, comprising of a project chairperson, business analysts, and IT personnel. This ensures every requirement of the product meets a specific business need. The requirements are further organized as cases for greater completeness and consistency. They also provide a better understanding of the importance of a requirement from a user's perspective. All requirements are documented using the LeasePlan Business Requirement Template in Microsoft Word format.


Once functional requirements are reviewed and approved, high-level analysis and designs are created to ensure seamless integration with the current system architecture. Development iterations are defined, whereas each iteration will undergo detail analysis and design, implementation, integrations, test and deployment.


Each iteration is further divided into smaller development activities, enabling the project manager to assign these activities to developers for parallel development and ease of integration, making it faster process to complete. These granularities also enable the project manager to select specific subsets of completed and tested changes to be integrated with the existing application, therefore, accommodating re-prioritization of changes as they occur in the business.


Rational XDE is used to generate UML analysis and design models. WebSphere Application Development Studio, an Eclipsed-based IDE, is used to develop codes, while using CheckStyle plug-in to ensure all development codes conform to the LeasePlan defined coding standards.


ANT is used to deploy the application to the Developer Integration Test Server, the QA Server, Client Test Server and Production Server.

b. Were testing tools used during development?

JUnit and LoadRunner are the tools used for testing. LoadRunner is used for acceptance, full regression, and load test of a build while in QA. Results from these tests are saved for benchmarking and comparisons with previous builds.

If so, when were they used?

Before, during and after the development.

Was the testing cost-effective?

Yes.

c. Was a formal or informal software development life-cycle methodology employed? If yes, please describe it.

IV. Methodology

  • Rational Unified Process
  • Extreme Programming
  • UML
  • CheckStyle to enforce Coding Standards
  • Code Reviews
d. What formal or informal project management methodologies and/or tools were used to manage the project? If used, please describe how.

LeasePlan relied heavily on IBM Global Services and Gartner to manage the ePlan project. Case studies and best practices were helpful tools that provided additional project management methodologies.

e. Were software quality metrics used? If so, what were they, and did using them significantly help the project?

Yes, development codes undergo formal and informal code reviews to validate against the company’s business requirements and ensure optimal efficiency. Rational ClearCase with Unified Change Management is used for code management and versioning, while Remedy and Notes are used to track defects.


V. Technology

a. What were the major technical challenges that had to be overcome to complete the project successfully?
How did the team respond to those challenges?

LeasePlan understands that challenges are inevitable due to new technologies being incomplete and constantly being patched, so we factor that into ePlan’s development. We are able to replace dependencies on specific technology with others that are compatible.


LeasePlan also developed in-house solutions although they may have been considered "lacking" because we were aware that major vendors such as Sun, IBM and Microsoft were racing to provide upgraded solutions such as Servlets, JSPs, etc. We were able to create temporary solutions that were similar in architecture but didn’t disrupt the system. When solutions were available from those vendors, we were able to quickly discard and replace what we had built without much impact to ePlan’s functionality. The ePlan team was always prepared for changes – they were factored into everything that was developed. With the help of ongoing training and research, the ePlan team was able to stay abreast with where the industry was going, making it easier to incorporate new and better technologies in the future.

b. What software tools, including databases, operating systems and all development tools, were selected for the project?

Tools:

  • WebSphere Application Development Studio
  • Rational XDE
  • Rational ClearCase
  • LoadRunner
  • Remedy
  • Notes
  • WebSphere Application Server
  • ANTs

Platforms:

  • Windows platform for Development & Unit Test
  • iSeries for QA, Client Test, and Production
  • iSeries DB/2, DataQueues & JNI to Legacy programs, RMI to Windows COMs/DCOMs
Why were they selected over competing tools?

Speed, efficiency and cost.

What process was used to select development tools and software platforms?

LeasePlan’s R&D experts evaluated recommendations from IBM, Gartner and other groups and selected partners to work on the product alongside LeasePlan. The way in which ePlan was developed allows LeasePlan the flexibility to switch tools, libraries and platforms with minimal impact to the product’s functionality. ePlan is also written to be compliant to J2EE standards so that many tools, libraries and open sources can be easily integrated.

c. Describe the overall system architecture.

ePlan is an n-Tier Architecture comprised of the Client Tier, Presentation Tier, Business Tier and Resource Tier.


In the Client Tier, HTML and JavaScript present the application views to the end-users. These views are generated from the Presentation Tier, comprising of Servlets, JSPs, and Tag Libraries. Also in the Presentation Tier are the Web Service Handlers acting as business delegates marshalling user requests to business requests which are then dispatched to the Business Tier for processing.


The Business Tier comprises of Business Service Managers acting as session facades encapsulating business logics and interactions with the Resource Tier.


The Resource Tier comprises of the local and remote RDBMS, programs, and services.

Architecture:

  • Presentation Tier, MVC-2, JSPs, Tag libraries
  • Business Tier, EJB Session Facades
  • Persistent Tier, XSQL
  • Service Locator
  • Open-source
  • Components-based
  • Employ Best Practices Iterative
Were elements of the technical infrastructure put in place to support the new system? Please describe.

Yes, LeasePlan adopted the design pattern "Service Locator," the core framework that abstracts how application services are obtained. End users are able to submit a request to the server and the framework deciphers what is requested and issues a registered Handler to process the request. This Handler also uses the LPRFWK to obtain services from other Handlers. An abstraction layer is created, enabling LeasePlan to plug-in new or modified Handlers, dynamically or statically.


VI. Project Team

a. What was the size of the development team?

When ePlan was first developed, the team consisted of a project manager, three Web designers, an architect, five developers, two OAs, a database administrator and a team of Legacy developers.


Today, the project team consists of a project manager, business analysts, four developers, an architect, ePlan trainers and OAs, a team of legacy developers and database administrators.

b. Describe the software development experience of the team members.

The team has a vast amount of software development experience, with internal experts on staff to ensure enhancements and upgrades are addressed immediately.

Did development teams require training to work with the technology?

Yes

d. Please list team members and their titles.

This is proprietary information.

e. How many person-months/days did the project take, and over what calendar time frame?

ePlan development began in 1998 and is under constant development.

Was a formal schedule created at the start of the project?

Yes

Did the project stay on schedule?

Yes

f. Did management and the user community consider the project a success?

Yes, it exceeds management and client expectations.

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