In-Depth

Nominees for e-Business Application Development

2006 Innovator Awards ADT's annual Innovator Awards recognize IT development teams who have solved their company's business problems by deploying unique solutions. This year 31 nominees entered their application development projects in the five categories listed below. Each week for the next month, a new category will be added to the mix until the winners -- based on judging by a group of consultants at Keane -- are announced in the May issue of ADT. Tell us who you think should win. Scroll down and vote for the best project in the e-business app dev category.


Categories

  • Application Engineering

    Emphasizes the use of software engineering tools and practices. Includes the use of Extreme Programming (XP) concepts, the Unified Modeling Language (UML), Computer-Aided Software Engineering (CASE), object-oriented analysis and design tools, automated testing tools, methodologies, project management, process management, configuration management tools and/or productivity measurement tools in an innovative corporate development project.

    Click here to see the Nominees for this category

  • Data Warehousing

    Emphasizes the design and development processes and tools used in enterprise data warehousing projects, including: data mining tools, online transaction processing systems, data extraction and transformation tools, database management systems, universal data management systems, query and reporting tools.

    Click here to see the Nominees for this category

  • E-Business Application Development

    Emphasizes efforts to develop a corporate application architecture that incorporates legacy systems, client/server systems and the Internet. The judges will evaluate how the finished application affects business processes, as well as the tools and technologies employed. This category also emphasizes the use of multi-tier development tools for development of enterprise-wide applications that can include Web-based and wireless clients. Examples include RAD tools, data modelers, visual 4GLs, Java tools, Internet tools, wireless development tools and development frameworks.

    Click here to see the nominees for this category.

  • Middleware/Application Integration

    Emphasizes the use of middleware, integration and messaging technologies within an application architecture. Relevant tools can include transaction managers, object request brokers, RPC-based schemes, XML-based technologies, object transaction monitors, Web services, application integration tools, message-oriented middleware (MOM) alternatives, and publish and subscribe systems. Also emphasizes the use of middleware to link multiple packaged and/or packaged and internally developed applications, and multivendor DBMS systems to allow seamless integration between dissimilar systems.

    Click here to see the nominees for this category.

  • Open Source

    Emphasizes the use of open-source technologies and tools by corporate development teams building internal, proprietary applications or for extending the capabilities of existing systems. Projects that combine traditional development methods with open-source offerings as well as projects relying solely on open-source technologies are relevant to this category.

    Click here to see the Nominees for this category


Nominees for e-Business Application Development

Nominee: Winfield Solutions’ AIRMAN

Industry: Aviation Safety

Goal:Provide immediate data on wildlife that threatens air safety.

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Business Problem: Airport staff needed better reporting tools to identify wildlife trends and improve flight safety.

Application Solution: Winfield Solutions created a distributed client/server solution dubbed AIRMAN (Airport Information Report MANager) as a safety systems management tool using Sybase PowerBuilder, Sybase PocketBuilder and SQL Anywhere from iAnywhere Solutions. The dev team used Sybase Pocketbuilder to develop AirMan Mobile, a WinCE app for handheld devices. AirMan Mobile includes the Sybase ASE database, which is designed for small footprint apps. Data synchronization was implemented between the handheld and the corporate databases. The team also developed a reusable framework of components for the WinCE OS and PocketBuilder.

Technical challenges of the project included: designing the human interface for a very small screen, learning the new WinCE OS and Pocketbuilder IDE, and understanding the differences and capabilities between the various portable PC manufacturers. Previous failures with eVB and C dev 3GL tools indicated that 4GL technology was required. Development hurdles were overcome with software and the experience of a seasoned dev team.


click here to read full submission.


Nominee: Bonhams Auctioneers

Industry: Commerce

Goal:Design and implement a new IT infrastructure capable of supporting more than 300,000 transactions annually and generate more revenues from low-cost transactions.

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Business Problem: Bonhams required a new IT infrastructure that would support a sharp growth curve and reduce transactional costs associated with the auctions. Over five years, Bonhams completed five mergers and acquisitions resulting in an infrastructure that included several disparate legacy systems. To operate and serve clients effectively, Bonhams wanted to consolidate the systems into one unified infrastructure, providing users with quick and reliable access to centralized data. Bonhams also needed a reliable and scalable solution for Web-based transactions and services.

Application Solution: Bonhams based the new IT infrastructure on Progress Software’s OpenEdge development platform and database running on Linux. The database is a single source of information that is used for client services, accounting, human resources, auction catalog and Web transactions.

The development team also used Progress Software’s WebSpeed IDE to build and deploy a Web-based transaction processing app to support real-time data access and data management. WebSpeed, was all the team needed to develop the auction system.

Bonhams selected CedarOpenAccounts' financial software as the standard for financial accounting. OpenAccounts is accessible via a standard Web browser and offers full support for multicurrency transactions. This is important because Bonhams must handle the wide-ranging tax requirements of different countries and of the U.S. states in which it operates. Flexibility is particularly important to meet the sometimes-difficult demands of tax authorities.

click here to read full submission.


Nominee: Citizens and Hanover Insurance Companies

Industry: Finance

Goal:Generate revenues by enabling the firm’s customer service reps and independent agents to conduct more business, faster.

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Business Problem: Revenues at Citizens and Hanover Insurance Companies, a property and casualty insurer based in Worcester, Mass. were flat, and in some areas, declining. The problem, senior management determined, was the firm’s aging IT infrastructure was simply too slow and cumbersome, requiring its customer service reps and independent agents to spend too much time handling transactions, responding to customer queries and similar critical tasks. Improve the IT infrastructure to handle more business in less time, and revenues would follow, management reasoned.

Application Solution: The challenge was to transform the firm’s technology infrastructure to support a new growth strategy. The company needed a clearly defined architectural path that would offer up-to-date functionality and be readily adaptable as the business grew. They determined a service-oriented architecture was the way to go.

The first task was to create a Web portal through which all transactions initiated by independent agents would flow. In the insurance business, customer service—not the firm’s brand—was what was most important for customers. A portal would provide the ease of use and speed Citizens and Hanover’s agents required.

Citizens and Hanover decided to use Linux as the foundation of the new system because it promised a faster return on investment. To accelerate the design and implement new portlets and applications, Hanover and Citizens implemented Bowstreet’s Portlet Factory because it was easy-to-learn and could rapidly develop portlets. IBM WebSphere Application Server Express, WebSphere MQ, WebSphere Studio Application Developer, WebSphere Portal for Multiplatforms, IBM DB2 Universal Database Express Editions 7.1 and 8.1, and IBM Customer Information Control System Transaction Server for z/OS Version 2.3 supported the middleware in the solution. The hardware included IBM eServer zSeries 900.

click here to read full submission.


Nominee: District of Columbia/DCStat

Industry: Government

Goal: Integrate a diverse set of legacy systems.

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Business Problem: The District of Columbia needed to line up its IT infrastructure with that of other federal agencies. To do that, the agency’s IT managers opted to build DCStat, a system to integrate a diverse set of legacy systems ranging from structured application/database platforms to unstructured productivity-based templates, such as Word, Access and Excel.

Application Solution: DCStat provides multiple views of near real-time data DC government agencies generate. The solution’s primary features include the ability to search and analyze available agency data and to view results spatially in map form and other logical groupings in report form.

DCStat employs an agile development approach based on use-case requirements, test-driven development and iteration development cycles.

DCStat’s feature functions include data searching, mapping, watches and address summary.

  • Data searching enables users to query and analyze data within the data repository based on type, data range or text string.
  • Mapping allows users to select data sets for display on a map, perform map actions (i.e. identify, search, zoom) and gives users the ability to view detailed data records.
  • Watches enable users to define monitors of conditions around the District and benefit from the near real-time data interfaces that trigger notification when threshold levels are reached.
  • Address summary allows a user to enter an address and obtain a summary of information.

click here to read full submission.


Nominee: Export Development Canada

Industry: Finance and risk management services

Goal: Provide timely, accurate information.

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Business Problem: Provide employees with consistent customer, portfolio and financial risk information.

Application Solution: The development team was tasked with building an agile, industrial strength data warehouse that provided company-wide access to consistent and accurate data. The data warehousing methodology and ETL processes were developed internally and built around a components-based architecture so that code could be reused. The team used an SAS platform to build a data warehouse and various data marts, replacing many disconnected sources of data—application abstracts, personal spreadsheets, Microsoft Access databases. Components include the raw data feeds, SAS ETL Studio, SAS/IntrNet, SAS Enterprise Miner and online analytical processing cubes.

Data is gathered from more than 12 apps running on the mainframe, AS/400 or Microsoft SQL Server databases. Data marts include a Credits Administration System, Market Risk Management, Loans Provisioning, a Corporate Results scorecard and a Corporate Exposure scorecard.

click here to read full submission.


Nominee: Hillman Group

Industry: Hardware Distribution

Goal: Strategic IT investment to gain competitive advantage.

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Business Problem: A distributor of hardware—keys, signs and engraving technologies—with 13 distribution centers servicing 30,000 retail locations in 58 countries, Hillman needed to reach the next level of operating success through strategic IT investments.

Application Solution: The IT team implemented an enterprise resource planning system, a corporate portal, a collaboration suite (which included e-mail, calendar, instant messaging and Web conferencing) and an executive dashboard. The dashboard allows executives to view refreshed operational data several times a day. Users are able to access reports over the Internet using any browser.

The company has four core systems from which data is sourced: the new ERP system, a proprietary app serving the fastener product lines, a package supporting Mexico and Canada, and a JD Edwards World app supporting the letters, numbers and signs product lines. The business intelligence app (Information Builders’ WebFOCUS) is layered on top of all four environments to provide consolidated executive level reporting and to feed the portal-based dashboard. This approach allowed the team to address critical business needs without the heavy lifting of integrating disparate systems. WebFOCUS for Linux runs on IBM iSeries as part of a Web-centric portal delivery infrastructure accessing a separate data warehouse, ERP, order management and HR systems.

click here to read full submission.


Nominee: HPShopping.com

Industry: Technology Retail

Goal: Scalability and efficiency in fraud analysis and order review.

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Business Problem: In order to scale its North American online consumer business, HP needed to speed up the order review process and reduce the number of orders that were in the queue for trained fraud analysts to review.

Application Solution: HP decided to develop a fraud screening strategy based on business intelligence and data modeling to handle the bulk of the fraud decision-making process. The new system would also aggregate customer information, risk profiles and third party Web-based data services in a single portal for analysts who needed to review orders. The scope of the project required the 10-person dev team to build its own fraud management system using a variety of tools including .NET and J2EE platforms, Weblogic Workshop, Hibernate and Strut.

When a customer makes an order, the Broadvision storefront sends a SOAP message over SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) to the .NET financial gateway app. It processes and transforms the SOAP request into an XML message for the rules engine, CyberSource Risk Management System, where a fraud screening strategy is executed on the order data. Calls are made to Enterprise Java Bean plug-ins that query third-party data sources or the storefront’s order history database for relevant customer data.

After the order is approved, declined or flagged for review, the order data and third-party data are stored in a database asynchronously using JMS message queues. Analysts view any flagged orders through an HP developed Web portal and dashboard, which provides access to order details, a risk profile, order history, and a summary of results from third-party data sources. The order can also be checked against more detailed third-party data or the storefront order history database before it is approved or declined.

click here to read full submission.


Nominee: Iconix Pharmaceuticals

Industry: Pharmaceutical

Goal: Integrate, analyze and present information stored on several databases.

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Business Problem: The development team at Iconix wanted to create a GUI for its customers that would provide them with different views of a wide variety of drug-related information. The team hoped to go beyond the typical page and document view of the average Web page, yet wasn’t cost-prohibitive to build and maintain.

Application Solution: Iconix developed the DrugMatrix database to provide its customers with the chemogenomics information they required. Iconix also knew it would need to couple high-performance information processing capabilities with an interactive, feature-rich GUI that would allow researchers to conduct searches and interact with the information displayed on their PC monitors.

The team chose an RIA framework coupled with an interface builder, a mature solution, created by TIBCO Software. It includes visual authoring tools, APIs, and libraries of extensible, high-performance GUI components, as well as a componentized, open architecture with the capabilities to reuse and customize objects. With the use of AJAX, Iconix brought the product to market twice as fast and decreased its development costs by two-thirds compared to building a standard client/server architecture.

DrugMatrix is built on a three-tiered eXtensible Informatics architecture, consisting of a data warehouse, app server and a user interface. The architecture is flexible, and can be readily adapted to suit changes in the IT environment, the company says.

click here to read full submission.


Nominee: LeasePlan USA

Industry: Automotive

Goal: Create a secure, user-friendly electronic interface for clients.

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Business Problem: LeasePlan wanted to provide a secure, strategic business-to-business Web interface through which its clients could manage their vehicle fleets in real time. The company’s strategy was to increase the volume of vehicles its clients ordered. Before deploying the new system, it took several days to process a vehicle order; e-mailing, faxing or mailing the order added time and money to every step. Not surprisingly, LeasePlan sought to streamline the process and operate in real-time.

Application Solution: LeasePlan’s ePlan adheres to the Rational Unified Process, which uses a disciplined approach to assigning tasks and responsibilities to the development team. After the team reviews functional requirements, creates high-level analysis and designs, it will put each iteration through detail analysis and design, implementation, integration, test and deployment.

ePlan is an n-Tier Architecture that comprises the client, presentation, business and resource tiers. In the client tier, HTML and JavaScript present the app views to the end users. The presentation tier, which comprises servlets, JSPs and tag libraries generate these views. Web service handlers in the presentation tier act as business delegates, marshalling user requests to business requests that are then dispatched to the business tier for processing. The business tier comprises business service managers acting as session facades, encapsulating business logic and interactions with the resource tier.

Rational XDE is used to generate UML analysis and design models. WebSphere Application Development Studio, an Eclipsed-based IDE, is used to develop code; and CheckStyle plug-in ensures development code conforms to the LeasePlan defined coding standards.

click here to read full submission.


Nominee: Luxury Link

Industry: Travel

Goal: Meet growing customer demand, reduce processing times, streamline Web app dev and to create new revenue opportunities by accommodating advertising on the site.

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Business Problem: For Luxury Link to be more responsive to online requests and streamline the development and maintenance of queries, the IT team had to modern its data extraction process. Queries from the site required the transfer of large amounts of data to and from the database, a process that affected system performance and would not scale effectively. The volume of code, its maintenance and duplication were also a growing concern.

Application Solution: Luxury Link’s IT team set out to re-engineer the way data requested through the company’s Web site was delivered to the user. By placing the data-related business logic in its SQL Server 2000 database and leveraging stored procedures, instead of executing SQL code from the Web site, response times were greatly increased. At the same time, the volume of code and its maintenance demands were significantly reduced.

The SQL database’s IDE did not meet the needs of the development team, so it selected Embarcadero Rapid SQL to provide the team with the development environment and functionality required. With Rapid SQL’s rich visual context, developers could create and analyze stored procedures to extract data directly from the database in response to customer queries.

For database development, the company used Embarcadero’s ER/Studio to add and modify tables. Embarcadero’s Rapid SQL debugger was all Luxury Link needed to test new SQL code. Yes, the testing was cost-effective. The dev team used the performance execution analysis tools in Rapid SQL to identify inefficient SQL code and for example, where indexes should be included. The team also used Radview Software’s WebFT and Webload to test the site’s functionality from a user standpoint.

click here to read full submission.


Nominee: Ochsner Clinic Foundation

Industry: Healthcare

Goal: Develop a system to conquer a backlog of medical test results and deliver reports faster.

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Business Problem: The famed clinic needed to provide medical and administrative staff with real-time access to patient data, support the organization's anticipated growth while improving patient care and eliminate the need for outsourced transcription services.

Application Solution: The Ochsner Clinic Foundation needed to develop a system that captures data at the point of delivery, delivering reports faster and cutting costs and improving patient care. Its cardiovascular information system allows clinicians to enter test and procedure results directly into a patient's record and generating reports in seconds. The system also eliminated the clinic’s need to dictate information into tapes and then paying to have them transcribed.

Ochsner evaluated Microsoft’s Visual Basic but opted for Sybase PowerBuilder because they were familiar with the tool and believed it was easy to use and enable them to reuse code.

PowerBuilder’s use of object-oriented programming tools made it possible for a small team to turn around this project in less than a year. The DataWindow object particularly helped by minimizing the amount of time the developers needed to devote to database connectivity. Also, PowerBuilder’s implementation of inheritance minimizes the amount of time spent on applying changes from one iteration to the next in the development cycle.

Consequently, Ochsner's service levels increased and the cardiology unit's business tripled in seven years with no backlogs.

click here to read full submission.


You be the Judge

Judges from Keane chose the winners that will appear in the May issue. Vote now and tell us who you’d choose in the e-business application development category.
Judges from Keane chose the winners that will appear in the May issue. Vote now and tell us who you’d choose in the e-Business Application Development category.

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