The ChallengeThe system used by the client’s electrical engineers for planning and modelling was originally written as a mainframe application in the 1970s. The primary language used to code the system was Fortran: over the years the system was developed to run on Windows machines but still had Fortran at its heart. The applications passed through several industry service providers until, in 2011, the current developer announced that they would no longer support or develop the application.
“We needed to find a partner who would feed and water the existing system, whilst simultaneously modernising the application to enable future business benefit."
The client’s Application Support Manager told us,“We approached the Strategic Integrator community for their input and were told that there was nothing to be done except a complete rewrite of the application which, as well as being a costly approach meant we would be without day to day support until such time as the new application was finished.”
The following issues with the applications needed to be addressed in order to meet the short term goal of Windows 7 compatibility:
- Compilation Failure – The code base had not been complied for over 5 years and contained numerous instances of outdated coding techniques that would no longer compile.
- No Single Development Project – The code base was held in multiple formats across multiple media types, without a single consistent project.
- Inconsistent Documentation – What documentation did exist was invariably out of date.
With an internal mandate to move to Windows 7 within 18 months, and estimates ranging from 3 to 5 years for a rewrite, the client needed to find a more flexible and agile approach. “Every company we approached wanted a large project team to spend 6 months looking at the application before they were even willing to quote for the rewrite project. This was too much risk for us: we had to find another way”.
The client chose DSP as its support and development partner for its legacy applications. The appointment was based on DSP's legacy systems management capability, deep Fortran technical expertise, flexible commercial approach and alignment of cultures between the two companies.
“DSP brings years of practical, common sense Legacy Management experience. We felt that their ‘stabilise and enhance’ approach gave us the best value for money and our best operational flexibility.”
Through a rolling commercial contract the client engaged DSP to provide support and development services in the following areas:
- On-going Support – Pick up business hours support for the application suite from day one.
- Application Health Check and Viability Assessment – Get under the covers to understand what were the longer term options for the applications.
- Application Enhancement – Following a continuous improvement and continuous delivery methodology, deliver enhancements against the areas that would give the highest impact for minimal effort.
Application Stabilisation was also a major factor in improving the client's estate, by creating a consistent development project for future work including rewriting missing code. To this end DSP removed all compilation errors, created a current .exe, and created a Windows 7 compatible version. The work speaks for itself...
“What really stood out about DSP, was the way in which the customer came first. They understood what we were facing and put together a program of work, which needed trust and faith from both sides. Also, they have been easy and a pleasure to work with. They have had an onsite presence throughout and are seen as an extension to the internal team.”
DSP's services have already contributed to a significant reduction in the amount of downtime associated with the applications.
The service has also reduced the processing time and improved the performance for new models, as well as adding a few simple touches to reduce user frustration such as the introduction of an autosave feature when creating models.
As a result, the client is also engaging with DSP on other legacy systems management outside of the existing contractual scope of work.