Each enterprise application is being revisited based on user feedback, and the modernization effort is viewed as an opportunity to drive productivity enhancements across the business. “We view the long-term plan as roughly a five-year effort, with major modules introduced about every nine months,” Greene explained. “Once a modernized application module is introduced, employees have the option to use the character-based screens but we don’t envision many employees opting for the character-based interfaces once they realize the productivity and ease-of-use advantages of the browser-based interfaces.”
Composites One tracks customer activity through its e-commerce B2B web portal, and is now receiving over 100,000 online information requests per month—a substantial increase in usage and interaction year-over-year. Over 7,000 customers actively use the web portal and this represents over 80 % of Composite One’s revenue. “Progress provides us with robust capabilities that we’re able to utilize every day in our development tools,” Greene stated. “When I look at really complex, highly functional applications such as our B2B web portal, I think about how thousands of customers use it every day to retrieve information and submit orders and how we’re able to use OpenEdge to tailor it to our specific business requirements. A lot of the functionality under the hood of our website has been enabled by the power of the Progress development tools.”
IT has leveraged Progress OpenEdge developer tools to increase programmer productivity and streamline code maintenance and quality assurance. “We’re leveraging the dynamic functionality of the OpenEdge development tools. For example, it used to take about 2,000 lines of code to create a table for our system, and now we’re able to create a table using only about 200,” said McDaniel. “This gives us a smaller, more compact code base to maintain.”
Customers are able to conduct more business over the website. “Our customers can better utilize our website to get most of the information they need, making our internal sales support jobs more efficient because now our Customer Service Representatives typically focus their time on dealing with exceptions and on providing high-value consultative services,” said Greene. “We’re enabling more self-service over the web so that customers can conduct more business with us online, which makes Composites One more efficient and allows us to provide enhanced customer service.”
Composites One will soon introduce web-based interfaces for reporting. “All the reports available currently have character-based interfaces for configuration, but with the new web-based approach users will be able to go into a browser and set parameters for reports in a much easier way,” said Greene. “That will draw in current users accustomed to the character-based interface and they’ll appreciate the improved interface, but it will also open up our applications more to sales managers and senior executives who currently may ask staff to run reports for them but may start running reports themselves once they see how easy it is becoming. In addition to converting our current users to a better and newer approach, we’ll also be bringing in new users who didn't feel comfortable going into a VPN and setting up reports via a character-based interface that wasn’t very intuitive.”
With a workforce of about 450 employees, virtually every employee in the company interacts with the enterprise applications at some level. “Progress OpenEdge has allowed us to build enterprise applications that are available to improve productivity throughout the enterprise,” said Greene. For example, employees in our warehouses can access our enterprise systems from a handheld computer via a browser, interrogate the OpenEdge database directly and leverage all of the forms needed via a web-based interface, and they can even enter data via a bar code reader.”
The company plans to upgrade to OpenEdge 11 running at a third-party hosting facility to further improve scalability, and expects increased mobile usage, particularly by tablets accessing the website by workers within the company and by sales representatives querying the database for product availability while at customer locations.
Greene concluded, “The Progress technology has been extremely reliable—I’ve been here over 17 years and I can’t think of a single bit of data that we’ve lost. The number of times our systems have gone down because of Progress technology has been in the single digits, and we usually recover in a minute or two—our systems just flat out work. Through all the turbulence in technology offerings over the past 20 years, Progress has continued to move forward with solid offerings on which top-notch applications can be developed and implemented. For both large and small enhancements, Progress provides a platform on which real improvements can be deployed to improve business operations.”