Part 2: Business Benefits of Strategic Web Applications for IBM i Shops
Modernize Your Green Screens
Simplify your Delivery
Your green screen applications can be modernized and transformed so they are delivered in the browser. This can be done using third-party tools with minimal or no screen level customization! It is relatively low risk and can often be done in weeks. This transformation creates a consistent browser-based delivery for all your applications, whether they be developed as true browser-based applications (say using PHP) or as modernized green screens. Your users now have one “client” to access all applications, that being any modern browser providing access from any desktop or mobile device.
In addition to projecting a more modern interface, your new users will adapt more quickly to browser apps. These applications tend to be more intuitive and reduce training and onboarding time.
Once applications are delivered in the browser, it opens doors as to how they can be enhanced. A green screen delivered via HTML in the browser is more open and available for customization. For example, it is relatively easy to add product images, maps, and links to other resources. Using web development technologies such as PHP, you can extend the information and functionality of a green screen.
An example that comes to mind is a customer application that listed warranty claims. The green screen sub file listed the claims but could not provide any means to link supporting documentation, photos, etc. Using PHP, the application was enhanced by adding a new “sub file” option that provided a list of attachments corresponding to the claim. The user can now view and download the attachments and upload new documents or images from their system or mobile device. The integration was seamless and added significant value beyond the existing green screen app.
Start Small and Stay “Agile”
Follow a Roadmap
You’re not committing to a wholesale replacement of your system. As such, you can incrementally add new functionality. Work with key stakeholders to identify and prioritize pain points that need to be modernized or where new browser applications are needed. Build a roadmap that identifies incremental deliverables based on priorities. Start with a small project, one with minimal risk, but something that will be visible and provide real value to your users or customers.
Roll out your first deliverable as a quick win, something that whets the appetite, demonstrates the potential and builds demand. This will not be a “one and done” initiative, especially after your users discover what great things their IT team can deliver!
Adopt some important agile methodologies:
• Involve key business stakeholders and users who will help drive and promote the initiatives. This is key to a successful implementation and user adoption.
• To the greatest extent possible, plan for continuous delivery of new components with development objectives that can be delivered in pieces vs. the “big bang” approach.
• Expect to adapt your plan and roadmap based on changing user demands, external factors and new ideas that will emerge as the new technology is deployed.
Take Advantage of Existing Resources
Another great thing about extending your ERP is that you also get to leverage the knowledge of your existing developers and business stakeholders. They know the system and can help facilitate the new development. A browser-based development strategy will benefit from a modular back-end with callable procedures/programs to simplify data access and business logic necessary for the new application. Existing RPG programs/modules can serve up this information, which means web development will be streamlined and more efficient. It also means, to a large extent, that your business logic remains in one location – in the domain of the developers who know it best.
Outsource as Needed
Many IBM i development teams do not have experienced web developers, which means you may need to hire or contract a third party as assistance.
Find a partner who understands the IBM i and can relate to your business needs: if you want to approach your development incrementally, it will be beneficial to have a partner who can assist you at a project level, where costs can be measured against the benefits on a project-by-project basis.