Vail Resorts own and operates several premier mountain resorts in Colorado and California, including a portfolio of luxury hotels under the RockResorts brand. They employ approximately 15,000 year-round & seasonal staff. Their IT systems are based around IBM i RPG applications for core internal business functionality and Windows based web applications for customer self-service.
Their IBM i servers and Windows-based Web systems were disconnected and required double data entry. ‘We called this the swivel chair dilemma where internal staff were re-keying web data into the LMS system running on the IBM i’ says Paul Prudhomme, Developer at Vail Resorts. ‘Not only was this inefficient, there were often errors and integrity issues, and also when rooms were at the point of being completely reserved there would be times when the IBM i system wasn’t updated fast enough and it would cause overbooking challenges’.
Secondly, in the height of the ski season, they would have high staff turnover. Training new employees on the 5250-based system was lengthy and challenging.
Vail’s first task was to eliminate the re-keying of data between the two disparate systems. They quickly identified that web services would be the ideal mechanism to support this requirement. However, they wanted to leverage all the business rules and logic in the RPG application to ensure the data integrity stayed intact. Vail selected looksoftware’s soarchitect to encapsulate the workflow of the RPG logic.
They were able to do this with absolutely no change to the underlying source code, yet they were able to leverage all the underlying business logic. When this project was complete they worked on transforming their 5250 applications used by front desk and reservation staff. Although they had attempted to do this previously with a different technology, they leveraged soarchitect’s graphical IDE to do this successfully. Again, they were able to leverage all the underlying business logic without affecting the RPG code, which made the process much quicker and easier.
Significant improvement in accuracy, integrity and efficiency was immediately measured by IT. “The automated system eliminated 3-5 minutes of re-keying data per transaction,” reports Paul Prudhomme. The web services are consumed from lookserver enterprise, which runs in the background handling the transactions securely and reliably without any user intervention. “What this has done is greatly improve inventory control, which is a huge deal. Inventory assignment is much more accurate because the system now works in realtime”.
Significant reduction in training times for new staff, higher satisfaction & productivity has been reported to IT department. “Trainees get it right away. We are saving approximately 15 hours of training time for new staff because they are already familiar with the graphical interface ” says Paul.
It was important to Vail Resorts that the graphical version suffered no degradation in performance. “With the graphical version, using smartclient we are getting absolutely no performance issues. It is virtually as fast as the green screen version”