JF Fabrics is the leading Canadian wholesaler/distributor of Home Decorative Fabrics, Tapes and Trim, Drapery Hardware, Wallcovering and Area Rugs. Their highly diversified customer base numbers 15,000 globally and includes large Retailers, Designers, Upholsters and Manufacturers in both the retail and hospitality sectors. JF Fabrics runs an IBM i-based ERP application to manage critical business functions.
This ERP system originated in the 1990s as a package called MIS Spirit. Since that time, the application has been continually modified and enhanced to meet JF Fabrics’ needs as the company grows and evolves. The application was originally written entirely in COBOL, and some RPG programs have since been developed. JF Fabrics has also developed some graphic user interfaces to the application.
JF Fabrics has grown significantly since it was founded 30 years ago, requiring its IT department to be innovative and to implement a variety of solutions. By early 2014, the company’s rapid growth and the pending retirement of key IT resources meant that there would soon be an issue maintaining and developing the functionality of the IBM i systems. Business was advancing quickly, and there was already a growing backlog of requests for maintenance, integration and new sales channels.
JF Fabrics needed to find a way to replace the retiring resources. But they wanted to avoid having all technical expertise vested in just a few key people. They were also concerned about ramp-up time, as their highly complex systems had been developed to meet the needs of a very large and diversified client base. In addition, they hoped to gradually modernize their IBM i systems to take advantage of modern GUI, Web and mobile solutions. The company began to search for a way of responding comprehensively to all of their diverse requirements.
After conducting a search and consulting with partners, JF Fabrics chose Fresche Legacy’s Staff Augmentation & Application Support offering. The engagement started with Fresche performing a rapid Discovery service that included interviews, shadowing and code analysis to quickly understand JF Fabrics’ business, users and applications. Key to this exercise was use of Fresche’s X-Analysis suite to fully examine and graphically document JF Fabrics’ IBM i applications and expose the full set of business rules that were embedded in the application code.
After Discovery, the onboarding process was greatly accelerated by X-Analysis, which became one of the core tools for ongoing development and testing. After becoming familiar with the system, Fresche became an integral part of JF Fabrics’ IT team and began supporting the IBM i applications and dealing with the backlog of requests for new functionality.
Since JF Fabrics and Fresche began working together, the backlog has been significantly reduced and Fresche has started supporting JF Fabrics’ business with new development efforts. Fresche brought decades of application support experience and the skills to address break fixes, front-line support, enhancements and new code development. In addition, Fresche employed its experience with document sharing tools, coding standards, formalized prioritization processes, regular governance reviews and dashboards of key performance indicators. It also approached all of its tasks with an eye toward improvement and modernization.
Best of all, business continuity was assured: Fresche’s skilled team, using highly proven tools backed by Fresche’s entire support organization, meant that JF Fabrics no longer had to think about resources to support their IBM i. The Fresche support organization learns from every engagement, so JF Fabrics was actually benefiting from dozens of other support engagements. As part of the JF Fabrics IT team, Fresche supplied the peace of mind to concentrate on business, not the IBM i.