The De Beers Group is the largest diamond mining and marketing company in the world. Producing over 40 per cent of the world’s annual diamond output by value from its own mines in South Africa, and in partnership with the governments.
De Beers’ mining operations span every category of diamond mining including open pit, underground, alluvial, coastal and undersea – while its exploration program extends across six continents.
De Beers converted from mainframe to AS400, using CA’s Advantage 2E in the early nineties. Their integrated set of applications span Financials, Engineering and Materials Management, and totals more than 10 million lines of RPG, servicing some 5000 users and replacing the previous the mainframe systems.
A review of these applications in mid 2000 found that while the applications were functionally strong, new modern user interfaces (UIs) could improve productivity and improve application integration. De Beers’ IT department, Divisional Information Systems (DIS), undertook the task of evaluating the application modernization alternatives.
Leading the DIS evaluation team is Carina van Niekerk, who stated, “newlook and other market leading modernization solutions were closely evaluated. We had a small window of opportunity to quickly GUI-fy our green screen applications. We chose newlook due to its rapid development features and ease of use. We could not afford to use a tool that would take months to modernize our applications, the cost would have been astronomical.”
DIS worked with Fresche and South African partner Info-Logic to deliver a pilot to confirm that newlook could deliver what was promised during the initial evaluation. There was strong business user support for the modernized UI, however for some data entry like tasks, the traditional 5250 interface was preferred by few.
Gary Hagemann, Info-Logic Director commented, “Business user acceptance is vital to the success of projects like this. Supporting multiple UI styles, including traditional emulation, is a common and reasonable user requirement that newlook handles elegantly. After 2 weeks of initial training and consulting support, the DIS team completed the rest of the implementation totaling over 4300 screens in about 2 months. We were ready to provide more consulting support, but De Beers just didn’t need it. newlook astounded us with its ease of use – the development team had no trouble in using it.”
Carina van Niekerk said, “newlook has provided the rapid UI rejuvenation our existing applications needed. Users have been impressed with the refaced applications and many consider them to be ‘new.’ ” Proof indeed that newlook delivers what it promises.’
Fresche’s ‘on the fly’ architecture doesn’t require the existing applications to be changed, converted or translated, so installing and getting started is simple. The dynamic environment makes each field and screen from the existing application instantly available as objects with supporting events and properties. Customizations and extensions may be defined for changing workflow, interface appearance and behavior. Where desired the generated graphical interfaces may be overridden, redesigned, split or merged.
While business users were satisfied with ease of use, consistency and simpler navigation, the new graphical UI design reflected the De Beers’ vision, a modern graphical UI across all of its applications. User interface modernization also provides the platform for delivering more tangible business benefits through improved application integration.
De Beers has built some applications with CA’s Plex client server development toolset. Using Fresche’s integration support, the applications are seamlessly integrated with the refaced applications.