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Builds First Market-Ready LANSA 2005 Web Application USCF

The Challenge | The Solution | The Benefits | Conclusion

Surround Technologies’ released the first market-ready LANSA 2005 application, weeks before the newest LANSA offering is made available to the general public.

Surround Technologies, LLC, a technology consulting firm with offices in Florida and New Jersey, developed the interactive Web application for United Consumer Financial Services (UCFS).

“We were able to come up to speed on LANSA 2005 very quickly because it is based so much on Visual LANSA, which we have been developing on for many years,” Paul said. Even though LANSA 2005 utilizes new and emerging technology – XML and XSLT – knowledge of that technology is not necessary. The developers simply program in Visual LANSA, Paul said.

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LANSA 2005 is scheduled to be released to the general public during the second quarter of this year. Surround Technologies built the UCFS Web site using a controlled release, which was made available Dec. 31, 2004, to about 25 LANSA business partners and customers.

Having built multi-platform applications in LANSA for 13 years, Surround Technologies is excited to move to LANSA 2005 as its primary development tool due to the new technology available in the product release, according to Paul.

“LANSA has always provided an environment that had several levels of magnitude of productivity over other approaches,” Paul said. “And now, LANSA 2005 is a vast improvement over that, leaving other tools in the dust.”

LANSA’s upcoming User Conference, scheduled to be held April 24-28 in Orlando, FL, will showcase the newest tool set in the LANSA series.

“We are very excited to have an example of live deployment with the release of LANSA 2005,” said Brian Sterrett, LANSA vice president of marketing, referring to the launching of the UCFS Web site. “It is exciting to see the way the customers are using the new technology. We are very happy to hear about the success of the UCFS Web site, and how Surround Technologies was able to quickly become successful in the new LANSA release.”

The Challenge

When UCFS – a financial services company headquartered in Westlake, OH – approached Surround Technologies’ president about their business needs, Paul knew LANSA 2005 was the solution they needed.

“We were thrilled to be able to begin building with the LANSA 2005 beta release,” Paul said. “The new technology available in LANSA 2005 allowed us to quickly build the UCFS Web site in a way that will let us even more quickly add future enhancements and services to it.”

UCFS provides sales financing for clients selling home cleaning systems and other in-home products and services. Their main technical challenge was to deliver daily financial reports to their clients in a manner more efficient than their current old-tech faxes.

“These clients are important to our business,” explained UCFS’s MIS director, Sigrid Bundy. “We wanted to improve our service and communications by providing them real time access to their information on our system. Currently, twice a day they get a status report faxed to them (from us). We also receive many phone calls during the day from them asking about the purchase status of certain contracts. In order to provide better service, we wanted to give them an interactive tool on our Web site.”

Bundy turned to Surround Technologies because of their recent successful implementation of an XML LANSA project for the financial services company. “It would have taken us much longer to do this (project) in-house and it would have taken our people away from other work,” Bundy said. She added that Surround Technologies is training her team to be able to maintain and add enhancements to the site on their own.

The Solution

Surround Technologies is building the UCFS Web site in phases. The first phase allows UCFS’s clients to securely view online daily financial reports in real time directly from UCFS’s IBM iSeries system. Their clients also can download and print the reports in a PDF format. Future phases will expand upon the self-service capabilities for clients and will add similar self-service functions for UCFS’s customers.

“The entire UCFS Web site is built using new and emerging technology,” Paul said.

Not only can UCFS’s clients securely view their sales finance contracts online with the most up to date information, but they also can exchange secure messages online with UCFS customer service representatives.

“The clients can enter messages regarding a specific account, and users here can respond quickly,” said Bundy.

Additionally, from the UCFS Web site, the clients can link directly to supplier Web sites to order their supplies, such as contracts, rate books and worksheets, customized for the state in which they conduct business.

The clients also can be assured that their information posted to the Web site remains secured with LANSA 2005 technology.

“Our auditors were very impressed with the security of the site and the site itself,” said Jill Gallagher, UCFS senior systems analyst, referring to a visit from an external and a corporate auditor.

According to Paul, the solution is run as an N-tier architecture on a Web secure server with two firewalls.

The Benefits

One of the benefits of building a Web site with LANSA 2005 is the capabilities for future enhancements, such as sending information from the Web site to Pocket PCs, cellular telephones and other services.

“Architecting a Web site with LANSA 2005 lays the ground work for redeploying the same information via other technology services such as Pocket PCs or cellular telephones,” Paul said. “That is one of the big pluses for having used LANSA 2005.”

The concept that allows for the easy deployment from a Web-based application to other services is something LANSA calls Technology Service Provider (TSP).

LANSA’s Sterrett explained that TSPs are one of the significant benefits of LANSA 2005 over previous versions. TSPs provide an abstraction layer to leverage the new n-tier architecture that separates the presentation layer from the database logic.

“TSPs allow for greater flexibility and speed in deploying to various user devices such as Pocket PCs,” Sterrett said. “The UCFS Web site is a great example of a practical application of TSP, where the first application to be deployed might be a Web browser based application, and then when their workforce is ready to go to Pocket PCs, they could rapidly deploy to that new device type without a lot of rework.”

Conclusion

UCFS’s Bundy is looking forward to the launching of the UCFS Web site. “Improving customer service was our incentive (for upgrading the company’s Web site) so that our clients can devote more of their time to their business,” she said.

Sterrett is looking forward to the launching of the UCFS Web site as well, from LANSA’s perspective: “It is a proof point for LANSA 2005. Here is a company that has important information in their IBM iSeries, and they have been able to rapidly extend that (information) out to their customers, partners and employees in a short amount of time without sacrificing security or data quality.”

Sterrett added that Surround Technologies has had a lasting partnership with LANSA for many years. “This is another example of (Surround Technologies’) innovation around the use of LANSA technology where they are leading their customers into the future.”

United Consumer Financial Services , UCFS, has been providing consumer financing to businesses throughout North America for 25 years. With more than 220 employees, UCFS offers consumer financing for a variety of products and services such as home cleaning systems, personal computers, home security systems, medical services and fire alarm systems. For more information, visit http://www.ucfs.net.

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