Boone County's IT department licensed the m-Power Development Platform to address a reporting need, but quickly realized it could help in many areas. They've since used m-Power to address many development needs and give their existing COBOL programmers the ability to create web applications.
COBOL programmers can now create web applications
Addressed multiple needs with m-Power (web reports, HR applications, an ePollbook application, and more)
Delivered a development project that would normally require 1,000 hours, in just 300 hours
"After going through the RFP process it was clear that m-Power’s ability to exist outside of the iSeries environment, access data across many platforms, provide rapid WYSIWYG development, and function in an all-web based environment just blew the competition away."
Full Case Study
Who is Boone County?
Boone County has a population of approximately 150,000 people and covers 691 square miles in central Missouri. The IT staff supports typical departmental county functions such as tax information, elections, law enforcement, etc.
Boone County’s IT department needed to complement their character-based, green-screen reporting method with a web reporting solution. Enhancing their reporting was a top priority for a couple of reasons: First, their users were asking for better reporting. Secondly, web reports provide numerous advantages over green screen reports:
- Web reports are accessible anywhere via the web, whereas character-based reports are not.
- Web reports use a graphical user interface, making them far more user friendly than their character-based counterparts.
- With character-based reporting, end users rely on the IT department for all of their reports. Boone County wanted a web reporting tool that would allow for ad-hoc reporting. This would take much of the burden off of the IT department and let end users access vital reports much faster and with real-time information.
Boone County’s biggest challenge in moving to web reporting: Their development staff consisted of 5 COBOL programmers and 1 web developer. Since bringing in new developers wasn’t an option, they needed a reporting tool that would let their current developers build web reports quickly.
Before beginning their search, they first mapped out a few requirements:
- Unlimited licensing: They didn’t want the restrictions of per-seat or per-user licensing. Unlimited licensing would let them build and push reports out to anyone without worrying about purchasing more user licenses.
- Multiple database support: Boone County uses both DB2 and SQL databases. Some reports might need data from both databases. Additionally, a reporting tool with limited database support would restrict their database options in the future. Choosing a tool that worked over many databases would suit their needs now and in the future.
- Web-based development: Web-based development wouldn’t limit them to certain platforms or operating systems.
"It really saves a lot time. We would never have been able to create this ePollbook application without m-Power."
Boone County went through a complete RFP process in their search for the right reporting option. They examined many products, but found that most were very limited. However, one tool really stuck out to Aron Gish, Boone County’s Director of IT. That tool was m-Power, a web application development platform created by mrc. What Gish found interesting about m-Power wasn’t the fact that it met all of their reporting requirements, which it did. It was the fact that m-Power was more than a report writer. It could handle projects besides reporting, and Gish knew just the problem it could solve: The ePollbook project.
On the IT department’s project list was an ePollbook application, which was to be used for the current year’s upcoming election. An ePollbook is used in place of paper-based pollbooks and lets voting officials review and/or process voter information electronically during an election. It simplifies the voter check-in process and eliminates long wait times. Pollworkers don’t need to search through a printed binder to register a voter in a polling location. With an ePollbook, they can scan the voter’s drivers license, and register each voter electronically.
Building an ePollbook application for the upcoming election was a high priority, but presented a bit of a problem. "We weren’t really sure how we were going to build it," said Gish. But, when he found m-Power, he realized that they could use it for multiple projects. Specifically, Boone County could use m-Power in these ways:
- Web reporting: m-Power would let their current staff quickly create out-of-the-box web reports without forcing them to learn any new skills or programming languages. It would also provide end users with the ability to do their own ad-hoc reporting.
- The ePollbook project: With m-Power, Boone would have a method to create a complete ePollbook application in time for the election. Better yet, they could create this application without bringing in new staff.
- Any other necessary applications: m-Power was a tool they could use for all types of web application development. That means it would continue to help them, long after the ePollbook and reporting projects were complete.
But most importantly, m-Power fit all of their requirements. According to James Barnes, Boone County’s web developer, “After going through the RFP process it was clear that m-Power’s ability to exist outside of the iSeries environment, access data across many platforms, provide rapid WYSIWYG development, and function in an all-web based environment just blew the competition away.”
Boone County purchased m-Power and managed to create the ePollbook application in time for the election. As a result, the voting process was much smoother, and they didn’t have to rely on physical voter registration books. Considering the fact that there are thousands of voters for each polling location and there are 147 polling locations, they can avoid a lot of printing.
They also built all of the reporting applications they needed, as well as a few other web applications. Most importantly, m-Power helped them in a few distinct ways:
They accomplished their goals using their current staff and skills
They were able to build all the applications they needed without bringing in new staff or learning new skills. Their COBOL programmers can now develop basic web apps without learning new programming languages skills. Additionally, their end users can now do their own ad-hoc reporting.
They solved many problems with one tool
What began as a search for a reporting tool ended with multiple problems solved. They now can quickly produce all the reports they need, and their end users can do their own ad-hoc reporting , which frees up the IT staff for other tasks. Additionally, besides the ePollbook project, they’ve also built a number of other web apps with m-Power.
They saved a lot of time
The ePollbook application took about 300 hours to complete. By comparison, they estimate that the project would’ve taken over 1,000 hours using other methods. According to Gish, “It really saves a lot time. We would never have been able to create this ePollbook application without m-Power.” He also points out that they created the ePollbook application as they were getting familiar with m-Power. They believe that the project would take even less time now.
Although the Boone County government has greatly benefited from m-Power, it’s also helped the people of Boone County. First, the ePollbook application sped up the voting process and cut down on registration wait times. Second, the people of Boone County have a government who uses their tax dollars efficiently. Rather than purchase multiple products or hire expensive consultants to complete these projects, Boone County bought one tool and used their current staff and skills to accomplish many different tasks.
Going forward, Boone County is taking full advantage of m-Power’s flexibility. Although they completed the ePollbook application, and have already created many reports, they’re using m-Power for a number of additional projects. For example, they’ve built simple web applications for maintaining their current databases. They’ve also built an HR application that lets people apply for jobs online. But, the most important part of all: They’re building all of these applications using their current skills and staff.
To learn more about Boone County, you can visit their Web site at: http://www.showmeboone.com/