Case studies in application development

These organizations are earning a nice return on investment from their application development projects. Two are focusing on code reusability -- CitiMortgage says it's saving 6,000 programmer hours per year -- and the third has an innovative mobile application.

Organization: CitiMortgage, a St. Louis-based unit of financial services conglomerate CitiGroup Inc.

Mission: CitiMortgage is one of the top residential mortgage originators and servicers in the U.S.

Challenge: The company has been growing through mergers and acquisitions, resulting in the need for workers in various office locations to have access to key applications. That means giving those new, far-flung offices Web access to consolidated, centrally managed systems, says Andrew Zimmerman, senior systems architect at CitiMortgage.

To accomplish this, CitiMortgage is pursuing a strategy of Web services and code reusability.

Technology: IBM's WebSphere application server, IBM's MQ Series middleware; ClearCase configuration management from Rational Software Corp. in Cupertino, Calif.; object-oriented languages such as Java, C, C++; development tools such as IBM's VisualAge for Java and others; and Component Manager Enterprise Edition (CMEE) from Flashline Inc. in Cleveland.

Payoff: The power of software components is that the business logic can be changed in a business component -- such as the decision engine for making a loan -- without having to change the rest of the application, Zimmerman says. Flashline's CMEE helps the company keep track of the reusable components, what effects they have on other applications and "manage the relationship between components," Zimmerman says.

There's another payoff: CMEE keeps metrics on the productivity improvements and savings that result from software reuse. He figures the ROI from reusable code amounts to about 6,000 hours of programmer time saved per year. In this tough economy, that helps to "justify our existence," Zimmerman says.

Organization: Lockheed Martin Corp.'s Naval Electronics & Surveillance Systems -- Surface Systems division, Mooretown, N.J.

Mission: Produce upgrades to the Aegis Weapon System software every two years. Aegis is the defensive weaponry on U.S. Navy destroyers, cruisers and frigates.

Challenge: To manage the development of about 10 million lines of code by 1,200 software engineers in 20 dispersed locations.

Technology: Unified Modeling Language (UML); programming languages including C++, Java and Ada; and software development tools from Cupertino, Calif.-based Rational Software Corp. such as Rational Rose, ClearCase and ClearQuest.

Payoff: UML and the Rational tools help manage the complexity of producing so much code by so many dispersed programmers, says software manager Gary Feldman.

With UML, "the engineers can see the models simultaneously over a high-speed wide-area network" and that reduces the risk of "losing something in the translation from user requirements to design," Feldman says.

Code reusability is also important. The Lockheed Martin operation not only takes advantage of existing objects, but it also tries to "design for reusability" from the outset, Feldman says.

The result of modeling, reusabilty, a mature development process and the Rational tools? "We see increased productivity, and we can cut the number of defects earlier in the process," Feldman says. "The cost to correct a defect later, such as in the integration or deployment phase, is much greater."

Organization: U.S. Fleet Services Inc., Horsham, Pa.

Mission: It's like a gas station on wheels -- a fleet of fuel-delivery trucks that refuels a customer's vehicle fleet while it's parked at night.

Challenge: Eliminate manual record-keeping and data entry, which was time-consuming and sometimes inaccurate.

Technology: Intermec 710 mobile computer from Intermec Technologies Corp. in Everett, Wash.; Microsoft Corp.'s SQL for CE 2000; and XTNDConnect Server software from Extended Systems Inc. in Boise, Idaho.

U.S. Fleet custom-developed a mobile application that uses the Intermec handheld computer to automatically record the amount of fuel used for each customer. Drivers scan a bar code on the outside of the customer's truck and then, via a wireless 802.11 link with the electronic fuel meter, the handheld automatically records the type and quantity of fuel poured into the vehicle. Drivers leave a printed receipt at the customer site and synchronize the handheld data with U.S. Fleet systems at the end of their shift. The data is made available to customers via a Web site.

The system was rolled out last fall and cost $1.5 million, says Saul Cohen, vice president of IT in the Bordentown, N.J., administrative office.

Payoff: Truck drivers no longer have to record the fuel usage on multipart forms -- which saves about an hour of paperwork each night -- and data entry has been eliminated, Cohen says. Also, customers like the ability to see their invoice and gasoline consumption data on the Web. For U.S. Fleet, the faster invoicing helps the company's cash flow, too, Cohen adds.

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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