Leverage Valence to both add new functionality for your users AND put a new face on your existing IBM i applications! IT managers “in the know” are keenly aware that for heads-down, hard-core data entry, it’s tough to beat the speed of green screen (5250) programs. This is no surprise, as the 5250 interface was designed for just this purpose — to support the rapid-fire entry of relatively repetitive data by clerical personnel. That said, data entry is rarely confined to specialists working in dedicated data-entry departments anymore.
Today, with virtually every layer of your company or organization interacting with your system in some capacity, the flexibility of an intuitive, full-featured browser interface can go a long way toward putting a fresh and user-friendly face on your IBM i applications. A browser also happens to be the most familiar and comfortable interface for employees that are relatively new to the work force, as these newly minted employees have essentially grown up using browsers and the Internet from an early age. Green screen interfaces are generally foreign to these users and, for lack of a better word, “old” looking. So the incentive to move your apps into a more conventional GUI environment is certainly there. But moving your users from green screen applications to browser-based applications should result in more than just, well, green screens running in browsers.
Screen-scraping solutions may offer tempting “quick fix” tools for migrating green screens into the web, but the resulting applications are never as dynamic and engaging as true “Web 2.0” interfaces. Worse, web-faced applications can perform noticeably slower than the 5250 programs they’re replacing, exacerbated by the lost green screen feature of type-ahead keyboard buffering. While new users may not notice the difference in performance, veteran 5250/Client Access users certainly do. We’ve seen more than a few cases where users migrated to screen-scraped browser interfaces demand their green screens back! Simply put, to truly win over key users in your company, your green screen RPG applications (or at least those used the heaviest) need to be reengineered to take full advantage of what modern browser interfaces can offer. The resulting user experience in the browser must be so profoundly improved that your users wouldn’t dream of going back to what they had before. Of course, getting to this point entails more than pressing a few buttons in a green screen conversion wizard, but this modernization process is not as hard as some might have you think! Besides, your IBM i applications are designed and maintained by RPG-savvy programmers, not just some button-pushing wizard runners, right?
RPG-friendly Web 2.0 Tools
Further assisting in the transition from green screen to Web 2.0, Valence includes a robust portal interface that allows users to “log in” to the IBM i through their browsers, same as they would sign on to a regular 5250 emulation session. Upon logging in to this Valence portal, users are presented with a customizable navigation tree with links to all the web applications to which they are authorized. Valence takes care of adjusting library lists and security, allowing you and your staff to focus on the business applications themselves. Your current core IBM i programs can thus be retrofitted to work in the Valence framework and added to the navigation tree as they are made available. Most shops start by upgrading their most important IBM i programs first, adding them to the navigation tree and gradually weaning their users over to the new Web 2.0 interface. Any programs that work in a browser, or even links to other web sites, can be accessed through this portal.
Transition your IBM i wisely!
Anyone who has been through a large-scale system implementation knows the agony associated with replacing hundreds of active applications and processes across a multi-departmental organization. In addition to the inordinate time and expense required, such large-scale system overhaul initiatives brings with them a substantial risk of failure or business disruption that nobody wants to have as part of his or her career record. Valence offers IBM i shops an alternate path — a means to “extend and enhance” their stable RPG business applications one program at a time, as opposed to following the whole-system “rip and replace” paradigm that migrating to a completely new package and/or platform would require. This means the IBM i business database and pertinent upstream/downstream processes can remain substantially unchanged as the interfaces for various RPG programs are gradually transformed to work in a Web 2.0 mode.
This Valence model for methodically modernizing interactive IBM i applications provides an attractive and compelling option to IT managers under pressure to defend or overhaul their green screen-centric collection of programs. Why scrap hundreds of thousands of lines of time-proven RPG business logic when in many cases all you need to do is give a makeover to the user interface? It truly can be that simple, and we’re happy to demonstrate it to you!