The technology division of the largest global cargo terminal operator has made rapid strides in the last 21+ years as a leading provider of Terminal Operating Systems(TOS). Its reliable and cost-effective TOS offering which includes graphical planning solutions for intermodal and marine terminals is being rapidly adopted around the world. The installed base crossed over 100 marine and intermodal terminals around the world with over 300000 logistics professionals utilizing it on a daily basis to load vessels, trains, and trucks, track containers and make payments.
The organization noted that a strong BI and reporting solution embedded with the TOS is critical to enabling its customers to make better use of assets, labor, and equipment, plan workloads and receive up-to-date information for decision making. The BI reporting solution also needed to scale up rapidly to handle data from a variety of sources like the internet, mobiles, WLANs(wireless LANs), RFID(Radio-frequency identification), and EDI processing to efficiently monitor the flow of products to, from, and around the terminals. This rapid increase in complexity resulted in a manifold increase in the cost of the legacy Oracle reporting platform used by the company. After a strategy review, the company leadership decided to convert to BIRT given the flexibility and scalability offered by the state-of-the-art open-source platform at a fraction of the cost.
DataTerrain was chosen to drive this transition based on its end-to-end capabilities in supporting BIRT technology transition and product development lifecycle backed by its proprietary automation-led methodology.
DataTerrain’s consultative automation-led approach
DataTerrain’s team of SMEs(Subject matter experts) took a consultative approach to perform a one-to-one transition of Oracle reports to BIRT. The key tenets of this approach include –
1.) Minimizing transition effort and enhancing QA(quality assurance) using automation
2.) Instituting best practices for BIRT reports integration with the TOS
3.) Recommending and implementing design tweaks for optimal performance in BIRT
4.) Ensuring that collective knowledge captured in the report formats and structuring is carried forward so that the upgrade is seamless for thousands of end-customer users across the globe.
5.) Involvement of customer stakeholders and experts at every major milestone from the outset to ensure early issues identification and resolution
This project was executed using DataTerain’s unique phased approach and the major phases involved are outlined below –
1.) Automated analysis and detailed planning – DataTerrain used its proprietary tool to perform an AS-IS analysis of the Oracle reports implementation and codebase to understand the following –
a. Overall landscape and inventory – consisting of the number of reports, their types, usage of underlying database components, how and where they are embedded with the TOS, business impact
b. Utilization patterns – Details of user roles, administrators, data volume, frequency of use, file sizes if any, run times, last execution date
c. Design analysis – Report filters, prompts, report contents, expressions, SQLs, business logic embedded in reports, variables, parameters, graphics, data types
This analysis was used to identify potential issues, risks, and plan for their mitigation during the automated transition. During this phase, DataTerrain SMEs suggested tweaks and improvements to the existing design to improve the performance, usability, and maintainability of reports in BIRT, and activities were planned for implementing these after customer sign-off. The experienced DataTerrain SMEs and project managers created a detailed project plan which was reviewed with customer stakeholders and signed-off. As a part of the sign-off, the availability of key customer stakeholders was secured in tune with the project activities and calendars were suitably blocked.
2.) Automated transition and validation – DataTerrain performed a phased one-to-one transition starting with POC(proof of concept) for every major scenario identified. Following a quick feedback loop involving key customer stakeholders, necessary modifications were incorporated in the process, after which the remaining reports were taken forward. During the process, RDF, XML transition, and translation to BIRT using XSLT were also verified using the automated utility to ensure correctness. The new metadata created in BIRT by the automated process adhered to BIRT’s best practices agreed and signed-off with the customers. Potential transition issues were flagged using alerts by the automated utility and DataTerrain SMEs manually addressed these. The data, formats, and outputs were validated on-to-one using an automated testing approach for a zero-defect-based delivery standard.
3.) User acceptance, training, and rollout – Since key stakeholders were involved during every major step during the project, there were no surprises. DataTerrain project plan also ensured that there was a continuous flow of reports and other deliverables to ensure there was no spike in the workload of critical stakeholders who also had key business functions to perform. Due to this, the acceptance process was completed seamlessly and quickly. DataTerrain enabled training and rollout using a train-the-trainer approach to accelerate adoption.
The DataTerrain advantage
The customer noted the difference made by DataTerrain team members who went above and beyond to ensure On-time and within-budget project execution while delivering value adds. According to the customer, the following are aspects of DataTerrain’s service that made a difference –
1.) Comprehensive technical expertise – DataTerrain SMEs brought decades of collective experience in both the source and target platforms to effectively bridge any gaps and ensure seamless resolution of issues. For example, they implemented a workaround in BIRT to handle embedded images that were used in the background in Oracle reports.
2.) Value adds and best practices – DataTerrain SMEs brought a continual improvement outlook to the project and helped the customer improve the performance, maintainability, and usability of multiple reports while instituting best of breed design and implementation practices. For example, DataTerrain SMEs redesigned multiple reports to move business logic from the reports to DB stored procedures to significantly upgrade performance and reusability.
3.) Global Delivery Model for accelerated delivery – DataTerrain teams operating from their global delivery centers used the follow-the-sun model to keep project activities progressing 24X7. This saved time and resulted in accelerated project completion.
DataTerrain has helped the customer and their end users to significantly reduce the cost of running their TOS while leading the next wave of digital disruption in Terminal operations.