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JConvert/PB & Deluxe Laboratories Services— A Success Story

Deluxe Laboratories (www.bydeluxe.com), a division of The Rank Group (www.rank.com), is a world leader in the technology and services behind quality filmed entertainment. The company offers a full range of entertainment industry supply chain services including motion picture film processing, fulfillment, and distribution. To operate all of its divisions successfully and efficiently, the company uses approximately twenty different software applications—containing approximately 150,000 lines of code--all developed in the Sybase™ PowerBuilder™ platform.

Deluxe Laboratories began experiencing many different problems that were attributed both directly and indirectly to these applications. The company found that this technology was rapidly becoming outdated, leaving little or no room for its many applications to grow to the level of robustness required for future, global growth. And because PowerBuilder is not Web-based architecture, the company would never be able to capitalize on any Internet-related opportunities in the future.

The dated technology also offered minimal challenges and growth opportunities for the company’s most talented and skilled programmers. As a result, Deluxe Laboratories' most senior employees began leaving the company to find technologies that offered greater stimulation, challenges and rewards.

“We found that we had become a revolving door for top PowerBuilder talent,” said Mark Winter, Vice President, Information Technology, Deluxe Laboratories. “More and more of our best people began leaving for opportunities to work with more advanced and modern technologies. We began having an increasingly difficult time in attracting and retaining the best skilled people from the remaining, limited PowerBuilder resource pool.”

This personnel drain presented yet another hurdle for the company. As senior programmers armed with the most intricate, detailed knowledge of the applications left, Deluxe Laboratories had to rely on a less experienced staff with minimal knowledge about the underlying structure of the in-house applications.

Deluxe Laboratories also felt a certain sense of trepidation in having their core business applications tied to a solution from a single vendor whose potential for future growth, enhancement and support was being perceived as limited at best.

As a result of these problems, the company decided this technology was no longer feasible to maintain and began to seek out an alternative solution.

Sun™ Java™ Offers Numerous Benefits for Deluxe Laboratories

In order to grow in accordance with overall corporate goals and directives, Deluxe Laboratories needed to grow and evolve its applications, overcoming most, if not all of these problems.

To do so, the company decided to move its applications to Java. A study of the marketplace revealed Java to be a platform-independent, more current technology that offered the greatest possible strategic advantages in moving the company to grow its applications to the Enterprise level quickly in the future.

Java’s Web-enabled, open architecture allows companies to take advantage of every possible e-opportunity that presents itself. Additionally, because it offers stimulating challenges and equally advantageous rewards, there is an extremely large and rapidly growing, available pool of top-quality talent for building, evolving and maintaining Java applications well into the future.

Once Deluxe Laboratories decided to move to Java, the company needed to find the best way of accomplishing this as quickly as possible. Two options presented themselves: re-write each application manually or convert via an automated solution.

“In analyzing a re-write of our twenty applications, we found that the entire conversion project would take us more than two years to complete and would conservatively cost approximately $2 – 3 million,” commented Mark Winter, Vice President, Information Technology Deluxe Laboratories. “ In addition to tying up our internal resources for this extended time frame, this would not allow us to support the organization’s business needs. Current market estimates projected that we would have to pay $6 per line of code for translation. Since our applications consist of 150,000 lines of code, this was a jolting realization.”

As a result, a manual re-write was deemed not feasible if the company wanted to focus on its core business instead of dedicating itself and all of its resources to software translation. These resource drains motivated the company to seek an alternative, automated solution that would decrease both the project length and cost.

Techné’s JConvert Simplifies and Speeds up Software Conversion After analyzing several possible solutions, Deluxe Laboratories decided to work with Techné Knowledge Systems and its JConvert—a quick and economical way to transform its numerous PowerBuilder applications into Java-based ones.

Deluxe Laboratories was impressed with many aspects of both the company and JConvert, its leading-edge technology that utilizes a “tool-assisted” approach to convert PowerBuilder applications into Java based ones.

“While obviously impressed with Techné, its team and its technology, we were equally impressed with their honesty, integrity and dedication to successfully helping us achieve our goals,” commented Mark Winter. “They never made any lofty or unsupported claims but instead gave us straight forward answers that helped us make a very important business decision. For example, we knew that there would be some manual coding involved as not all PowerBuilder features map cleanly to Java. While we appreciated Techné’s ability to minimize this to less than 20% of the effort required for a fully manual conversion, we also appreciated that they didn’t try to convince us that automation would cover us 100%.”

The advanced technology also offered additional benefits for Deluxe Laboratories, including guaranteed, valid results and a “like-for-like” conversion for the application’s functionality and appearance. This greatly minimized the learning and training curves for end users and in-house programmers who had to familiarize themselves with the converted applications.

Techné’s Team of Experts Smoothes Entire Project

Deluxe Laboratories were able to derive additional benefits from being able to rely on the Techné team during each phase of the conversion process. Utilizing a transitional approach, Techné’s team helped Deluxe Laboratories with the overall management and control of the entire project, freeing up Deluxe Laboratories’ staff to focus on their regular business duties instead of getting tied up in this specific conversion process.

Deluxe Laboratories was updated continually throughout the process, and gradually took on increased responsibility from Techné when they felt their in-house staff had become familiar enough with Java and their newly converted applications. This transitional approach transformed the overall project from a huge, seemingly unmanageable one it into a feasible and greatly successful one.

“Without the help of the Techné team and its premium JConvert solution, we simply would not have been able to translate our applications, to the total detriment of the company and our global, corporate goals,” added Winter.