Investment Systems Company (ISC), based in Moreland Hills, Ohio, has been providing integrated customized portfolio management and accounting software solutions since 1984. Over the years these IBM i based solutions have been enhanced to offer complete functionality, although still restricted by the limited deployment options that COBOL and RPG allow. Using LANSA's RAMP, ISC has recently redeveloped the most frequently used applications and refaced the remaining ones. The modernized solution is now available in a hosted environment and will be offered cross-platform when the modernization project is finalized.
Ronni Bialosky, President at ISC says, "LANSA's hybrid modernization and redevelopment approach meant that we didn't have to rewrite the whole system before we had something that we could take to market. Customers can now drill down in data that we publish dynamically to the Web and export results directly to Excel. We expect to expand our market share across platforms and have already signed up the first few customers for our hosted solution."
We didn't have to rewrite the whole system before we had something that we could take to market
ISC started its business in the early eighties, when they developed the Portfolio Accounting System, a COBOL-based portfolio management system and the Shareholder Accounting System , an RPG-based mutual fund transfer agent system. The current client base includes mutual fund companies, investment advisory companies and family offices who exclusively manage the investments of their specific family. Customers also include several state housing authorities who issue bonds and need to manage their investments in order to provide low cost mortgages for the state. Over the years the solution evolved from IBM System/34 to System/36 and then to the AS/400.
Bialosky says, "We offer what we consider a very solid base package and work closely with our customers to customize the systems according to their needs. Fortunately, because our programmers are also our support personnel, we are able to answer questions and customize the system quickly and efficiently.”
But it's not just about offering a complete and customizable solution, according to Bialosky, “In the real world you need to have a graphical interface as well."
ISC’s first attempt at modernizing their solution used a screen refacing technology from a different vendor, but the result was disappointing. Moreover, even though theoretically refacing was happening dynamically, it turned out there was a need for double maintenance once the out-of-the-box screen layout was enhanced.
ISC started to look for other modernization options, something that would not just provide a graphical look to the existing applications, but that would also allow partial and gradual redevelopment. One of ISC's main drivers for redevelopment was to expand its market share to Windows, as it had become hard to sell the IBM i (AS/400, iSeries, System i) solution to small customers.
It was at that time that Bialosky learned about RAMP from LANSA. She explains, "I liked the idea that RAMP offered a framework in which we could re-write the 20 percent of the applications that our customers use most frequently and that we could leave the remaining 80 percent until later. It meant that we didn't have to rewrite the whole system before we had something that we could take to market and show our customers."
We could re-write the 20 percent that our customers use most frequently and leave the rest until later
ISC went ahead with its modernization project and used RAMP mainly for its framework navigation with searches and filters. Hardly any time was spent on repainting the screens generated by RAMP's embedded refacing tool. "We basically used what RAMP's refacing facility generated out of the box," says Bialosky. "Redevelopment is our goal in the long run and since that is a fairly quick process with Visual LANSA (the development tool embedded in RAMP), we might just as well spend our effort on that."
They basically used what RAMP's refacing facility generated out of the box and spent very little time on repainting the user interface.
ISC opted for LANSA's rich client deployment, but may switch to a rich Internet application (RIA) at a later stage. Since LANSA uses a multi-tier architecture where the program logic is stored as a reusable component, separate from the user interface, there is not much work involved in changing from a rich client to a RIA.
Today ISC is well on its way to redeveloping the solution. In the current 'half-way' status, ISC customers already have a vastly improved view of their data. They can graphically and dynamically sort data and drill down, whereas previously they only had static reports that were mostly generated overnight. The new on-line reporting makes research easier by letting customers, for example, list their portfolio by biggest winner or loser and then drill down into the details. Customers can also make the same dynamic data inquiry facility available to their clients over the Web.
Bialosky says, "Previously our customers used a variety of third party Web tools to publish the portfolio information to their clients that our system had generated overnight. Now, with LANSA, we are back in control and can publish information dynamically to the Internet, directly from our own system."
Another new on-line feature lets customers consolidate accounts. This is especially useful for family offices, for example, as it allows them to look at the combined portfolio of a husband and wife, or view the consolidated position of a regular and retirement account.
Customers are also very excited about the facility to extract information directly into Excel with a single mouse click, without having to cut and paste.
Data maintenance has become much easier as well, because of drop-down, pop-up, calendar and other rich application facilities.
We are back in control and can publish information dynamically to the Internet, directly from our system
Bialosky found that there was a learning curve moving from COBOL and RPG to LANSA, but LANSA's framework feature and training services made the transition easy. She also feels it's essential for the quality of the software application to use the power of the LANSA Repository to the fullest, which centralizes the business rules and logic.
At this stage in the modernization project, the reporting, main data entry programs and new features like an initial dashboard have been redeveloped with Visual LANSA, while the others have been refaced. Bialosky had no problem staging the project and selecting what should be included for redevelopment in the first phase. "Because we know how people use the system we are able to add new features to help the software be more powerful and user friendly" she says.
Making true on its vision that the application can be taken to market while only partly redeveloped, ISC is already noticing an increased level of interest. This is especially true for the hosted solution, for which the first few customers have already signed up. Existing customers are also pleased to see the application moving forward.
The first few customers have already signed up
Company and System Information
- Investment Systems Company (ISC) is a software company that offers integrated portfolio management and accounting systems that make in-house processing of investment management data cost effective, efficient and reliable. Customers run highly customized versions of the ISC Portfolio Accounting, Shareholder Accounting and Bonds Payable systems, as the company is able to respond quickly to change requests.
- For more information and an online demo of the modernized Portfolio Accounting solution visit www.investmentsystems.com