The NYS- DEC Bureau of Application Development, part of the Division of Information Services, builds and maintains the agency specific software. The software we build generally automates line of business functions but occasionally automates administrative functions. Developing systems which integrate data across media is an important consideration in all of our development. As we build systems upon shared data we are creating a more comprehensive view of the work the agency does.
Development is done by bureau staff. Frequently, projects will employ consultants who are supervised by bureau staff but are paid by program divisions. The day to day management of all projects is overseen by Bureau staff.
The Bureau retains responsibility for the systems it creates. That is, the Bureau resolves problems encountered by users and works with users to implement enhancements and extensions.
The development environments for our systems are: PowerBuilder, Cold Fusion and Java. There are several legacy Model 204 (Mainframe) systems supported by the Bureau but there is no active development in this environment.
II. What needs were identified before you chose to use VE?
Two main needs were identified prior to purchasing VE, Maintenance
and Documentation, mostly due to our frequent Staff turnover.
Maintenance was a big issue for us considering that between 50% and 60% of the effort expended on software occurs after the system’s implementation with adaptive maintenance to meet changing requirements, corrective maintenance to fix bugs and perfective maintenance to improve system performance.
In addition to Maintenance we had a need to keep up with System Documentation. System documentation was a lot of work and we believe that good documentation is vital to realizing the benefits and potential of a system over the long term. Documentation, prior to VE, was always scheduled to occur in parallel with integration testing and preparation of the production environment, but various factors affecting our team structures (i.e. team members reassignment) made the documentation process suffer a little.
III. Who/how/when do you use Visual Expert in your company?
Visual Expert is used by the Project Manager to verify the need
for corrective or adaptive maintenance to the systems. At this time
the reported problem gets verified and documented and then passed
on to the Developer whom uses VE to quickly identify the trouble
code or those objects/code that need to be modified in order to
adapt an application to new requirements.
The Developer can quickly view the structure of the application, or save it as a view for later usage, and browse thru the code using the hyperlinks provided.
A new developer will find a great advantage in the tool capability to display opening hierarchies and a dynamically preview of the visual objects for the application and in the tool capability to provide all the cross references to any component of the application from objects functions and events to database table and mostly important, in our case, Stored Procedures and DLL files.
A feature also very loved from our team is the Search feature, much more powerful that the one offered by PowerBuilder. The Search allows for the user to navigate (via hyperlinks) the result set or to save it in a separate view.
Occasionally we use VE to quickly give a global overview of the application to someone with limited knowledge of the system or to validate modifications and their impact before implementation by conducting an impact analysis (very used).
IV. In what way Visual Expert proved to be useful?
The VE is being used mostly for assisting new staff, without knowledge
of the Agency systems, in individualizing those “problem spots”
that need work in order to adapt our existing systems to new circumstances,
requirements or technologies. Using VE features allows a much quicker
turnaround and reduces expenses and free resources for more productive
For what concerns the Documentation, Visual Expert provides well structured, user-friendly documents both in html and rtf format. These documents allow the users (i.e. programmers) to gain an overview quickly and to find relevant information without going thru endless hours of code walk thru and debugging sessions.
One big plus for the VE documentation is the accuracy level and the easy way to refresh such documentation, if adaptive maintenance was performed on the system, with very few clicks.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation