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Raet delivers solutions for salary and personnel administration and processes payroll for some two million Dutch employees. In the non-profit market, the mainframe-based COBOL application Gemal (Municipal and General Salary system) has been in use for several decades.
Raet's systems for payroll processing require a great deal of maintenance effort as they have to function in an extremely dynamic environment. Regulatory and rule changes within certain collective labor agreements result in new system requirements that must be developed, tested, and implemented within these applications.
With Micro Focus Enterprise Developer's integrated development environment for mainframe applications, Raet can perform these application maintenance activities quickly, using local resources, resulting in decreased costs and less reliance on external mainframe capacity. In addition, efficiency and productivity gains are achieved through the use of application inventory and analysis tooling.
"Gemal processes salaries for approximately 1,000 employers in health care, social services, and local governments, as well as privatized government institutions such as TPG, Essent, and Nuon. In total, the system deals with the salaries of millions of employees," said Bert de Ruiter, product development manager at Raet.
"To make sure that salary processing goes well, we develop a new version every month. This requires a sound coordination between the regulating authorities involved and our information analysts. They know what's going on in the field of rules and regulations and collect the changes that form the basis for system adjustments. Next, the software and test engineers and technical writers enter the stage. As Gemal is a COBOL application, development and maintenance used to take place in a traditional 'green screen' environment. As a company we are constantly looking for ways to perform these activities as efficient and cost-effectively as possible. As this is a knowledge-intensive activity, this makes employee retention even more critical.
"To make these activities more attractive for our employees, we started looking for a modern and powerful development environment," de Ruiter continued.
"With Micro Focus Enterprise Developer, the developers work in an intuitive and user-friendly environment, offering options like drag and drop. The tools automate a number of time consuming manual actions. Therefore, testing and debugging is faster and more efficient. To make a comparison, tests on the local server are eight times faster, on average, than tests on the mainframe. Further, Micro Focus Enterprise Developer analysis tools provide graphical insight into the application and enable impact analysis. This improves the predictability of the application, resulting in even more time and cost savings," de Ruiter said.
According to de Ruiter, choosing Micro Focus, Raet has reached its main objective. "First of all, we have succeeded in getting the work of the software engineer for COBOL out of the green screen environment. Until recently, it was difficult to find COBOL developers. The well known graphical look-and-feel of Micro Focus Enterprise Developer, in combination with the practical functionality and tools, offer an attractive working environment, which is also interesting to recently graduated students."
For Gemal's mainframe support, Raet leases external computing and storage capacity. The capacity used is measured by means of RPP (Relative Processor Power/ Performance), a number that represents the use of CPU time per time unit. Before Raet had implemented Micro Focus solutions, they used approximately 30 RPP on an annual basis in the development environment. Now that development activities have been decentralized and take place in Raet's local environment, this figure has been reduced to 25, resulting in considerable cost savings.
"Micro Focus Enterprise Developer offers powerful analysis tools and provides insight into the size of the application, which is critical management information. This, combined with the productivity improvement and cost savings, makes it clear that Micro Focus is the right choice for us," de Ruiter concluded.