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Case Studies
The Perfect Host
for North Carolina's Department of Transportation

Information on retirement benefits for North Carolina state employees is kept safe and secure in a host application on the state treasurer's IBM Mainframe. Some might say a little too safe. The State Department of Transportation (DofT) needed access to the information, as did a banking partner, Branch Banking & Trust (BB&T). Neither was having an easy time of it.

Chris Duke, Software Spectrum's principal consultant on the project, explains: "The DoT wanted access to information about their employees, but the query on the host application was only able to produce a list of every employee who ever worked for the state. In addition, the bank had no direct access to the information whatsoever."

Matching the solution to the problem
IBM made an online delivery of software tools to give both organizations what they needed, but each problem required its own solution.

"For the Department of Transportation, the solution was built with IBM's Host Publisher," Duke explains. "The bank administering the state's 401(k) plan had different access needs, so that solution was built with IBM's Host on Demand technologies."

"The beauty of IBM Host Integration Solutions is that they add functionality without requiring extensive new programming on the host application, software or training." Says Duke.

Enable saves the day
BB&T manages the retirement accounts for all retirees in the state's system - several hundred thousand of them. Retirement accounts are important for everyone, and some days it seemed as if everyone called BB&T to ask questions.

Doug Piner, Web manager for North Carolina's Department of the Treasurer, explains that before the state stared working with Software Spectrum, BB&T couldn't get any information without picking up the phone and calling the treasurer's office.

"Software Spectrum's Chris Duke and I worked together with enable to get BB&T access to DofT's mainframe. BB&T now has complete access to everybody - all the active and inactive state employees throughout the state. It has all of the salary information, everything they need," Piner says.

Two important goals drove the creation of the solution:

  • Granting the bank access to the information without requiring a staff member to travel to the treasurer's office.
  • Making the information easily available to bank employees who were not familiar with the host system.

No complicated software, please
Although most bank employees would consider themselves computer savvy, Duke says their goal was to solve the access problem without introducing new software that would require excessive maintenance and user training.

An important benefit of this enable solution is that it requires no additional software to be installed or maintained at the bank. "enable uses a standard web browser, such as Microsoft's Internet Explorer or Netscape Communicator." Duke says.

A filtering solution for the DoT
North Carolina's Department of Transportation also wanted to access data about employee's accounts, because they too were bombarded with calls on retirement and salary issues.

"Our Retirement Systems Director didn't want the Department of Transportation to have all the data about all state employees available to them." Piner explains. "We wrote another application that used Host Publisher to filter out only DOT employees. This one required logic not available in the host application, so it had to intercept all the data and process it before presenting it to the browser."

"The key benefit here is that we were able to create functionality that was not available, without having to reprogram the host application itself," adds Duke. "Re-coding a mainframe application is complicated and time consuming. By using Host Publisher, we were able to complete the project in a matter of weeks."

In Duke's opinion, IBM's Host Integration Solutions are a logical step in the evolution of business computing from mainframes to distributed computing.

"IBM's technology allows developers to tap into the best of both worlds," Duke says. "You can have a large, secure, reliable central repository for data, and use IBM's tools to develop applications quickly. You are able to get to the information you need without having to wait through the traditional, time-consuming processes associated with mainframe development."

A five-minute code-change
Piner has seen big returns on their effort already, and he's expecting to expand access to other agencies as the word gets out.

"Yesterday, I got a call requesting access to retirement information for law enforcement officers," Piner says. "Law enforcement officers have a different employer code, but they actually work for the Department of Transportation. All it took was a small customization change - one that took five minutes to make."

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