Amyyon | Uniface

Amyyon

Amyyon customers can’t wait to get their hands on it’s new application, developed in Uniface.

What’s the best way to keep a market-leading software package ahead of the competition without having to mount a huge project or disrupt your existing logic? For Netherlands-based IT services company Amyyon, the answer is to combine Uniface with advanced design and user interface expertise to create a responsive web application that retains your tried-and-tested logic.

Amyyon

Amyyon has two major products, a CRM package and another for managing patients’ diets in hospitals and care homes. The CRM package is built in Uniface and although it has an established customer base, the company felt that it was becoming difficult to sell because of competition from web-based offers.

The company therefore decided to produce a web-based version of both products, starting with the CRM one. As well as pleasing new and existing clients, Amyyon felt that web-based applications would be easier to maintain and install than traditional client/server ones.

We’ve already acquired a new client as a result of a successful tender based on the web version. We’re in the process of implementing the product for them. I’m confident they will be the first of many new clients.”

– Jaap Polman,
Manager, Software Development

The team thought carefully about the best way to approach these projects. Initially a rewrite using C# and .NET appealed. However, the cost of doing this at a time of economic uncertainty was off-putting, and in addition the company realized that it would be a pity to throw away the rich functionality of its existing products.

Amyyon therefore searched for a solution that would retain that functionality but make it possible to provide a modern user interface and a web-based application. Since the CRM application already made heavy use of web services, it made sense to use existing services via a web interface, though many more web services would also be needed for the modernized applications.

Jaap Polman, Manager, Software Development at Amyyon, recalls: “We thought developing these extra web services would take a lot of time, but then we became aware of Uniface’s Dynamic Server Pages (DSPs) capability. I thought that looked promising, so I tried building a sample application. That was when we realized we could reuse our existing functionality by doing all the work with Uniface and using the DSP capability.”

A state-of-the-art user interface, developed in Uniface

Having decided to redevelop the CRM product with Uniface, Amyyon knew it had to come up with a really strong design. “We are good developers and know how to program, but we realized we didn’t have specific skills for creating a state-of-the art look and feel for today’s end customers,” acknowledges Jaap.

The company therefore hired a specialist designer to help. Jaap says: “This got our new application off to a great start and I would suggest anyone starting a similar project should make that their first step.”

The design was initially produced in the form of slides, which provided a basis for discussion about how the programs would flow. The designer adjusted the screen designs to reflect the team’s feedback, producing a modern user interface that the team was confident could be developed using Uniface.

Creating the responsive web application

Information presented to the end-user can be customized without any coding.

Information presented to the end-user can be customized without any coding.

Just as the team hired a specialist designer for the design phase, when it came to the build phase it decided to recruit a front-end developer. As Jaap explains: “We’re all Uniface developers and have limited knowledge of CSS, HTML and JavaScript, so we decided to extend our team to include a front-end developer who had the skills needed to make HTML look good, to create CSS using JavaScript, and so on. And we’re very glad we did.”

Together, the developers made the application come together. The designer’s work was transformed into real pages by the front-end developer while the Uniface experts ensured that the back end worked correctly, including retrieval and storage of data. For this Amyyon used ‘stepped hitlist’ functionality. When retrieving, for example, the contact history of a company, only part of the data is retrieved initially, if the user wants, the next piece follows.

The project acquires a new Uniface developer

The user interface of the application combines rich front-end functionality with the power of the Uniface back end.

The user interface of the application combines rich front-end functionality with the power of the Uniface back end.

Before joining Amyyon, the front-end developer didn’t have any Uniface knowledge. While the rest of the team was working on DSPs he became curious about Uniface. Jaap recalls: “He decided to have a look at the DSPs we’d already written and try to make one himself. Now he’s happily building the DSPs to provide the services that he needs.”

The front-end developer picked up Uniface on the job, but also went on a basic Uniface course in Amsterdam. “With this small amount of training, he finds he can easily take the work we’ve already done and adapt it for other needs. I’d say it’s a lot easier for a front-end developer to learn Uniface than vice versa, although I have to admit that we have been lucky enough to find a very good front-end developer.”

Customers can’t wait to get their hands on the new application

Even while the new app was still being developed, Amyyon began using it in-house for its own needs. Soon, one of the company’s existing customers started using it, and it is now happily working with a hybrid implementation that allows it to use the web version in the field, while continuing with the client/server version at headquarters. Amyyon had scheduled development so that this was possible once around 60% of the original application’s functionality had been converted to web.

The whole project looks set to complete on time – an impressive achievement given that this is a large application with several decades’ worth of accumulated functionality. The achievement is greater given that, aside from the front-end developer, the team consists of only three Uniface developers, who are also working on other projects at the same time, such as supporting customers and their bespoke add-ons to the package.

Amyyon’s Uniface responsive web application has a bright future

Well-known icons make the application navigation very easy to learn.

Well-known icons make the application navigation very easy to learn.

Once it is complete, the client/server version will be retired and everyone will use the web-based version, which will have all the functionality of the original application. Integration work that had already been done is being carried over. For example, the application is integrated via web services with Microsoft Outlook, so incoming emails can be brought into the CRM system. “Functionality like that may have taken time to develop initially, but it’s easy to reuse it in the web version.”

Jaap is confident that this modern product will compete with leading web-based CRM products. “We’re proud of our Uniface responsive web solution. It looks nice and works perfectly – and we’re not the only ones who think so. Several clients have now migrated to hybrid solutions where they use the web version in the field and the client/server version in the office. They are keen to start using the web version in the office too and are enthusiastically telling us about new functionality they would like to have. They say the web version is much more user friendly and they like the way
it adapts to whatever device they’re working on.”

Jaap strongly feels that client relationships have been reinforced by the new product, and he has even more good news: “We’ve already acquired a new client as a result of a successful tender based on the web version. We’re in the process of implementing the product for them. I’m confident they will be the first of many new clients.”

Another aspect of the project has boosted the company’s confidence in Uniface: the ease of adding a new developer to the team. Jaap says. “It can be hard to find good Uniface developers, but we’ve found that our front-end developer has quickly acquired the Uniface skills he needs. We’ve had another similar experience where we hired a .NET developer and cross-trained him successfully in Uniface with just a couple of courses and working alongside our team.”