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Posted: 4/11/2010
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Dataract Solution Provider Streamlines Processes, Will Speed Some Development by 50 Percent

Based in Sydney, Australia, Dataract is an independent software vendor that develops workflow task automation solutions based on Microsoft software. The company wanted to design workflows inside its primary application, but it lacked the technology to do that in a streamlined way. Dataract also sought to improve its application code quality through better testing tools. To address those needs, the company implemented the Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 development system and the Microsoft .NET Framework 4, which includes a new version of Windows Workflow Foundation. As a result, Dataract designs workflows more easily and expects to develop some products 50 percent faster. The company also plans to lower costs and use new integrated tools to enhance its products.

Situation

Dataract provides software solutions for healthcare, financial services, and governmental organizations. A Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, the Australian company creates solutions designed to improve productivity for customers who have extensive human involvement in their business processes.

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* Because it’s easier for our developers to create and host workflow services with Windows Workflow Foundation, we will speed the development process for some applications by 50 percent.  *
Chris Wessels
R&D and Product Manager
Dataract
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The company’s flagship product is e5 Workflow, a workflow task automation solution that optimizes information delivery and offers compliance management, service level management, and business activity monitoring. Dataract developed the solution with the Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5, including Windows Workflow Foundation, and uses Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 to channel workflow information and documents into a repository.

In early 2009, Dataract started work on an updated version of e5. As developers sought to redesign the solution, they ran into development challenges. “We wanted to design workflows within the application itself rather than having to do it in Visual Studio,” says Chris Wessels, R&D and Product Manager, Dataract. “That would give other workers, such as systems analysts, the ability to see and work with workflows in context.”

But for Dataract developers, attempting to rehost the .NET Framework 3.5 workflow designer within the e5 environment was difficult and time-consuming. “The process of defining, executing, and rehosting a workflow was not streamlined at all,” says Wessels. Developers had to create custom workflows using the Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 development system. They then had to manually place those workflows into the e5 application. Also, the translation of a typical analyst process flow map to a sequential workflow orchestration was complex. And there was significant complexity in hosting the e5 workflows in Office SharePoint Server 2007.

Additionally, Dataract wanted to improve its software testing capabilities to maintain better quality code for its applications. “We wanted to take a more test-driven approach overall with regard to development,” says Daniel Pamich, Senior Solutions Architect, Dataract. “Technical issues incurred over years of product development resulted in too much time being spent on fixing broken code.”

Dataract also sought new development support for the Microsoft Silverlight browser plug-in, which the organization is increasingly using to build new business applications.

Solution

In August 2009, Dataract deployed beta versions of Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 and the Microsoft .NET Framework 4. Wessels says, “We saw that the software had some major enhancements that would help improve our development processes.” He worked with Microsoft developers specifically on the integration of the e5 configuration with the rehosted Windows Workflow Designer.

The new designer in Visual Studio 2010 is based on Windows Presentation Foundation and gives developers an easier model to use when rehosting the designer outside the Visual Studio environment. In addition, with a new Windows Workflow Foundation modeling feature called Flowchart, developers can more easily define and control workflows. The Flowchart model is clear to the analyst and the developer, greatly reducing the potential for misunderstanding. Windows Workflow Foundation also includes a new programming model that is designed to be simpler to use.

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* The new Windows Workflow Designer gives analysts the ability to view and work with workflows, which makes development easier. It narrows the gap between developers and analysts and makes a previously complex process very simple.  *
Chris Wessels
R&D and Product Manager
Dataract
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Dataract also wanted to take advantage of new testing capabilities in Visual Studio 2010, such as coded UI tests that Dataract developers can incorporate as part of their build process to automate user interface regression testing. Visual Studio 2010 comes with improved debugging tools for maintaining source code and for locating and fixing software bugs. For example, developers can now import and export breakpoints. With that capability, they can debug part of an application and export a set of breakpoints, then import that set back into the application if necessary. This can save developers valuable time the next time they debug a similar path through the application.

Dataract was also interested in new Visual Studio 2010 tools to ease customization in Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 development. For instance, Visual Studio 2010 offers Server Explorer for SharePoint, which developers can use to view lists and other SharePoint artifacts inside Visual Studio 2010. Visual Studio 2010 also contains new project and item templates and visual designers for SharePoint Server 2010.

“We have been delivering e5 Workflow on SharePoint sites since the earliest days of Microsoft SharePoint Products and Technologies, and we are excited about the new features and tooling,” Wessels says. In addition, Visual Studio 2010 offers fully integrated support for Silverlight application development through a drag-and-drop design surface that makes custom application development easy.

In late 2009, the company began working on a new version of e5 Workflow that contains a rehosted version of the new Windows Workflow Designer.

Benefits

By using Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 and the Microsoft .NET Framework 4, Dataract developers can design workflows more easily than before and expect to develop products faster. In addition, the company has better testing capabilities and plans to reduce its total cost of ownership. Dataract also gains new features that it will use to enhance its applications.

Speeds Development Process by 50 Percent

Dataract can streamline development by rehosting Windows Workflow Designer within e5 Workflow. “The new Windows Workflow Designer gives analysts the ability to view and work with workflows, which makes development easier,” says Wessels. “It narrows the gap between developers and analysts and makes a previously complex process very simple.”

Additionally, the new Flowchart feature and simplified programming model make flowchart activity management faster. “With the Flowchart model in Windows Workflow Foundation, our developers can quickly and easily go back to previous workflow activities and no longer need to click between multiple tools,” Wessels says.

Using its new development environment, Dataract expects to create applications faster. “Because it’s easier for our developers to create and host workflow services with Windows Workflow Foundation, we will speed the development process for some applications by 50 percent,” says Wessels.

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* Rehosting the Windows Workflow Designer only takes a few lines of code. That translates into fewer things that can go wrong in that code base, so that will help lessen the amount of time spent fixing problems.  *
Chris Wessels
R&D and Product Manager
Dataract
*

Improves Testing Capabilities

With the new testing capabilities in Visual Studio 2010, Dataract will be able to take a more test-driven approach to development and improve the quality of its applications. “In the past, we were not as good as we wanted to be at maintaining code quality through testing, and we incurred too many technical problems in our solutions,” Wessels says. “The testing framework in Visual Studio 2010 is much better than it was in previous versions, and that will help us maintain better code. Now, we will have an opportunity to give our customers increased confidence in our products.”

Reduces Ownership Costs

Higher quality code will help the company lower its total cost of ownership. “We will save time and money because we anticipate we will have fewer lines of code to fix,” Wessels says.

Also, using the new Windows Workflow Foundation application programming interface, Dataract developers will use a smaller code base when enhancing e5 Workflow or developing new applications. “Rehosting the Windows Workflow Designer only takes a few lines of code,” states Wessels. “That translates into fewer things that can go wrong in that code base, so that will help lessen the amount of time spent fixing problems.”

Helps Developers Create Custom Solutions

Dataract developers plan to use the integrated tools in Visual Studio 2010 and the .NET Framework 4 to create customized solutions more easily. For example, tools for SharePoint Server 2010 development will help Dataract meet customer requirements for better collaboration solutions. Specifically, Server Explorer for SharePoint and new SharePoint templates will help the company create Web Parts and features faster than before. “Our customers are looking for applications that help them work together on projects in new and better ways,” says Wessels. “It will be easier for us to offer them new collaboration solutions with the built-in Visual Studio 2010 tools for SharePoint development.”

Additionally, Dataract will be able to develop rich Silverlight applications. “With the new visual designers for Silverlight integrated into Visual Studio 2010, developing Silverlight solutions will be easier,” says Pamich. “The designers are very interactive and give us the opportunity to click on an element and view all the events attached to it. We will be able to design much richer interfaces and other user experiences as a result.”

For More Information

For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:
www.microsoft.com

For more information about Dataract products and services, call +61 (0) 2 9221 0070 or visit the Web site at:
www.dataract.com.au

Microsoft Visual Studio 2010

Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 is an integrated development system that helps simplify the entire development process from design to deployment. Unleash your creativity with powerful prototyping, modeling, and design tools that help you bring your vision to life. Work within a personalized environment that helps accelerate the coding process and supports the use of your existing skills, and target a growing number of platforms, including Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 and cloud services. Also, work more efficiently thanks to integrated testing and debugging tools that you can use to find and fix bugs quickly and easily to help ensure high-quality solutions.

For more information about Visual Studio 2010, go to: 
www.msdn.microsoft.com/vstudio

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Document published March 2010
Solution Overview



Organization Size: 30 employees

Organization Profile

Australia-based Dataract is a provider of software solutions designed to improve workflow and business processes. Founded in 1989, the company has 30 employees.


Business Situation

Developers sought an easier method for designing workflows within the company’s flagship application. Dataract also wanted to find a solution that would provide new software testing features.


Solution

Dataract deployed Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 and the Microsoft .NET Framework 4, including the new version of Windows Workflow Foundation.


Benefits
  • Speeds development by 50 percent
  • Improves testing capabilities
  • Reduces ownership costs
  • Helps developers create custom solutions

Software and Services
  • Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate
  • Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
  • Microsoft Silverlight
  • Windows Presentation Foundation
  • Windows Workflow Foundation

Vertical Industries
IT Services

Country/Region
Australia

Business Need
  • Business Productivity
  • Cost Containment
  • Collaboration

IT Issue
  • Development
  • Personal Productivity

Languages
English

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