Auditors at CME Group have the crucial job of confirming the financial health of the firms that clear trades for its members. But the auditors’ laptops are often too bulky or distracting for effective use. That’s why CME Group is piloting Windows 7 slates, which run the full Windows 7 operating system and can run business applications and access network resources. CME Group supports the slates with its existing infrastructure and expertise—which it can’t do with other tablets. Porting an application to Windows 7 slates takes only 8 percent of the time that CME Group estimates it would take to port to another tablet. The company, with the help of Microsoft partner Clarity Consulting, built a touch-enabled prototype for Windows 7 slates in just one week. It estimates that Windows 7 slates could increase auditor productivity by 10 to 20 percent.
At CME Group, customers manage their future price risk by using derivatives in a variety of asset classes: interest rates, equity indexes, foreign currencies, energy, agricultural commodities, metals, real estate—even the weather. But the smart investment might be on the future of CME Group itself.
The company—formed by the combination of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the Chicago Board of Trade, and the New York Mercantile Exchange—has become one of the world’s leading and most diverse derivatives marketplaces. Innovation has been a driving force for growth throughout the company’s 160 years, whether it was the pioneering of new products or the development of the electronic futures trading platform—which is why the company’s audit department began thinking about using tablets in 2011.
The Limits of Laptops
Every transaction on a CME Group exchange has to be cleared, or reconciled, by its clearinghouse. As part of ensuring the integrity of its exchanges, CME Group sends auditors to clearing members to review records, confirm capital holdings, and approve processes for handling customers’ money.
||Windows 7 slates are enterprise-ready. Our auditors have a full Windows 7 computer in the form of a slate…. And we have a platform that fits effortlessly within the systems we already use.
Associate Director, Systems Development, CME Group
Auditors spend about 75 percent of their time visiting firms and conducting audits. Data gathering takes place in managers’ offices or conference rooms. The ability to work remotely is an essential part of the process.
Auditors have long been aware of the limitations of their laptops in this setting: placing the laptop on a conference table or desk puts an immediate if subtle barrier between the auditor and other meeting attendees. Starting a laptop can stop a meeting while everyone waits for it to load and open the appropriate applications. Scrolling, clicking, and typing during a meeting aren’t conducive to smooth-flowing conversation either.
Wanted: Highly Mobile, Enterprise-Ready Devices
“We weren’t necessarily looking to replace our laptops,” says Roman Benko, Associate Director of Systems Development at CME Group. “But we’re always looking for innovation that will improve our processes.”
CME Group considered adopting tablets, given their widespread acceptance in the consumer marketplace. “Tablets are interesting because they are smaller, thinner, and lighter than laptops,” says Benko. “They really deliver the mobility that our auditors need and that they don’t quite get with laptops.”
Physical attributes aside, auditors still want their mobile devices to be full, enterprise-ready computers that run their line-of-business and commercial applications; that access back-end network resources; and that work without interruption on planes and trains.
Meanwhile, IT managers and developers have their own requirements. At the top of their list: minimizing the time and resources it would take to manage and develop for tablets.
While CME Group was evaluating tablets, Microsoft proposed that it pilot slates running the Windows 7 operating system. “When Microsoft approached us about Windows 7 slates, it was perfect timing; we jumped on it,” says Frank Fieseler, Associate Director of Systems Development at CME Group.
Seizing the Opportunity
In addition to testing Windows 7 slates, Fieseler and his colleagues seized the opportunity to learn to develop touch-based interfaces, which Windows 7 already supported. Clarity Consulting, a Microsoft partner with multiple Gold competencies and expertise in touch technology and interface design, joined the project.
||We weren’t necessarily looking to replace our laptops. But we’re always looking for innovation that will improve our processes.
Associate Director of Systems Development, CME Group
“We were very impressed with Clarity Consulting,” says Fieseler. “They understood the interface issues completely. They had a close relationship with Microsoft. They created an attractive interface design. And they implemented the technology transfer we needed to move forward with touch apps on our own.”
In the first part of the pilot, CME Group would customize one of its existing, homegrown Windows applications to gain insight into the development process for slate applications. In the second part, it would deliver the application, on Windows 7 slates, to business users to gauge manageability and get user feedback.
CME Group decided to conduct the test with the audit group and one of its key tools: Fortress, a custom application that auditors use to access financial data and contact information on the firms they audit.
The company evaluated slate models from several manufacturers and chose the ASUS Eee Slate EP121. “We found the ASUS Eee Slate compelling because it’s very thin, lightweight, and comes with a Bluetooth-connected keyboard, in addition to the on-screen keyboard,” says Benko. “It’s turned out to be very reliable—we’ve had no issues with it.”
Adding the “Wow” Factor
For the new application, CME Group developers retained Fortress’s database, which runs Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Express data management software, and its business logic. They used Windows security features, including drive and database protection, to meet the requirements of their security group. Instead of just adding touch-enablement to the existing interface, the developers worked with one full-time and one part-time developer from Clarity on a slate-specific presentation layer, using familiar Microsoft .NET-based development tools. (See Figure 1.)
|Figure 1: A new user interface, optimized for touch input, was prototyped in one week.|
“We wanted to add ‘the wow factor’ to the slate application and, with Windows 7 and .NET, we did,” says Ben Farmer, Consultant at Clarity Consulting. “It’s as rich a set of technologies as any available for a tablet platform. We focused on giving users the responsiveness they expect from a touch interface, and the visually pleasing, even fun, look of a consumer application.”
A prototype of the new Fortress Slate was ready within a week. The full application was completed three weeks later, including testing, and loaded onto the slates using Microsoft ClickOnce deployment. The base image for the Windows 7 slates is nearly identical to the base image for the company’s PCs, differing only in a few hardware drivers.
About 50 Windows 7 slates were deployed to auditors and audit managers between June and August 2011.
CME Group is finding that “Windows 7 slates are enterprise-ready,” says Fieseler. “Our auditors have a full Windows 7 computer in the form of a slate. They can access, create, and work with crucial information at any time, in any place, literally at their fingertips, quickly and reliably. And we have a platform that fits effortlessly within the systems we already use.”
Boosts Employee Productivity by 10 to 20 Percent
Windows 7 slates are earning high praise from those testing them. “Our auditors are responding very positively to Windows 7 slates,” says Michael Procajlo, Audit Director at CME Group. “The auditors who have them are really using them, and there’s a lot of buzz. The auditors who don’t yet have them are very excited to get them. I haven’t seen this level of enthusiasm for a technology tool here before.”
||Our auditors are responding very positively to Windows 7 slates.... I haven't seen this level of enthusiasm for a technology tool here before.
Part of that excitement and enthusiasm comes from evidence that auditors can use Windows 7 slates in locations where laptops would be impractical, and also in locations where laptop use would be distracting. Small size, light weight, and hours-long battery life are part of what makes Windows 7 slates a great choice for mobile workers. “We have a lot of auditors traveling between Chicago and New York, and they can now do a lot of work on planes and in airports,” says Manu Mishra, Programmer Analyst at CME Group.
Auditors aren’t just thrilled with where they can work—they’re quite pleased with what they can accomplish, too. “You can do anything on a Windows 7 slate that you can do on any other Windows machine,” says Mishra.
Yet another factor in user excitement is the rugged nature of the slates. “Having a ruggedized, durable tablet is crucial for our auditors—and the ASUS Eee Slate is that device,” says Procajlo.
Procajlo sees the benefits of Windows 7 slates firsthand. “In meetings, when I have my Windows 7 slate, I can access information without waiting for a laptop to start. I can pass it to the person sitting next to me, or to others, quite naturally to share information. Using the touch interface to move through information is so natural that you don’t really think about it. It’s very refreshing, even fun—it doesn’t seem like a business environment.” (See Figure 2.)
|Figure 2: Sharing data in a conference setting is natural with a Windows 7 slate, |
even “fun,” according to a CME Group executive.
But there’s nothing unbusinesslike about the productivity that auditors experience with the slates. “I think our auditors will be able to use Windows 7 slates to work 10 to 20 percent more productively than they could before,” says Procajlo. “That could reduce the amount of overtime our people have to work, while still enabling us to handle a growing workload.”
Reduces Time-to-Market by 92 Percent
CME Group wants a tablet that it can adopt without requiring an investment in new development tools and training. It can meet that goal with Windows 7 slates. “One of the things that gets me excited about the touch capability on Windows 7 slates is that all of my professional experience as a developer is applicable to this new technology,” says Farmer.
||Code reuse is such an important goal in software development today. We have it with Windows 7 slates. We wouldn’t have it with another tablet.
Associate Director, Systems Development, CME Group
CME Group can avoid an investment in new tools because the slates support the Microsoft tool set with which developers are already familiar. Even better, CME Group can avoid the investment of time required to learn and develop for another platform, and then to completely rebuild applications for that platform.
“If we were moving to another tablet, this would have been more time-consuming,” says Mishra. “We’d be working with a topology that we don’t have. We’d have to come up with a security system. And we’d have to customize 100 percent of the application, instead of just the 15 to 20 percent represented by the user interface.”
Fieseler estimates that it would have taken him and his colleagues about six months to learn to develop for other tablets and then another six months to rebuild their application for it—compared to the one month it took to complete Fortress Slate for Windows 7 slates—a time-to-market savings of 11 out of 12 months, or 92 percent.
Avoids Doubling of Development Cost
Adopting other tablets would also require CME Group to double the time and expense of its development effort every time it wants to write a new application or even update an existing application—once for the Windows-based PCs and once for the tablets.
Fieseler estimates that CME Group would have to add at least one developer to handle the additional work. Because of the high code reuse it gets between applications for Windows PCs and Windows 7 slates, CME Group can avoid that extra hire.
“Code reuse is such an important goal in software development today,” says Fieseler. “We have it with Windows 7 slates. We wouldn’t have it with another tablet.”
Fits into Existing IT Infrastructure
Just as CME Group can develop for Windows 7 slates with its current tools and expertise, it can manage Windows 7 slates with its existing infrastructure. “We’ve used Microsoft for years, so adopting Windows 7 slates gives us the comfort of knowing we have the same manageability to which we’re accustomed,” says Benko.
That manageability comes from factors including processes and infrastructure for imaging, deployment, distribution, security, and remote configuration management—all are the same for Windows 7 slates as they are for other Windows-based computers.
The peripheral devices that CME Group is using with the Windows 7 slates are the same peripherals that it already has on hand, including input devices, printers, and Ethernet adapters. In addition, the auditors use peripherals that are included with the ASUS Eee slates: a stylus for handwriting input and a Bluetooth keyboard.
Compared to the effort required to adopt other tablets, the easy integration that comes with adopting Windows 7 slates is a real innovation—and a real attraction to CME Group. “CME Group is a longtime leader in technology and innovation,” says Procajlo. “Windows 7 slates are exactly the type of innovative technology that we’re always looking for.”
Works the way you want: Windows 7 will help your organization use information technology to gain a competitive advantage in today’s new world of work. Your people will be able to be more productive anywhere. You will be able to support your mobile workforce with better access to shared data and collaboration tools. And your IT staff will have better tools and technologies for enhanced corporate IT security and data protection, and more efficient deployment and management.
For more information about Windows 7, go to:
For More Information
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For more information about CME Group, call (312) 930-1000 or visit the website at: