To increase efficiency, acsis implemented a Web-hosted application based on the Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 and Windows Presentation Foundation. The company has cut reporting time from days to minutes with a simplified interface and smooth interoperation with existing software. It has improved the workflow for both users and administrators with the new solution.Business Needs
Located in South Africa, acsis is an independent financial services group that helps clients achieve lasting financial well-being. Its financial planning and investment management philosophy is based on a sound, robust framework supported by ongoing research and international best practice. With nearly 100 employees, acsis has offices in Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa.
||Before, it could take more than two days to create a client report. But with a solution based on the .NET Framework 3.5, a dynamic report can be generated … in less than five minutes.
The company works with some of South Africa’s leading independent financial planners to help them develop and implement financial plans and investment strategies for their customers. Its services include managing a solution that planners use to generate customized client reports. Each report is a formal document that includes detailed information about a client’s investment strategy and contains graphs, tables, and pictures. In the past, financial planners entered information into Web forms, and an HTML code generator produced a document populated with information from multiple databases and applications.
It could take at least two days to create a report, and the company wanted to improve service by speeding delivery. Also, many financial planners were unfamiliar with the HTML markup language, and they struggled to make revisions. Amy Gardiner, Software Developer at acsis, says, “The HTML-based solution wasn’t very flexible or user-friendly.”
It was challenging to manage the report process because people frequently required assistance. Besides providing faster service, Gardiner and her colleagues hoped to reduce time spent training partners to work with the system.Solution
To improve its report service, acsis decided to implement a solution based on the Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5. The company used Windows Presentation Foundation—a component of the .NET Framework—to create an application that the financial planners could use to create reports.
Instead of having to open different Web pages to format the report and insert content, they work with a single interface that handles all functions, including formatting and displaying images and text. Windows Presentation Foundation includes a set of data services that acsis used to bind data from multiple sources to controls in the user interface, which runs in a Web browser. Users can access the solution through a Web site built with Microsoft ASP.NET.
The solution generates reports in the form of Word documents, which planners edit and convert to PDF files before distributing them to their clients. The company is taking advantage of the Microsoft Office Word 2007 primary interoperability assembly, which acts as a bridge between the unmanaged code of Microsoft Office 2007 and the managed code of the .NET Framework environment. Gardiner and her team can create customized report templates for financial planners, and planners can also design their own documents with various add-ins.
The project was a winning entry in the Tell Us Your .NET Story contest held by Microsoft in 2010, and the team continues to enhance the solution. For example, Gardiner is adopting the Office Open XML format to improve the way reports open. Benefits
Window Presentation Foundation and the .NET Framework 3.5 help acsis deliver results faster and improve its service offering. Financial planners can create and revise reports more easily, and administration at the company has also become simpler.Cuts Delivery Time from Days to Minutes
By implementing a solution based on the .NET Framework and Windows Presentation Foundation, acsis can deliver results much faster. “Before, it could take more than two days to create a client report,” says Gardiner. “But with a solution based on the .NET Framework 3.5, a dynamic report with text and graphics can be generated in less than five minutes.”Improves Customer Service
Financial planners at acsis have provided enthusiastic feedback. Not only can they generate reports quicker, they can also revise them more easily in a familiar format. Less obvious but equally important features such as data binding ensure smooth interoperability with databases and other applications. “Our financial planners are really impressed with our service,” says Gardiner. "With the .NET Framework 3.5, they have the flexibility to produce customized reports without needing specialized development skills.” Eases Management
Financial planners work more efficiently with the improved interface and new templates, which in turn simplifies administration for Gardiner and her team. As a result, acsis can better support a workload that fluctuates from approximately 100 to 500 reports each week. “People often needed help with our old solution,” she says. “However, we don’t have to train people to use the interface that we built with Windows Presentation Foundation. Working with it is very intuitive.”This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.