4-page Case Study - Posted 11/21/2011
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Data integration tool helps non-technical staff create their own line-of-business applications
“Staff can find their own solutions to productivity challenges and opportunities, so the customer gets a better service, and we operate more efficiently.”
Brian H Madsen, Technology Specialist, Fujitsu Microsoft Solutions Centre
Located in Perth, the Fujitsu Microsoft Solutions Centre is a centre of software excellence, helping Fujitsu Australia and New Zealand (FANZ) to create and deploy world-class enterprise solutions based on Microsoft technologies. The centre’s 70 consultants work in fast-paced project environments. To provide an optimal service they need to continually access and assimilate data from a variety of databases, spreadsheets and intranets.
In September 2011, IT staff deployed the self-service data application development tool, Microsoft Visual Studio LightSwitch 2011. The tool helps enable non-technical staff to rapidly create line-of-business applications that integrate data from a variety of data sources into professional-looking formats. As a result, the centre has helped staff improve their own productivity: consultants can create their own ad-hoc data applications without involving the IT department, and can share them with customers and colleagues by hosting them with Windows Azure.
||It’s really easy to build customised applications, because the tool includes Application Shells. These auto-format data and give the application a professional look.
||Brian H Madsen,
Microsoft Solutions Centre
Fujitsu Australia and New Zealand (FANZ) is one of Australia’s largest and most diverse technology companies, providing hardware, software services and specialised industry solutions to all sectors of the Australian economy. Employing over 5,000 staff, the company has offices in every Australian state.
As a deployment specialist, FANZ frequently implements solutions that use Microsoft technologies, in particular the Windows operating system, the Microsoft Office Suite, Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft SQL Server database platforms.
To create in-house expertise in these technologies, and to support its in-house Microsoft platforms, the company has created the Fujitsu Microsoft Solutions Centre in Perth, with 70 consultants. Comprising developers, architects and implementation specialists, these consultants work simultaneously on numerous projects, or sometimes deploy on-site to facilitate customer implementations.
Consultants and their managers require constant access to data stored on a variety of spreadsheets, intranets and databases. However, accessing and assimilating this data, usually in Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, was time-consuming and laborious.
“If I needed to assign a consultant to a one-day assignment, I had to check three different data sources so I could properly cross-match availability, technical skills and industry experience,” says Dale Bennett, Consultant, IT Services, FANZ. “We wanted to help consultants improve their own productivity, by giving them the ability to build their own data integration applications – quickly, professionally, and without needing a diploma in IT.”
In July 2011, Brian H Madsen, Technology Specialist at the Fujitsu Microsoft Solutions Centre, investigated a new data application development tool designed for typical employees, as well as IT specialists.
Called Microsoft Visual Studio LightSwitch 2011, the tool helps staff create their own personal data integration applications. Using a forms over data tool, they can draw data from multiple sources, such as SQL databases, Excel spread sheets and third-party applications, and present it in one interface to suit their needs.
“It’s really easy to build customised applications, because the tool includes Application Shells,” says Brian H Madsen, Technology Specialist, Fujitsu Microsoft Solutions Centre. “These auto-format data and give the application a professional look.”
The tool is built to a two-way model that means data updates flow to the LightSwitch interface, and from the interface back to the original data source.
“This means that the interface contains real-time data, and the user has the flexibility to make corrections to the source data,” says Madsen. “Where the source data derives from enterprise sources, staff can establish business rules so that conflicts don’t emerge.”
IT staff deployed the first public Beta version of LightSwitch to resource managers, developers and operational staff in August 2011.
By enabling employees to create their own productivity applications, LightSwitch helps to make the Solutions Centre a more versatile and responsive business.
Personalised IT development
LightSwitch helps staff to quickly and cheaply develop new capabilities.
“I built a scheduling aid in just a few hours,” says Bennett. “Now I can see at a glance who is the optimal consultant for a job. And it was a cost-efficient solution for the Solutions Centre because we didn’t need to kick off a whole IT project for me to get the capability I needed.
“Most important, I designed it so it suits my needs exactly. And when my information needs change, I will simply change my data application myself.”
Greater corporate responsiveness
Because individual staff can manage their own IT needs, they can react much more quickly to customer requests.
“Staff can find their own solutions to productivity challenges and opportunities, so customers receive a better service, and we operate more efficiently,” says Madsen.
“This capability also reduces the strain on our IT department, because we aren’t tasked with fulfilling lots of individual requests.”
Rapid information sharing
LightSwitch also creates the opportunity to share consolidated data with vendors, colleagues and customers.
“By hosting the applications on Azure, consultants can extend bespoke information services to critical stakeholders,” says Madsen. “We don’t have to set up a server onsite, or configure the security ourselves, so setting up a shared application is very quick.
“Azure hosting is also very efficient, because when the data service is no longer required, the service is terminated without leaving us with redundant investments. This capability will clearly distinguish our consultants from their competitors.”
Microsoft product that was featured
Microsoft Visual Studio LightSwitch 2011 is a simplified self-service development tool that helps you build business applications more quickly and easily for the desktop and cloud. LightSwitch offers downloadable starter kits and flexible deployment options that help you to create and release custom business apps that look professional and polished, with no coding required.
For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services call the sales and information line on 13 20 58 Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm AEST. To find a partner or solution, visit www.microsoft.com/australia/findapartner/