New Silverlight-Based Time Entry and Overtime Systems Help Drive Down Costs and Increase Efficiency for Nuclear Supplier
Project At a Glance
RDA developed new Time Entry and Overtime Canvasing Systems using .NET and Silverlight for our client. The new systems are built on platforms that are easier and less expensive to maintain and support the business processes as they are currently performed (as well as the people who perform them). They are also more scalable moving forward for additional upgrades. In addition, the applications provide a better overall user experience through a rich interface as well as additional functionality, such as viewing multiple search results and search result drill down.
About Our Client
RDA’s client is a leading supplier of enriched uranium fuel and nuclear industry related services for commercial nuclear power plants.
A number of years ago, our client had an entire department dedicated to data entry for time cards and overtime reporting. The original versions of the applications were built with this dedicated staff in mind. However, as a result of staffing adjustments and strategic reallocation of roles among the teams over time, data entry is now performed by managers and other casual users. Because the applications were not designed with such users in mind, they are difficult to learn and cumbersome to operate. In addition, over time, the processes associated with time card data entry and overtime canvassing increased in complexity, driven by regulatory requirements and union agreements.
The original systems for time entry and overtime reporting were almost 20 years old and used Oracle 8i Forms that integrated with an Oracle database. In addition to the poor user experience, these systems utilized an unsupported technology stack and were difficult to maintain due to years of changes to the business rules and the legacy architectures.
For these reasons, our client decided that the systems needed to be moved to current technologies.
RDA developed a new Time Entry System (TES) and Overtime Canvasing System (OCS) for this client using .NET technology on a Silverlight 4 platform with RIA services that integrates with the legacy Oracle back end. Our client plans to upgrade to a newer version of Oracle at some point in the future and the new TES and OCS interfaces will simplify that process.
TES is used by employees and management staff to enter and track hours worked each week, as well as enable a workflow of approval, marking, and auditing timecards. Dashboards and an interface for calling Oracle Reports are also part of TES. OCS helps managers determine who is available and eligible for overtime work based on the industry regulations and union rules.
The systems were delivered on time and under budget, in spite of numerous technical challenges that included:
- integrating with an obsolete version of Oracle database that does not support Entity Framework,
- emulating certain Oracle Forms UI behavior that is not directly supported in Silverlight, and
- dealing with concurrency issues inherent in having both the old Oracle Forms system and new Silverlight system with different locking schemes in production at the same time.
The new web-based systems are easier and less expensive to maintain than the previous systems. They also provide a more content rich interface for an improved user experience and additional features such as the ability to drill down on timesheet search results, and display multiple search results in a drill down accordion view as opposed to one at a time, while still accurately replicating the functionality of the original systems. The new platform is also much more scalable for future technology upgrades.
This was a proactive technology upgrade; if our client had not moved forward on replacing the original applications, they would have created enterprise-wide system problems and required increasingly expensive maintenance investments just to function.
The solution incorporates an interesting mix of technology (.NET and Oracle). Both systems use Silverlight 4 as the front end platform with RIA services and integrate with the legacy Oracle back end. The MVVM (Model-View-View Model) pattern was applied to the solution.
Reusing the existing back end solution components was critical to our client in terms of maximizing their investment. Hence the existing TES and OCS Oracle databases, the system integration layer, and reporting and enterprise systems such as PeopleSoft HR remain. The new Silverlight solution integrates with the back end via a custom data access layer utilizing Oracle Data Provider. Utilizing RIA services, it was possible to bind controls in Silverlight Views to View Models and, through a business layer, on to the data access layer.