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When It Comes to Legacy Systems, It’s Hip to Be Square

By William Mooney, Posted on September 16, 2021 at 11:34 am

William Mooney

I talk to a lot of CEOs, CIOs, and CTOs who feel pressured to replace legacy (aka proven) applications that have served their multibillion-dollar organizations faithfully for 30 or 40 years or more, in a quest for “modernization.” My advice, more now than ever, is never touch a hot stove, and please don’t burn your house down.

While CEOs tend to have a longer lifespan, I’ve seen a great many CIOs and CTOs come and go because they got burned by an ill-thought-out move toward IT modernization and because, in some cases, they figuratively burned down the house, bringing line-of-business applications to their knees and significantly impacting operations—leaving it to their successors to beat a hasty retreat back to the rock-solid legacy systems that some see as old-fashioned.

Some say it’s a build versus buy question. I say it’s a built versus buy question: those legacy applications are already built and running. Yet I’ve encountered C-level executives who just two months after joining a company have made hasty—turned disastrous—decisions to throw out the old in pursuit of the new. But they’re trying to solve a problem that doesn’t really exist. Well, kind of. Yes, there are known issues and problems. However, companies typically don’t invest in solving these known issues and problems and instead kick the can down the road. Then the new CxO comes in and suddenly gets the green light to make the investment, and money that never existed before is now abundant.

Migrate your code to a new platform? Definitely. For years companies have been moving their legacy systems from OpenVMS, IBM AS/400 and AIX, Sun boxes, and other systems onto Windows or Linux, while retaining the original code of their legacy applications.

Apply a modern user interface? Go for it! With browser-based, Windows-desktop, and mobile front ends, you can change the UI at any time, without endangering the line-of-business legacy code that has kept your business prospering for decades, and you can continue to do so for decades to come.

Replicate your legacy data to a modern database? Absolutely. While preserving your existing data and logic, you also make your data available for ETL processing into a data warehouse or whatever other BI environment you choose.

Use modern development tools? Of course. Armed with the right tools, which a good developer can learn quickly, you can take advantage of the myriad developer productivity, code quality, and other features that are inherently present in modern IDEs like Microsoft Visual Studio. Your legacy application being written in DBL, COBOL, BASIC, or the like does not prevent you from using modern tools and development techniques.

It’s Hip to Be Square

When it comes to retaining your bullet-proof legacy systems that have supported your business for decades, I encourage you to have a new appreciation for the steadfastness of DBL, COBOL, and other legacy languages. As the musician Huey Lewis sings, “It’s hip to be square.” When it comes to stability, DBL, COBOL, and the like rock—as in rock solid.

In celebration of COBOL’s 60th birthday in 2019, Mike Madden posted an appreciation titled “Happy Birthday Dear COBOL,” which presented these figures:

• COBOL supports 90% of Fortune 500 business systems daily

• 70% of all critical business logic is written in COBOL

• COBOL connects 500 million mobile phone users daily

• 95% of ATM transactions pass through COBOL code

• 80% of all point-of-sale transactions rely on COBOL

• There are more COBOL transactions executed daily than Google and YouTube searches

• 1.5 million new lines of COBOL code are written every day

• 2 million people work in COBOL

Yet within the industry, there’s a tendency to judge a book by its cover, to see a green screen and cringe, and to risk one’s career by saying, “We’re going to rewrite that application to bring it into the modern era.”

Upon such statements, careers have faltered and business continuity has foundered.

Too often lost in a rush toward the new is the simple fact that you can apply a modern user interface to your legacy application’s code base, usually in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost of replacing the application with something else.

One of the main techniques for enabling this type of enhancement is to create a “services layer” between your legacy code and your new UI. Usually this involves building RESTful web services APIs that expose your application’s business logic and data through modern, flexible, open, and secure protocols.

Once you have this services layer in place, it can be used by any new UI that you choose to build, using whatever tools you decide to use. But be extremely cautious about trying to rewrite the back-end code that has been reliably supporting your business operations, perhaps for decades.

Question: Do you think you can rewrite 35 years of customized applications in three years? Quick answer: No. I’m sure your business applications have been steadily upgraded and customized over the years, involving a vast number of accumulated developer hours. The nuances in that code should be considered your secret sauce. Could it be duplicated in C# or some other language? Yes—but not within a timeframe, cost, or risk profile that most organizations would want to take on.

Gap Analysis: 2 or 3 Years

In the classic American western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the two outlaws have been tracked down by a posse. They’re at the edge of a cliff with nowhere to go except a very rough river far below. As Butch tries to talk the Sundance Kid into jumping off the cliff to the river below, Sundance finally confesses: “I can’t swim!” Butch laughs and says, “Are you crazy? The fall will probably kill you.”

That scene comes to mind when considering the essential task of performing a thorough gap analysis before trying to replicate the old legacy code that you think needs to be replaced. Just the gap analysis can take two to three years. That’s the jump. But attempting to create a new application without a gap analysis—using a needs-based approach—is equivalent to the other fate: facing certain death.

When I speak of the “secret sauce” incorporated into your legacy applications over the decades, I’m not talking about something basic like general ledger, accounts payable, or accounts receivable. I’m referring to the more complex pieces, like order entry and inventory management, that involve intricate orchestrations, workflows, and in-depth business knowledge.

For example, we worked with a company that has long provided DIBOL-based software for tracking grain in storage. That might sound simple enough, but the workflows are complex. Looking at just a subset of the tracked elements: upon arrival, the grain is measured for weight, of course, but also for moisture content, which feeds an algorithm to determine yield and value of the grain. Next, the grain is mixed with other grain in silos where it may sit for months or years, and it is tracked as it transfers from one silo to another for shipment. All along the way, there are elements and dependencies worked into the code that could take some years to identify through gap analysis, even before any actual coding starts.

We’ve seen supposed three-year modernization projects drag on for more than a decade, with still no end in sight. And there was no actual need to replace the application: other options were available that would have addressed the requirements more quickly and at a significantly lower cost. The new CxO just felt compelled to replace the application with something “modern.”

But Who Does Legacy?

A common fear is “But I can’t hire old-school developers!”

Any good developer that you hire out of a computer science program, given appropriate time and support, will learn both your environment and the language that you use. Of course, developing in a modern IDE can only help to accelerate that process. Good programmers adapt to a new language quickly.

The real question should be “Who has the business knowledge?”

What generally takes much more time for a new hire to learn is the specifics of your industry, and that learning challenge applies to all developers. This “domain knowledge” about your industry is what your legacy application has wrapped up in its code: decades of carefully acquired and crafted business logic. It’s not hard to find someone who codes. But try to find someone who knows grain elevators inside and out. Or who knows your international shipping regulations, practices, and requirements. Or your consumer-packaged goods business. Or life and casualty insurance. Those legacy systems are vast storehouses of carefully acquired wisdom, set into code as business logic.

You can put an attractive front end (and please do) on anything, through the use of web services and other modern technologies. But it could take years, perhaps decades, to capture and recast the real-life business logic sitting in that legacy code. So the next time someone suggests a multi-year modernization project, just smile and remind them: Sometimes it’s hip to be square.


Synergex Celebrates 40th Anniversary

By William Mooney, Posted on April 15, 2016 at 10:45 am

William Mooney

20160414-banner5
We are excited and grateful to celebrate Synergex’s 40th year in business.

We started by delivering applications to local businesses in the Sacramento area 40 years ago today. Shortly after opening our doors, founders Ken Lidster and Mike Morrissey got frustrated with having to rewrite perfectly good applications to take advantage of the latest DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) hardware and/or operating systems each time DEC came out with a new kit. This inspired them to create DBL (Data Business Language), which could take any version of DEC’s DIBOL language and simply recompile and relink to run on any DEC platform. This dramatically changed our—and ultimately our customers’—direction and put us on the map, as they say.

DBL was the first portable development language within DEC. In the ‘80s, Synergex (then named DISC) also became the first company to make it possible to migrate applications from a proprietary environment to the then emerging Unix/Xenix and MS-DOS systems. In the ‘90s, we enabled migration to Windows; at the turn of the century, to the web, APIs, and RDBMSs (SQL Server, Oracle, ODBC access, etc.); and in the teens, to .NET. Today we provide a migration path to mobile devices.

Forty years ago, very few of us, if any, could have imagined how today’s computing environment would look. Fewer still could have imagined that the applications they were developing would be able to run on all of these emerging platforms—but they can! Last week, I saw a DBL source code file dated 1976 run in .NET and on an Apple iPhone. Again, who could have imagined?!

Since our early shift to providing software development tools to application developers, our commitment to “portability” has never wavered. We have remained steadfast in our mission to deliver software tools and services to help our customers take advantage of current and relevant computing. Our products have been the ultimate “future proofing” to the significant investment customers have made in enterprise solutions.

And while many companies that were well known back in the day are no longer on the scene, we continue to grow and thrive more than ever—thanks in large part to our customers. Many of our ISV customers are the leaders in their respective vertical markets and continue to maintain their top positions and expand their install base. Some of our direct end users are household names with north of $100 billion in annual sales, who leverage  our tools to help them prosper. Without their support and partnership, I wouldn’t be writing this. So here’s a big shout out to all of our customers, with the biggest thanks there is.

Lastly, a company doesn’t grow and thrive without the dedication and hard work of its employees—both past and current. We have been—and continue to be—blessed to have very talented and driven people contribute to our success these past 40 years. Several, like myself, have been here for the lion’s share of our existence. But we also have many new employees who represent the future—and the next 40+ years of Synergex. Just as 40 years ago we couldn’t imagine what our industry would look like today, it’s impossible to envision what it will be like 40 years from now. Regardless, I feel very confident that Synergex will be here for our customers and their future generations, supporting whatever future computing environments come along.


The stars have aligned—Microsoft’s plans now synchronize with Synergex’s founding principle of portability

By William Mooney, Posted on April 1, 2016 at 3:31 pm

William Mooney

It was very exciting to learn at Build this week that Microsoft will now be offering Visual Studio (VS) as a development tool to build anything to deploy anywhere—from Linux to Apple to Android, you name it! As Steve Ives referenced in his recent blog post, all of the Xamarin tools that we’ve been leveraging are now included with VS.

The really cool thing about all of this is that Microsoft’s direction is in perfect alignment with ours. At our Summit meeting at the end of last year—a gathering of Synergex customers who provide input on Synergex’s technology roadmap—we received overwhelmingly positive feedback on our proposal to include the ability to use traditional Synergy within Visual Studio.

More and more of our customers are adopting Synergy .NET while still maintaining and developing in traditional Synergy, leading them to work with two separate development IDEs: Workbench for traditional Synergy and VS for Synergy .NET. We are happy to say that this will all change with the release of Synergy/DE 10.3.3, pegged for OUR conference in May. The 10.3.3 release will allow developers to use VS for both traditional and Synergy .NET—the post-conference workshop is even dedicated to this topic! I’m even thinking that this new functionality might inspire even more developers to play/experiment with Synergy .NET once they are using VS as their single IDE.

Synergex has always been committed to helping companies leverage their existing investments to stay competitive and current. This latest announcement from Microsoft really echoes that sentiment. After this week, reaching for the stars is now easier than ever!

build


Investing in the look and feel of your applications doesn’t matter…or does it?

By William Mooney, Posted on October 7, 2015 at 10:29 am

William Mooney

synergex-blog-image2Years ago I used to say to our direct corporate end-user customers, “You’re lucky. It doesn’t matter what your application(s) looks like because you’re not selling to compete for new business—all that matters is that it works well and meets your business needs.” End-users plugged merrily along, content to focus on functionality and substance, often in the form of a green-screen front end. In fact, many of those customers claimed that a character-based/green-screen application was much more efficient than using a “cumbersome mouse”—especially when it came to data entry. In the 90’s when Windows, GUI, and the like came on the scene our Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) had a different story—to be competitive, the ISVs suddenly had to worry about both how well their applications functioned AND how they looked. People and companies didn’t want to buy applications that weren’t shiny and new with a great user interface (UI)—even if a sophisticated UI didn’t always correlate with a sophisticated application under the hood. It became a game of how flashy can you make it as opposed to how well does it function.

Fast-forward a few years, and now everyone has to play on the same field—ISVs and corporate end-users. In today’s world, even corporate end-users need to make the move to modernization. If they don’t, the next generation of decision makers will. And when that happens, it’s likely the existing, time-proven solution that has been customized and fine-tuned over the past 30+ years, the one that makes the business unique and competitive, the one that has solved—and continues to solve—everyday business issues, will not survive. Yep, this new generation of decision makers will judge the book by its cover and determine the value of the application based on the way it looks and not what it does. It makes sense, because this new generation grew up knowing only great-looking applications—applications that are generally simpler and more discrete in functionality than complete, integrated solutions that touch every part of the organization but appear less shiny and sophisticated.

So, the bottom line is that if your application doesn’t look great, it will be perceived as less than great, and when that new decision maker comes in—it may be too late to save what you’ve spent so many years perfecting. Needless to say, I strongly recommend that all customers invest in modernizing their application(s) with a great looking UI and UX (user experience). As Billy Hollis affirmed at the recent Synergy DevPartner Conference, UX is equally as important. It’s not just the look and feel, but also the experience of the user that’s critical. It’s important to emphasize here too that a great UI/UX design and a high-performing/highly productive solution are not mutually exclusive. Having a well-designed GUI based application can only add to the functionality and power of your solution. So even if you feel your character-based solution is really the best one for your business, it’s rare for the look and feel to be overlooked in favor of substance. I can’t stress enough the importance of making this investment.

A significant benefit of having a Synergy-based application is that you can separate the UI from the logic and data. This means you can use future UIs without sacrificing the years of investment you have put into your business application. While the look and feel is what everyone sees, in reality the business logic is the true value. And once these two are separated, you can extend the life of your application(s) indefinitely, taking advantage of the ever evolving UI trends that come along. Although it may take some effort initially to separate the UI from the back-end, this is the course of least resistance and investment, and it will offer the largest and longest return.

At Synergex, our main focus is to develop solutions to help you advance and leverage your investment to take advantage of the latest modern technologies. In fact, with our recent release of Synergy DBL, we are venturing into the Universal Windows Platform (UWP), the latest UI experience. And while none of us can be certain what UI trends will be popular 10 years from now, just as none of us back in the ‘80s could have imagined what today’s UI would look like, I’m confident that we will be able to help you leverage your back-end and take advantage of whatever the future holds.


And you thought hiring good Synergy programmers was hard…

By William Mooney, Posted on July 31, 2015 at 2:05 pm

William Mooney

WJMBlog“Hiring good programmers is hard.” I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard this phrase during the past 30+ years I’ve been in this business. And, from my experience and research, I agree. A few customers have also told me that good Synergy programmers are harder to find than others, but over the years I’ve found that it doesn’t matter whether you’re looking for developers experienced in Synergy DBL, C#, Java, VB.NET, or any other language… hiring good programmers is just hard. The exception, of course, is the gaming industry, where a plethora of young talented programmers are excited to spend countless hours writing games for almost no money. Sort of reminds me of the early programmers who wrote business application solutions back in the day!

So, how do you find a good Synergy developer? Well, for starters, don’t limit your pool to developers experienced in Synergy. Find a great programmer and make him/her a master in the language you use. Any good programmer can learn Synergy, or C#, or Java, etc. But not every programmer who knows Synergy or C# or Java is or will become a great programmer. Seek out developers who have current modern day developer skills such as OO, .NET, etc. If they don’t already know Synergy, they’ll pick it up quickly and will appreciate that it is a modern OO language that runs on virtually all platforms, including mobile, and is fully integrated with Visual Studio. Then, send your new developers to a Synergex class, have PSG come on-site to get them up to speed, and (of course) send them to the annual Synergy DevPartner conference.

Tip: Consider domain knowledge specific to your industry. You are much better off hiring a good developer who is knowledgeable in your particular vertical market and teaching him/her DBL than vice versa.

Also, open the door to hiring developers with programming experience (vs. just having a computer science degree). When you look back at the early years of our industry there were very few universities offering programming degrees—most of the original developers of what are now world class enterprise applications had no formal education on programming. These developers had raw talent and enthusiasm to solve problems and create solutions. (Some of you reading this blog are likely those original developers!) This too is how Synergex started. In fact, many of our top talent never received formal education in programming. That said, I’m not recommending that you seek developers without formal degrees but I am encouraging you to focus on smart, eager developers whom you can train and educate to be part of your next generation of leaders. Here at Synergex we’ve developed and use a variety of third-party tests that can help vet sharp young talent—this talent has made a big impact on our development team. We would be happy to share the tools we use.

So you’ve advertised for a talented, trainable, language-agnostic developer, interviewed your candidates to confirm a good fit with your culture, vetted out analytical aptitude, and are convinced that your candidate will be a great addition to your team… What if the candidate turns the tables on you and asks, “Why would I want to program in Synergy DBL?” What do you say?

I recommend that you have this question answered in their minds long before they have the opportunity to ask it. Make sure your candidates all understand the value of Synergy DBL and the exciting opportunities they will have to work with these modern development tools. Let them know that skills they will gain using Synergy DBL will provide a lifetime of employment opportunities any place in the world they want to live and work.

Congratulations on hiring your next great programmer!

References:

http://www.roberthalf.com/technology/blog/why-a-good-java-developer-is-hard-to-find

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-so-hard-hire-technical-people-chloe-mills

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/careers/career-advice/life-at-work/i-want-to-be-a-video-game-developer-what-will-my-salary-be/article22029750/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2013/06/05/are-programmers-in-cc-more-preferred-at-google-than-programmers-in-java/

http://spin.atomicobject.com/2015/07/15/language-doesnt-matter/

http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/career-management/how-entry-level-developers-are-being-squeezed-out-of-the-job-field-and-what-they-can-do-about-it/


The Synergy DevPartner Conference: There’s no “one-way” about it

By William Mooney, Posted on April 23, 2014 at 11:23 am

William Mooney

With the 2014 Synergy DevPartner Conference right around the corner, I have been doing some reflecting on how our mission statement, “Advancing Applications. Partnering for Success,” applies to the conference. On the surface, a conference seems like a one-way conversation: the conference host presents information to attendees, who (hopefully) absorb it. However, over the past 28 years (!) of hosting the DevPartner Conference (formerly SPC), I have come to really appreciate the element of partnership involved in the DevPartner Conference—a partnership that transforms a few days of knowledge transfer into enduring business success.

So what does this collaboration look like? It starts with attendees feeling engaged and challenged throughout the three busy days of sessions and tutorials. Their enthusiasm about the tools we have to offer builds over the course of the week, inspiring them to pass the information they glean up the chain of command once they return to the office. The leadership team is receptive to the new ideas, which are incorporated into the company’s short and long-term strategic plans. From there, the information turns into action, and the ideas presented at the conference reappear in the form of a modernized and more powerful application based on proven functionality. Of course, this process could take months, or even years—but with the partnership in place, these goals CAN and WILL be achieved. We’ll do our part and give it our all during those three days of presentations and demos—but it is up to attendees and their managers to meet us halfway by ensuring that the lessons learned don’t get swallowed up in the daily grind, and that the investment in education leads to innovation and increased efficiency back at the office.

I was discussing this vision with a customer’s Senior Manager who is planning on sending a contingent of software developers to this year’s conference. She made my day when she described the system her company has adopted to maximize the value of the DevPartner Conference: after returning to the office, the team presents a condensed version of what they learned to the staff back at home. Studies have shown that explanation significantly facilitates learning, so this is a great way for attendees to reinforce the skills learned at the conference—while at the same time sharing the information with the rest of the team.

Whether or not you go with this model, you have a little over 6 weeks to prepare your own post-conference plan for success. Let us know how we can partner with you to make it happen!

See you in Birmingham or Chicago.

Cheers!


Windows 8: If I can do it, so can you

By William Mooney, Posted on February 13, 2013 at 9:10 am

William Mooney

Although I’ve always considered myself to be an early adopter, I must admit I’ve been a bit skeptical about upgrading to Windows 8 for a number of reasons: its completely new look and feel, all the negative propaganda surrounding it, its missing “Start” button, our internal struggles with the new icon requirements, other people’s horror stories… just to name a few. This past weekend I was forced to face my fears head on when I offered to help my father purchase a laptop. We found ourselves at one of the big box stores, where I quickly realized that any laptop (or desktop, for that matter) we purchased would have Windows 8 installed (and I would have to pay a downgrade fee to get to my tried and true Windows 7).  When I expressed my doubts to the salesperson, he countered with surprising enthusiasm. He raved about Windows 8 and was so reassuring that I soon felt comfortable enough to make the leap, instead of going online to purchase a Windows 7 system.  It certainly got me thinking that I’ve been paying attention to only the negative stuff, and not the positive. Even more importantly—just like 64-bit systems—I know that our customers will soon be dealing with end-users just like me.

At home a few hours later with my dad’s new Windows 8 laptop, buyer’s remorse and the dreaded Windows 8 user experience was full on. Things that were so familiar and intuitive were gone. Armed with my trusty Windows 7 laptop and my BFF Google at my side, I slowly and painfully learned how to turn on Windows Defender, get the Windows Explorer 10 address bar to reappear, get to traditional Windows, etc., etc.

Unsure about how I would be able to support my dad on Windows 8 when I didn’t have a clue myself, I decided the next day that the sooner I upgraded my own system and got on with it, the sooner I would be able to help my dad—and hopefully our customers as well.

So my next step was to figure out what on my system was—and more importantly, was not—supported. I stumbled upon a great little tool, the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant. You basically just run this tool to determine which programs on your computer are or are not compatible with Windows 8. I highly recommend it. When you run it, you’ll notice that Synergy/DE 10.1 is listed as compatible with Windows 8, which brings me to the real point of this post.

You probably have users/customers who will ultimately upgrade to Windows 8 (or the latest version of whatever platform you’re on), either because they drink the Kool-Aid or, frankly, because they have no other choice. You’ll have some who will be gung-ho about going to the latest version and oblivious of any reason not to. Others, like me, will be skeptical about upgrading, but it’s in their nature to go for it anyway. And you’ll have others who will just happen to buy a new system and will assume all of their software is supported. No matter what the reason, you’ll want to be prepared when your users ultimately upgrade, so make sure your applications can support these customers when they inevitably ask. First step: make sure to get your Synergy/DE version current by upgrading to version 10.1 right away. Then, do what I’m doing: vow to learn something new about your new version/platform every day. In other words, embrace the change!


What would you say to a prospect who questions why your app is written in Synergy?

By William Mooney, Posted on September 20, 2012 at 5:38 pm

William Mooney

Recently the technology director for one of our top customers forwarded to me a copy of a lengthy email he had sent to the employees at his company, just raving about the new features available in the latest version of Synergy/DE. Apparently his sales director had responded to the email with great enthusiasm, but requested a condensed version of the email that he could forward out to decision makers and prospects. So my contact, the development manager, asked me if I could repeat something I had said during one of the evening events at the DevPartner Conference in May—something about how to respond to a prospect who questions why your app is written in Synergy. He thought what I had said represented a condensed version of his email, and was something that his sales director would be able to use. At first, I tried to remember exactly what it was that I said (bear in mind, I probably had a pint of Guinness under my belt at the time) but then quickly decided that there was an easy answer to this question—Guinness or no Guinness.

So, I provided the response below.

If asked, “What would you say to a prospect who questions why your app is written in Synergy?”, I would say…

Application X [the customer’s application] is developed with Synergy DBL, which is one of the most advanced languages in existence today for developing enterprise business applications. While Synergy/DE is a modern OO development suite that rivals any popular tool set today, what separates it from the pack is its portability. When we first developed Application X 30 years ago, we could never have possibly imagined that our customers would need to run on Windows 10 years ago or that there would be a .NET environment as we know it today. Because we use Synergy/DE, which over the years has consistently added support for the platforms we’ve needed to get to, and which currently compiles and runs on OpenVMS, all flavors of UNIX, Linux, Windows, .NET, handheld devices, and the Cloud, we at Company X can focus on functionality. There is no question there will be new user platforms down the road, but because Application X is based on Synergy/DE, we will be in a position to leverage our current business logic without the need for rewrites, no matter what shape a new platform happens to take. For “future proofing” an application, there’s no better place to be.

Cheers!

 


Welcome Back, DBL

By William Mooney, Posted on September 12, 2012 at 12:17 pm

William Mooney

OK, we were wrong… and many of you were right! Back before the turn of the century, we went through some re-branding efforts of our development tools—and renaming “Synergy DBL” to “Synergy Language” was one of the biggies. Ever since then, we’ve been trying to correct both customers and employees whenever they reference “DBL”. The primary reasons for making the change were 1) to move away from something associated with a “3GL,” and 2) to create a simpler, more descriptive name. The challenge here was twofold: first, going from “DBL” to “Language” really wasn’t that exciting in the first place. And, second, no matter what we changed the name to, you and our employees would always and forever call it DBL–because that’s the name that’s embedded in decades of code. DBL is the name of our compiler, after all, and the extension of our source files.  So, as our portable, advanced, object-oriented Synergy products have stood the test of time and have soared to even greater heights while other development tools have come and gone (4GLs, RAD-Rapid Application Development, etc.), we are now returning to, and embracing, the name that was there at the beginning—and always has been there—welcome back, Synergy DBL!


Burned again!

By William Mooney, Posted on August 30, 2010 at 2:20 pm

William Mooney

I’ve just been burned again by a third-party application that doesn’t integrate with Office 2010. To the bane of our IT department, I’m constantly upgrading to the latest and greatest version of everything—the latest being Office 2010. [Note to our ISVs:  I’m like that customer who makes you cringe when he/she calls… ;)] And while I really, really, really love Office 2010, it just doesn’t integrate well with the applications I use, almost negating all of its benefits. My first productivity loss came when my emails to customers weren’t automatically going into our CRM app.  I am not the only one who is just blown away that this major player in CRM does not support Office 2010—and is not expected to until later this year! Next came our VOIP telephone system, which, when integrated with Office 2007, practically eliminated the need for a telephone handset. Office 2010 has brought me back to the hand set, and I just learned it will be at least another 6 months before our phone system supports Office 2010!  So much for keeping current.  I was so excited to use a 64-bit program, but what’s the point if the apps I use don’t work with it?

Perhaps I am overly sensitive to this issue because it has always been so important to us to support new versions of third-party products before our customers need them. I recall several years ago when Roger Andrews, our Synergy/DE Architect, was urging us to prepare for native 64-bit support. I thought at the time that we were way too early in the game. But, as it turned out, we were just in time. We work diligently to keep up with current hardware and operating systems so our customers can plan and anticipate the needs of their users. The proliferation of 64-bit systems has actually caught many of our customers by surprise. While 64-bit systems have been out for several years, the O/S support hasn’t always been there. That’s not the case today. Today, customers (like me!) are expecting 64-bit hardware, 64-bit operating systems, and 64-bit applications. They view anything less as inferior. Many of our customers are now catching up. This brings me back to my Office 2010 dilemma. While I’m benefitting from the substantial application enhancements and incredible performance enhancements of a native 64-bit program, I am losing several productivity tools that don’t yet support Office 2010. Almost defeats the purpose of upgrading.

I’m sure that there have been cases where we have not been ahead of the game, but I’m appreciative of the effort we make to anticipate the requirements of our users, often before they even request them. My personal experience has really brought home the point that the best, shiniest product in the world doesn’t matter too much if the software you want to use doesn’t run on or with it. Lesson learned: keep your software up to date so your users don’t get burned like I did!

P.S. I still can’t believe Adobe has not released a 64-bit version of Flash on Windows — argghhhhh


Gearing up for another great SPC

By William Mooney, Posted on August 4, 2010 at 1:47 pm

William Mooney

It’s been a while since I posted a blog, but the SPC always seems to propel me back into the blogosphere! SPC 2010 is unbelievably just around the corner, and we are once again gearing up for a conference that is not-to-be-missed.

A few years ago, a customer asked me to help him justify the conference to his team and upper management. I quickly jotted down the top reasons to attend the SPC and ended up sending the list to all of our customers. As the reasons haven’t changed much since then, I won’t bore you by repeating them all but think the main ones deserve a recap.

Here goes…

  • Continuing education. Imagine going to your heart doctor for a check up and learning that he or she has not been to an industry-related conference for several years. How has he/she kept up with all of the advances in the technology? Reading journals and surfing the net? Wouldn’t you prefer he/she had a more well-rounded education including hands-on instruction, networking with peers, and one-on-ones with industry experts? Likewise with your software—make sure your “application doctors” are getting the best education possible.
  • Break away from your day-to-day routine. One of our customers said about the SPC, “The SPC gives me a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of business and think strategically—I use it like a software development retreat.”  I have to agree. More often than not I solve problems or come up with new ideas when I’m away from the office on a business trip or seminar. And, your employees who attend will come back motivated and inspired by your confidence in sending them. I know this first-hand from the responses I get from my employees when I send them to conferences.
  • Learn about the future of Synergy/DE. Version 9.5 will offer native support for Microsoft’s .NET Framework, enabling you to interoperate with applications written in other .NET languages, such as C# or VB .NET; to take advantage of all .NET Framework classes; and to develop Synergy code in Visual Studio. At the SPC, you will learn the ins and outs of the new technology, and get the opportunity to try it out for yourself with hands-on exercises. (Note: The focus isn’t on getting to .NET. The focus is on modernizing your application – and .NET just happens to be the best way to do it. I’ll be blogging more about this shortly!)
  • Experience the latest functionality hands-on. It’s one thing to hear about all the new features we’ve added to our products over the years—it’s another to actually try them out with the knowledgeable PSG consultants standing by for questions. The popular Code Phantom is back, offering even bigger, better, and more enjoyable challenges to help you experience the latest functionality first-hand.
  • You want to make sure you are fully taking advantage of Synergy/DE 9.3. Synergy/DE 9.3 delivers a number of important features that enable you to improve security, performance, and productivity. The SPC will cover these features in detail so you can be sure you are making the most of them in your own applications.
  • Networking. SPC attendees often describe the networking opportunities as the most valuable aspect of the conference. Where else will you be among so many other Synergy/DE developers, who may be working on or may have completed projects just like those you are considering or may be struggling with? One of our customers who traveled from Europe told me he justified the entire conference just by one conversation he had with another customer at the welcome reception. The rest of the conference was just icing on the cake. And because this year’s conference is in Sacramento, the Synergex staff members who are developing and supporting your Synergy/DE products will be there to answer your questions.
  • Your business depends on it. I could go through several analogies ranging from maintaining your health, home, investment portfolios, etc., but the bottom line is that your business depends on your Synergy/DE solutions. With that in mind, how could you not take advantage of this once-a-year opportunity to make sure you are taking advantage of all that is available to you—that you are working most efficiently, and that your products are as functional and powerful as the technology allows them to be?

You can find details about the conference at conference.synergex.com. I look forward to seeing you there.


The message is the same; it’s just the words that have changed

By William Mooney, Posted on September 2, 2009 at 4:24 pm

William Mooney

I dropped my daughter off at her first day of high school this week and got caught up in a “get back to business/summer’s over” mentality–get to the office, sharpen my pencils, and focus on what’s really important.

First order of business: Blogging. It’s been weighing on my mind that I haven’t posted in a while, and as I mentioned previously, I’ve been anxious to talk about our new tagline, Advancing Applications. Partnering for Success.

Our tagline for years was “Take Part in Creating Success.” These five words were plastered on everything we sent out. The concept was to convey to our customers, employees, and vendors that we are only successful when our customers are successful. I polled some Synergex new-hires for candid comments, however, and learned that they found the tagline confusing – i.e., who was taking part in whose success? We slowly backed away from the mantra to the point that we got rid of it all together.

This troubled me. Taglines articulate a company’s vision and empower people – employees, customers, vendors – to make decisions in line with the company’s overall objectives. (Think FedEx when they were just an overnight service – Surely “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight” empowered their employees to make that happen, at whatever cost, without having to ask permission first.) So, we recruited some Mad Men types (in our case Mad Women) to help us find a way to convey the original message without the confusion. We white-boarded ideas around customers, products…everything. We finally chose “Advancing Applications. Partnering for Success.”

That’s it. Our application of the Law of the Little Shovel. Our existence is based on these simple words: “Advancing Applications” because that’s what we’ve been doing since the early days of helping customers migrate from one platform to another; to today’s customers who want to implement new Windows user interfaces and Web front ends, or integrate data with Oracle and SQL Server, hand held apps, and a lot more. And “partnering for success” because we recognize that we are partners with our customers.

Our role extends much farther than providing products and services to help customers advance applications. It means coming up with ideas and ways to help them succeed – from designing new logos for them, to sending out mailings to help them get new business, to training their support departments on new technology — simply, partnering with them however we can to ensure their continued success.

So, armed with my sharp pencils and little shovel, empowered by the vision present and clear, I am eager to help my partners advance their applications to ensure success. Please call on me to let me know how we can help you.


SPC Boston comes to a close

By William Mooney, Posted on May 28, 2009 at 6:55 pm

William Mooney

We just wrapped up the SPC in Boston and it went great. Customers seemed to really like the ChronoTrack demo app (and all that sample code to take home!) and the Code Phantom’s challenge was answered by nearly all of the attendees – in fact, many stayed late just to make sure they’d completed it. (We kept them energized with pizza and beer, of course.)  I received lots of positive comments from customers about the conference and Synergy/DE in general. One customer mentioned that he had written us off 10 years ago but is absolutely amazed at how far we have come and what can be done with Synergy/DE. Another customer at one of the lunches referenced how much he had learned about what is possible with Synergy/DE that he hadn’t known about because he’d been “heads-down” for so long with his current project. Overall, customers were really pleased about learning what they can do right now with their existing Synergy/DE-based applications to make them more powerful.

We were also joined by Bigbah and his team (MannyJodah, and Mark), who seemed to really enjoy the conference – at least according to their Facebook pages!

It was a really informative conference and a great time was had by all. We’re looking forward to seeing our friends “across the pond” in a couple of weeks.


Customers going to great lengths to attend the SPC

By William Mooney, Posted on April 23, 2009 at 9:04 pm

William Mooney

Not surprisingly, the upcoming SPC (Success Partner Conference) has been prevalent in my recent conversations and customer visits.

Today I was speaking to a customer in the Midwest who told me the Boston SPC overlaps his company’s conference, so he’s trying to make it to the London SPC instead.  Another customer is paying out of his own pocket to get the conference because his company has limited travel this year.  And another customer is using his own money *and* vacation time to get to the conference for the very same reason.

It really struck me how much our customers value our conference—both for the benefits it provides to their companies, and to them professionally— and reassured me about all of the man-hours we have put into preparing all of the content for the conference.  Our Professional Services Group has been working since last June on this year’s sessions and demo application, making sure they cover all of the recent enhancements to the Synergy/DE product line.  When I hear the lengths customers go to be a part of this knowledge transfer, and I see the resulting impact on their applications and their businesses, I know our investment has paid off.

I’m looking forward to a great conference – see you in Boston or London!


My initiation into the blogosphere: SPC 2009

By William Mooney, Posted on April 2, 2009 at 7:40 pm

William Mooney

OK, time to jump into the blog scene. It’s either that or start “tweeting”—and I’m just not there yet. I was asked to start a blog, so here goes…

The biggest hurdle I’ve faced re. starting a blog is Where To Start. There is so much to talk about! Most of the things I expect to blog about are recurring themes from conversations I have with customers—it will be great to document and share these. Other blogs will cover random topics that I feel would be of interest to you. So my first blog will be a hybrid of the two, with the subject being our upcoming SPC (Synergex Success Partner Conference). Some of you may remember that the original name of the SPC was DC for “Developer Conference.” Today, still, the conference primarily targets developers, but the overall theme is, as it always has been, “Partnering with our customers to help them succeed.” (On that note, stay tuned for a future blog about our new tagline: “Advancing Applications. Partnering for Success.”) While most of our customer contact is with the actual developers of Synergy/DE-based software, Synergy/DE products also impact those in an organization who are not developers. It is for that reason that we strive to partner with several different types of players in an organization to help the company overall make the best use of our products.

To that end, we have expanded our communications this year to target those different players specifically. Our Marketing team has developed four characters: Jodah VeloperMark Etting, Manny Jurr, and Bigbah Smann. Each character is an exaggerated representation of his role’s interests within an organization and how they may interact with those of another role’s. So far, we have had some good success with this expansion of communication and are having a lot of fun with the characters. (Look for them on Facebook!)

The message is that no matter what role you play in your organization, the SPC will benefit you – by providing a firsthand look at how easily you can advance your applications with today’s Synergy/DE; by helping you hone your development skills; and/or by showing you the new features your development team should be taking advantage of.

  • Presidents, CEOs, VPs, General Managers—basically those who are responsible for your P/L (AKA Bigbah Smann): Your Synergy/DE-based application(s) are among your company’s most important assets. I recommend you attend at least the first day of the conference so you can get a firsthand view of all of the functionality that can be immediately attained to make your applications more powerful, and for ISVs, more marketable. I’m confident you’ll be very surprised. In fact, I’ll even comp the first day of the conference for any CEO/CIO/CTO/GM who accompanies a developer to the SPC.
  • Those who are responsible for the sales and marketing of your Synergy/DE based applications (AKA Mark Etting): Like the person (above) who is responsible for the bottom line, you can gain significant benefits by attending the conference. It’s a great opportunity to see what your application is capable of, and what other Synergy/DE customers have done to make their applications more marketable.
  • And of course the people responsible for the development of your applications (AKA Jodah Veloper and Manny Jurr): I recommend you attend all three days of the conference – this will enable you to take away the skills and knowledge required to quickly and easily advance your applications.

So, whatever role you play in your organization, I look forward to catching up with you at the conference, or meeting you if we have not yet had the opportunity.

OK, that first blog was relatively painless! I look forward to blogging again soon.


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