Modifications Improve Accuracy of Client’s Project Reporting Mechanism

Modifications Improve Accuracy of Client’s Project Reporting Mechanism

Zircon Improves Accuracy of Client’s Project Efficiency Reporting Mechanism

Operating Systems: Windows (XP)
Languages: VBA
Other: Microsoft Excel

 

Our client had conducted a study of potential ways that cost savings could be delivered through framework contracts. Main contractors would be prepared to reduce their rates, providing contracts are signed in advance for a defined number of years, based on the projected workload of upcoming projects.

The monitoring and reporting of efficiency savings for projects is handled through Efficiency Scorecard spreadsheets built in Microsoft Excel 2003. Separate scorecards are maintained for each regional area, which generates a significant amount of duplicate data that required manually updating on each spreadsheet. In order to ensure that these scorecards provide a complete and accurate project efficiency and reporting mechanism, a number of modifications were required.

Having experience of working with some of our client’s other tools, alongside previous experience of redesigning similar spreadsheet documents for some of our other clients, Zircon was in the perfect position to perform these modifications.

Zircon’s initial responsibility was to focus on removing the redundant information for the Scorecard document and updating the system reference data to acknowledge any changes made during this process. Upon completing this redesign activity Zircon was to perform an audit of all the calculations in the spreadsheet to confirm that they were correct and would refer back to the appropriate reference data.

Throughout the audit process each time a defect was identified and corrected a detailed log was made to ensure the client was fully aware of each change. In addition to the documentation of defects the client had asked Zircon to document every calculation performed by the spreadsheets, and the data they use, to assist our client with understanding and maintaining the altered document.

Prior to the conclusion of the first development stage a review of the upgraded Scorecard was carried out by the client so that Zircon could make any further alterations to ensure the tool operates as specified. Following the completion of the first phase the Efficiency Scorecard spreadsheet was delivered to the client with the data from each separate regional spreadsheet document collated into one place.

The second development phase found Zircon creating a reporting tool that would extract data from the redesigned Scorecard spreadsheet to display information on regional and national efficiency savings. The client had also asked Zircon to integrate a separate Lead Development Manager’s Efficiency Tracker spreadsheet into the Scorecard document so as to avoid the duplication of effort when populating data.

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Helping our Armed Forces Prepare for Future Conflicts with up to Date Electronic Warfare Software

Helping our Armed Forces Prepare for Future Conflicts with up to Date Electronic Warfare Software

Helping our Armed Forces Prepare for Future Conflicts with up to Date Electronic Warfare Software

Operating Systems: Windows (XP, 7)
Languages: C#.NET, C++
Cobham Aviation Services provides operational readiness training, mission rehearsal and electronic warfare training for military and international armed forces. This involves using complex software to simulate attacks and when Cobham decided that this was nearing the end of its useful life they asked Zircon to update it.
Background To The Project

During the Falkland’s War Exocet missiles inflicted heavy damage on the Royal Navy.  After the conflict there was an obvious need to train naval personnel and pilots in how best to cope with the evolving threats posed by hostile guided missiles.  For many years Cobham Aviation Services has been performing this role for the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force and NATO, amongst others.

The company operates a fleet of Falcon 20 jets fitted with a number of pods that create a variety of different effects to recreate hostile environments.  These include radar jamming and threat simulation, communications jamming, false target generation, electronic surveillance, platform location and attitude logging, and height-keeping towed targets with controllable radar cross section.  The Electronic Warfare Officer on the plane controls the system and produces whatever effects are required to stage realistic end-to-end rehearsals of complex and demanding missions.

When the multi-million pound contract was recently renewed for a further 10 years it was decided that the legacy software needed updating.  It was written in Borland C++, a language which was no longer supported.  This meant it was becoming increasingly difficult to further develop the application to allow enhancement of the training schedule.  What’s more the hardware had become dated and was difficult to maintain.  So Cobham felt the need to translate it into a more modern language.

“They were very focused on building a good relationship with us, and pretty driven in terms of accomplishing what was required on schedule.”

Colin Rebettes

Cobham

The Zircon Solution

Colin Rebettes, one of Cobham’s electronic warfare experts, explains that “We’d written the original software ourselves, but that needed translating from an old Borland compiler to an integrated development environment.  We had the capability to do that in-house but our workload meant it was more sensible to outsource it.”

When Cobham started making enquires about a suitable software house to undertake this project Zircon’s name came up.  “We went to their offices,” Colin explains, “had a look around, reviewed their capabilities, and were impressed with the work they’d done in other environments.  Also, the fact that they had BSI ISO9001:2008 (TickIT) accreditation was important to us.”

We were able to port the software over into a current language (C# .NET).  This enabled us to retain much of the core application code.  In the process we also fixed a number of bugs that had either become apparent over time or which we discovered once we set to work.  This approach was much more cost effective than a complete re-write and has successfully extended the life of this legacy system and made future enhancements a lot easier.

Rising To Every Challenge

Colin explains that “There was a bit of an issue in that this environment was new to the Zircon engineers.  They weren’t familiar with the kind of tasks the software was being asked to perform, but they soon developed a good understanding of what was going on.”

Another issue was the fact that “We couldn’t supply Zircon with the actual hardware and had to rig up an environment on which the software could run and be tested – we had to create some simulated interfaces for them to work with.  Then there was the fact that there was a huge quantity of legacy code which was not written to current standards and which contained a lot of bugs  So it was a big job.”

Despite all these difficulties we were able to hit our milestones on schedule.   “They were ahead of us much of the time,” concedes Colin, “we were pretty busy on other projects and weren’t always ready to verify and sign things off as soon as they were completed.”

“There was a bit of an issue in that this environment was new to the Zircon engineers …..  but they soon developed a good understanding of what was going on.”

Colin Rebettes

Cobham

Easy To Work With

Colin comments that “The level of services from Zircon was excellent, they were very professional.  Although their offices weren’t nearby to ours we stayed in close touch with their engineers on the telephone.  We had no difficulty sorting out challenges as they arose – they were good at communicating.   And if it was something that needed discussing face to face they’d come down to see us at a moment’s notice.”

“I liked the fact that they weren’t too big, or too small,” Coin continues.  “They had all the necessary skills, capabilities and resources, but weren’t so large that working closely with us was a problem – it was a good fit.  They were very focused on building a good relationship with us, and pretty driven in terms of accomplishing what was required on schedule.  If we had a similar project I’d definitely be looking to use them again.”

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New Web Portal Feature Satisfies Emerging Needs of Client’s End Users

New Web Portal Feature Satisfies Emerging Needs of Client’s End Users

Introduction of New Web Portal Feature Satisfies Emerging Needs of POS Device End Users

Operating Systems: Windows (XP, 7), Microsoft Windows Server 2003
Languages: C#, Javascript, VB.NET, XML
Frameworks: ASP.NET, WCF
Technologies: AJAX
Comms/Networking: HTTPS, SOAP
Software Development Tools: Visual Studio
Our client is a well-known provider of innovative and secure Point Of Sale (POS) systems. In order to support companies in possession of these systems our client offers a 24/7 helpdesk that utilised a database to track and manage maintenance of all the POS terminals currently in the field.

One of these companies expressed a desire to take complete control over the maintenance of the terminals on their premises, and as a result would require some degree of access to the maintenance information database. Our client needed a solution that would interact with the database and provide access to only the relevant information.

Knowing that they did not have access to the necessary resources in house the client approached Zircon for help with developing and implementing a solution.

Initially, Zircon took on more of a consultancy role, the client knew that they wanted a web based solution but were unsure of the best way to proceed. By working alongside the client and maintaining a clear view of the requirements it was decided that a web portal that utilised ASPX.NET, AJAX and JavaScript technologies was the best way forward.

Upon the completion of the final development and testing stages the solution went live to the client’s end user, who immediately put it to good use. With Zircon’s help, our client managed to avoid a potentially difficult situation and allowed them to continue providing a revenue earning service.

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