About County of Marin
Located on the northern side of the Golden Gate Bridge in California, County of Marin has the sixth highest income per capita of all US counties. Despite a relatively small population of 250,000, Marin has a large impact in the San Francisco Bay Area, a region with one of the highest property values in the United States.
Reusing Valuable COBOL Business Logic
The lifeblood of any US county is the accurate and timely payment of property taxes. County of Marin collects annual property taxes of over $825 million to help fund the local schools, cities, special districts and county budgets. To manage its property valuation and taxation process, the organization introduced TAPIS in the 1980s. TAPIS is an in-house developed solution which previously ran in a mainframe environment. Bob Mahoney, IT Manager for County of Marin comments: “Around 2008 we worked with Micro Focus to move TAPIS from the mainframe onto a Windows-based environment, supported by Micro Focus Net Express. This enabled us to reuse valuable existing business logic captured in COBOL and gave us integration capabilities with other technologies. Overall, we reduced our operating costs by 91 percent while cutting our batch processing time in half.”
Visual COBOL and TFS Provide Centralized Code Transparency
Because TAPIS is a business-critical solution for the county and with over 100 users, finding windows of opportunity where the system was not in constant active use was difficult. Some public web-based applications interface with COBOL programs at the backend and so those also needed to be taken into account when considering how and when to upgrade. The decision was made for a phased approach to a full Micro Focus and Microsoft architecture, with Visual COBOL as the development platform, SQL as the backend database, and Microsoft Team Foundation Server (TFS) to manage all source code from a central location.
Improved Development Collaboration and Modernization Potential
Mahoney says about the partnership with Micro Focus: “Net Express was a very stable solution that didn’t require much ongoing support from Micro Focus. We were really impressed with the level of support we got during our recent modernization project. Visual COBOL recompiled the overwhelming majority of our code easily, but when we encountered some minor issues, Micro Focus Support worked through the smallest of details with us to help us ensure success.”
All developers now leverage Visual Studio as their common development environment. Working on the same platform makes it much easier to collaborate on projects. COBOL developers use Visual Studio to become more familiar with other development languages, and it is easier to attract new development talent into the organization as Visual Studio is a more commonly used development environment.
The team would like to start looking at interface modernization: making the system easier for users to navigate with fewer clicks, for example. The county’s property assessors already use a web-based application with a modernized interface for assessment of unsecured properties, so there is an existing template of ideas. Mahoney concludes: “Marin’s strategic IT direction is towards cloud deployment where possible. This is a long-term goal for TAPIS, but we know that Visual COBOL can support us on this journey and provide us with the capability to reuse valuable business logic developed over the last 30 years.”