“We realized that a standard solution wouldn’t cover all our needs, and customization would have cost too much. Apart from that, developing our own solutions gives us a competitive edge, and we want to keep that if we can.”
Head of Applications Development
Peek & Cloppenburg
Hamburg-based Peek & Cloppenburg is one of Germany’s largest retailers of quality clothing from respected labels. The company has more than 2,500 employees and 26 branches across Germany and Poland.
Peek & Cloppenburg had run its mission-critical enterprise resource management system on a mainframe since the early eighties. Programmed in COBOL and implemented on an IBM 390 host system, the system controlled the company’s entire merchandise movements, from ordering and delivery to the cash desk. Essentially, the core operative functions of the company.
This had worked well, but Peek & Cloppenburg needed to find an alternative to the mainframe for two main reasons: The system’s high performance made it very expensive, and the VSE platform was simply no longer up to date. Connectivity with other systems, such as the company’s UNIX-based data warehousing solution or PCs, had always posed a problem. Switching to a more modern mainframe had been considered when the accounts payable and cost calculation systems were moved from the mainframe to SAP R/3 under Linux, but discarded as it would have made IT operations even more expensive.
“We realized that a standard solution wouldn’t cover all our needs” says Helmut Faasch, Head of Applications Development at Peek & Cloppenburg. “And customization would have cost too much. Apart from that, developing our own solutions gives us a competitive edge, and we want to keep that if we can.”
The solution became clear when Unilog, the vendor of Peek & Cloppenburg’s time management system also running on the VSE host, moved its system from the host to the Windows platform. Unilog had used Micro Focus products to port its system to the new platform directly, and it was logical to use the same method for the enterprise resource management system. “At first it was hard to believe such a big and critical host application could really run under Windows,” says Faasch. Backed up by evidence from Bertelsmann subsidiary ICS in Vienna, which had already successfully moved a system from VSE to Windows, Peek & Cloppenburg took the decision.
Supported by ICS and Micro Focus, Peek & Cloppenburg transferred around 700 batch and 150 interactive programs to the Windows platform. Micro Focus supplies a runtime environment to match the development environment. This means the COBOL programs developed for the mainframe can be transferred with hardly any modifications. In many cases, simple recompiling is enough for the new platform, while Micro Focus Enterprise Server™ provides the required runtime libraries.
In addition, because a separate project is planned for adjustment to the graphic user interface, the system’s interactive programs could be moved directly. As a result, end users still use their familiar 3270 screen with 24 eighty-character lines with Windows and have not even noticed the radical change that has taken place. This was one of the project’s secondary requirements.
The large number of batch programs Peek & Cloppenburg uses for tasks such as automatic ordering or consolidation of cash accounts of the branches presented a bigger challenge.
“Micro Focus promised these programs would be transferred one-to-one to Windows, and that’s exactly what happened,” Koch continues. “The modification work involved was minimal. We don’t have problems with user acceptance because there are hardly any changes for users.”
Thanks to a clear plan, expert support, and effective tools, Peek & Cloppenburg was able to wrap up its project in just nine months, successfully moving its COBOL enterprise resource management system to Windows with little effort. The applications run just as reliably and efficiently on the new platform, and the company makes substantial savings.
The new system environment met or exceeded all expectations. One unexpected bonus was that batch programs actually run faster with Micro Focus Enterprise Server under Windows than they ran in the previous environment.
Better printing management, faster batches and optimized operating routines are positive effects of the project, but the bottom line is what really counts. In this respect, Peek & Cloppenburg got even more than it bargained for: right from the start, the company recorded substantial savings. The one-off project costs, including investment in the new Windows server and the personnel costs for modifications and implementation soon paid off. Additionally, personnel costs were reduced translating into considerable savings each year. “The project has paid for itself already,” says Faasch.