Developer speeds up its software output

A specialist in mobile and handheld computer applications for the fast moving consumer goods industry sped up its development time and cut costs when it switched from using different development tools for its main application to a common code base.

Numeric Computer Systems' main application eXpress Route lets sales staff take orders, service supermarkets and provide deliveries or even sales from the back of a truck, via mobile and handheld devices -- without requiring paper records.

The eXpress Route applications varied in their target markets. Although similar in functionality, the applications were written with different development tools, targeting different operating systems and different mobile devices.

NCS realised there was a tremendous opportunity to rework its applications to share a common code base. At the same time, NCS's New Zealand office saw the potential offered by .Net while it was still in its formative stages -- especially the .Net compact framework for targeting mobile and handheld devices.

NCS -- which was founded in 1967 and has its head office in New York -- approached Microsoft directly for information on the .Net strategy and tenaciously pursued the vendor for access to the .Net compact framework, eventually becoming official Global Early Adopters of the technology.

Since adopting .Net, NCS has migrated its three applications to a single development environment, using Visual Studio.Net, the C# language and the .Net compact framework. The core business logic is maintained in a single code base, with different user interfaces available for different users, operating systems and hardware platforms.

The project took nine months with a team of four programmers and has already yielded significant gains. Major program changes only require coding and debugging once, meaning faster and lower cost software development. Customers, in turn, gain access to new functionality sooner.

The new .Net version of eXpress Route is already in place at Dean Foods, one of the United States' leading food and beverage companies, selling cheese, yoghurt, milk and other diary products and a delivery fleet of 12,000 trucks.

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David Williams

Computerworld
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