LANSA Bolsters BPI Tool with New Transaction Framework
Published: June 22, 2010
by Alex Woodie
System i shops should find it easier to oversee the orchestration of business processes with the latest release of Composer, LANSA's business process integration (BPI) tool. With Composer version 3, the vendor has added an extensible transaction document processing (TDP) framework that should make it easier to get up and running with sophisticated and automated workflows, particularly in electronic data interchange (EDI) environments. A new dashboard interface and support for Java programs round out the release.
LANSA launched Composer back in October 2007 to help customers eliminate tedious manual processes often required to link processes and to distribute files among customers' and partners' ERP systems and other critical business applications. The product is composed of a graphical business process mapping tool (an OEM version of Altova's MapForce) and a version of Integrator, LANSA's any-to-any application integration engine.
Instead of manually re-typing an order into a 5250 screen, for example, a company can use Composer to automatically link the output of one application or process to the input of another. This can also be done with Integrator, but requires some coding in RPG, COBOL, or C+. With Composer's drag-and-drop mapping and workflow interface sitting atop Integrator, there is no coding, LANSA says. This makes it a good fit for business analysts who lack the technical expertise to get down and dirty with bits and bytes.
The new Document Manager console gives managers a real-time, graphical view into Composer activities.
With version 3, LANSA has focused on making Composer even more useful out of the box. Much of the focus with the new TDP is on making the product more pertinent to EDI environments, which LANSA identified as an emerging requirement with the launch of version 2 last April.
EDI Features Galore
LANSA discovered that many customers were using Composer for similar activities, such as processing EDI orders into their ERP systems. As a result, LANSA developed its TDP to function as a model transaction environment that customers can use as is, or adapt to fit their particular needs.
The TDP helps in three main areas, according to LANSA. This includes activities, such as an FTP-based file transport task; processing sequences, which add some pre- or post-event logic to an activity; and pre-defined transformation maps, which tell Composer how to translate among different data formats, such as EDI, XML, Excel, and text files.
Much of the focus with the TDP framework in version 3 is fine-tuning the inbound and outbound file transfer and EDI activities. The framework keeps the sequence of events--such as receiving EDI documents from customers, registering them in an intermediate database, determining the translation type, invoking processing, and sending an acknowledgement--running according to schedule, as well as to customers' and partners' expectations.
LANSA also developed a transaction document database and a related API for Composer 3. LANSA says the new database provides an intermediate staging area where customers can cleanse EDI data using application logic before it's uploaded to the main production ERP system. This release also provides out-of-the-box templates for two EDI X12 transactions.
With all of these EDI-related enhancements included in version 3, it's clear that Composer has taken a big step toward becoming a full-function EDI translator. While the product is not restricted to processing EDI-based transactions--indeed, it shares its scheduling and file distribution capabilities with managed file transfer (MFT) products--LANSA officials in the past have said that is how many of its customers are using the product, so it makes sense to beef up the product's capability around EDI.
Composing in the Real World
One System i shop that replaced its existing EDI product with LANSA's Composer is STRATTEC Security Corporation, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin, manufacturer of car locks, keys, and security systems.
STRATTEC, which uses Infor's i/OS-based System21 ERP application, previously relied on a Web-based EDI system from iConnect to receive EDI-based orders. The company's employees would print out any EDI orders that came in via iConnect, and manually enter them into the System21 application, according to a STRATTEC case study on LANSA's website.
Obviously, this was not the most efficient or accurate way to go about EDI, so the company turned to LANSA and Composer as part of a larger application modernization project. Switching to Composer with just one customer saved the company 25 hours per week, according to Pete Chrostowski, a senior business process analyst at STRATTEC. "There are many more customers to follow and at some point LANSA Composer is going to be the heart of our order entry system," Chrostowski says in the case study.
A New Console!
Composer 3 also gains a new management dashboard, called the Document Manager. This interface gives managers a graphical and real-time view into the business process and EDI activities being managed and executed by Composer. The Document Manager also generates and displays graphics and key performance indicators (KPIs) that depict how the company is doing business. Managers can drill down on the charts to view underlying data.
LANSA has also bolstered Composer's integration with Java applications and foreign LANSA systems. Also, the workflow editor now works with standard EDI and XML-based document formats, including XBRL, HL7 and EDI X12 and EDIFACT.
Composer runs on i/OS and Windows. Pricing for the software is based on server size and product configuration, and starts at $12,000. For more information, see www.lansa.com.
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