Michigan PHP Program Progressing Nicely
December 12, 2011 Dan Burger
The inventive PHP training project at the Southeast Michigan iSeries User Group (SEMiUG), reported in this newsletter in September, is nearly completed according to SEMiUG president Laura Ubelhor. The idea for the training project began with Ubelhor, who saw a great learning opportunity for local user group members by enlisting the support of a nearby company where the PHP programming could be put into use.
Not quite two months ago, 28 members of the local user group signed up to participate in this project and four teams were created. Ubelhor took the role of project manager and DEXTECH, an automotive industry supplier, set the project specifications. In an email with IT Jungle, Ubelhor provided a progress update saying the project is on schedule for completion January 17.
The project specifications, she explained, were designed to eliminate the use of multiple Microsoft Excel spreadsheets that are used by the DEXTECH production control department to convey outside work in process shipment delivery date notifications to several plating vendors. When completed, it will also centralize the outside work in process shipment information into one file that can be more efficiently maintained by the production control department. The combined file will also be accessible by a Web browser for both the production control department via an intranet and by outside vendors via an extranet.
The application has several components including: add, change, delete, login with ID and password, call to an RPG program, and the creation of PDF files, Excel files, and emails.
To get things started, Ubelhor started with a PHP overview presentation at the SEMiUG regular monthly user group meeting. That was followed by a project plan/timeline, information on where to learn the basics, and a review of PHP content and code examples to address project technical requirements. PHP expert Alan Seiden was brought in as a guest speaker and Ubelhor set up weekly conference calls for team members using GoToMeeting.
Since the initial meeting, eight members have dropped out, but Ubelhor says the remaining 20 are “enthused and actively participating.”
“Using teams has worked out very well,” Ubelhor says. “It allowed everyone to be involved with coding and also has proved to be exciting to see and discuss teams’ projects during our scheduled meetings. To this point, we’ve covered the basics, coded the simple maintenance components, and are now working on the vendor inquiry. The last piece is the biggest part of the application–the quality control maintenance application.”
In the early going, Ubelhor was concerned about only scheduling two face-to-face meetings and the rest done with GoToMeeting. However, she is satisfied it worked out well.
By insisting on detailed specifications from the start, Ubelhor says the project was able to avoid spending meeting time on reviewing or discussing project requirements.
She also noted that arranging for an IBM i server for the group to work on was a key ingredient to the program’s success. Larry Bolhuis, owner of iDevCloud LLC, set up a three-month deal at a reduced rate. Thanks to Bolhuis, the box has “all the latest tools and toys,” she says.
PHP vendor Zend Technologies is onboard to help review the finished application and will provide feedback to participants.
“It has been an exciting journey,” Ubelhor reports. “We have a great mix of participants–a mix of staff members and consultants, some with little Web and PHP experience and some with varying degrees of both. The teams have done a great job working together and the project was large enough to give everyone an opportunity to learn and contribute code. It has been great to see how quickly those willing to learn have picked up basics and have jumped into coding and producing. After the experience, I’m confident our mission as a learning experience will be achieved and has also resulted in drummed up enthusiasm within the user group and actually adding some new user group members.
“This is encouraging because future plans are to open the activity up to user groups across the country. The key will be continued funding and resource commitment to manage, organize, and complete required activities to make this possible.”
Other groups have expressed interest and future plans are being discussed.
“I can see it truly will provide a great way for i colleagues to expand skills using current technology and to actually do so with a hands-on experience working on a real project,” she says.
Ubelhor also thanked Maxava for a grant that made the project possible.