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Picture of a woman with headset in front of a computer screen, valantic Case Study Volksbank Mittelhessen

Web Enablement from IBM Notes applications for Volksbank Mittelhessen

How to convert old fashioned Notes applications to modern web applications with a high “joy of use” factor

Through the successful implementation of the jointly developed specifications and set goals, the Volksbank Mittelhessen could immediately increase the employee acceptance level for their COSMOS applications by using a modern web interface. The project also paved the way for a medium to long term replacement of the entire COSMOS system. The urgent problem could be solved in an uncomplicated, fast and inexpensive manner, providing the Volksbank Mittelhessen with more time to sustainably and carefully plan their withdrawal from COSMOS.

Summary at a glance

Improved user acceptance due to positive user experience
Higher productivity: Access to COSMOS data via a modern web front-end
Manufacturer independence through the implementation of state-of-the-art technologies
Preservation of the strengths: Continued use of internal COSMOS configurations
Resource-conserving technologies: Lower bandwidth requirements
Device independence through responsive design
Conceptual separation of the user interface, application logic and data layer
Simplified exit from COSMOS at some point in the future

About Volksbank Mittelhessen

Based in the heart of Hesse, the Volksbank Mittelhessen is one of the largest cooperative credit associations in Germany with a balance sheet of 6.5 billion euros. The cooperative bank was founded in 1858 and currently employs 1400 people. As the third largest Volksbank in Germany, the bank supports numerous non-profit organisations and initiatives in the region. This results in a sustainable and successful business model that combines social and economic responsibilities in a unique way. The self-declared goal is not the maximisation of profit, but the economic promotion of the members. This has resulted in the Volksbank Mittelhessen maintaining its position as the most important financing partner for local medium-sized companies for many years. They will continue to contribute towards the successful future of their region and the people who live and work there.

Logo of Volksbank Mittelhessen, valantic Case Study

Web-Enablement from IBM Notes applications: The setting

As do many companies within the Volksbanken Raiffeisenbanken Cooperative Financial Network, the Volksbank Mittelhessen eG uses the COSMOS product as a workflow system for its specific business processes. This product runs based on IBM Lotus Domino.

The COSMOS framework is implemented by the Volksbank Mittelhessen in over 250 instances. It is the foundation for a large bundle of functions and portals, enables the fast and reliable handling of internal processes and allows the simple implementation of complex workflow applications.

Nevertheless, user acceptance continues to decline, which leads to faulty data collection and communication gaps. The reason for this is due to the increasingly deteriorating user experience. Significant elements of the system cannot be accessed using the Notes client. In branches that have a weak network connection to the head office, working with COSMOS can lead to long response times. Information architecture, user interfaces, performance and operating comfort have not been updated over the years, making the system appear outdated in comparison with today’s state of technology. In times when people are accustomed to the user comfort and operability of modern web portals and smartphone apps, a system such as COSMOS can no longer keep up.

To restore the acceptance of the COSMOS applications and enable an efficient and successful cooperation, the Volksbank Mittelhessen wanted to incorporate modern cooperation possibilities into the framework. The key aspects included mobility, user friendliness and device independence (PC, tablet, smartphone).

However, the producer of the COSMOS solution has largely discontinued further development of this platform. Important modernisations are therefore not being made and the source code for the COSMOS framework is closed. In summary: COSMOS is an indispensable tool that has become very outdated. Further development has been discontinued by the producer. However, replacement of the system is extremely time intensive and almost impossible in the short to medium term while the continued use becomes more and more unproductive.

Caught in this predicament, the Volksbank Mittelhessen turned to us. Our task was to find a solution for their dilemma.

Screenshot Systems Volksbank, valantic Case Study Volksbank Mittelhessen

Vision

To find out which approach would be the best for the Volksbank Mittelhessen, we discussed conceptual approaches in multiple iterations. Based on the fundamentals described above, we worked together to evaluate various scenarios for replacement or revision of COSMOS with a target solution that should:

  • have a modern appearance,
  • support state-of-the-art technologies,
  • enable a step by step replacement of processes using COSMOS,
  • continue to be operated using the Lotus Notes client (to utilise the internal COSMOS configurations) in addition to browser-based use,
  • be easy to expand and maintain,
  • have a low demand for bandwidth.

The result was the step by step modernisation of the application landscape and a successive replacement of COSMOS. To accomplish this, we separated the user interface from the application logic and the data layer so that we could apply the “Model – View – Controller” architectural pattern in the future.

We also developed a web portal, which at first would only be accessible using the Notes client. All links to applications, contacts and documents, i.e. the Info Center, were represented as web links within the portal pages – whereby all data was gathered and processed per web service from the various COSMOS data bases.

With this approach, the Volksbank Mittelhessen had the option of initially continuing to utilise processes being run under COSMOS, while having the possibility to switch to a new module on another platform at a later point in time (i.e. a SharePoint document repository). The employees were then able to use a modern, user friendly and inviting user interface to access the COSMOS systems, which led to positive user experiences.

Technology

In the selection of the implemented technologies, we considered the following requirements:

  • Open source code (independence from the software manufacturer)
  • Utilisation of standard technologies that employees could easily learn to use
  • Use of modern technologies for data processing and presentation

We chose JSON web services for the communication with the COSMOS system and the other Notes databases because JSON fulfilled all the criteria listed above.

The data read via JSON is processed using AngularJS, DoJo and JQuery and presented using CSS technology. The responsive design delivers a user-friendly display which is independent from the display size. This makes it comfortable to use the new applications on both smartphones and tablet PCs.

The new portal can be accessed using the integrated browser in the Notes client, Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox.

This approach separated the data and functions contained in COSMOS into levels (data storage, data processing and data presentation) and therefore represented the significant elements of a modern web application.

Through the successful implementation of the jointly developed specifications and set goals, the Volksbank Mittelhessen could immediately increase the employee acceptance level for their COSMOS applications by using a modern web interface. The project also paved the way for a medium to long term replacement of the entire COSMOS system. The urgent problem could be solved in an uncomplicated, fast and inexpensive manner, providing the Volksbank Mittelhessen with more time to sustainably and carefully plan their withdrawal from COSMOS.

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Philipp Königs

Managing Director valantic IBS