Case Study for Microsoft Technology Development

Retail industry solutions

Customer

The Scandinavian-Baltic group of companies, one of the leaders in producing retail solutions. They specialize in development of a wide spectrum of hardware including but not limited to cash registers, digital weights, bar code scanners, digital money boxes, self-checkout register complexes, vending machines, as well as development of software that combines all devices in a store into unified collaborating complex. The company is listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange.

Team & Cooperation Approach

The cooperation story started with the POS-system project where Altabel Group assisted with skilled C/C++ developers to help the customer extending the functionality upon their clients' requests as well as supporting the complex legacy system. After 6 months of working closely with the customer, Altabel Group has been entrusted to be involved into more projects, this time from another department. Within the next half a year 5 senior .NET/Javascript developers were assigned to a set of .NET projects. Today the team is successfully performing its roles being engaged in the majority of the projects and dealing with both the Baltic in-house team and architects and PMs from the Nordic offices.

Team & Model: 5 .NET specialists as a core Dedicated Development Team; Time-and-Material basis for 2 C/C++ specialists, QA automation specialist, designer.

CashGuard

Objective

To create a stores management complex that allows stores chain employees to configure and monitor the status of the automated tills cash boxes and coin receivers across multiple stores and multiple locations. The complex should track safes currency levels to help managers predict when the collection of currency will be required, how many notes can be expedited away to a bank and reduce costs attached to the encashment trips.

Performance and load requirements specified up to 10.000 stores total, ordinarily 20 machines per store that forecast to create on average 100.000 financial transactions per day. Common daily operations like replenishment or collection of notes or coins should start within 3 seconds.The web part of the complex should work in a load balanced environment.

Solution

The Complex consists of a number of services and applications, among which there are services rolled out in every store that monitor store machines and react to their status changes; the web application is accessible via internet and its back end services that enable cross-store management and data aggregation.

The web application allows multi-tier access for managers and cashiers of store as well as chain level managers or even executive managers who are able to view all company stores. All employees are using the same application to perform their duties and monitor health and performance of currency machines updated in real time, levels of safes; see reports, like store end of day cash levels. It was created using Single Page Application approach to reduce server roundtrips and uses SignalR to display real-time data changes.

As long as requirements specify quite large amounts of data to be processed daily, especially for transactions - to mitigate the risks of delays or bad responsiveness - microservice architecture was chosen for the web back end services. Each microservice is responsible for its specific operations domain and loosely coupled with others by utilizing caching of dependent data, asynchronous notifications and data pumps using message queue.

Technologies and Tools

For server side and in-store services: Microservices architecture, .Net 4.6, Sql Server 2014, Entity Framework, Rabbit MQ, In-House code generator by RAML specifications, TypeScript, NodeJS, Grunt, SignalR, OAuth, Windows Services, WebApi backed RESTful APIs, SoapUI, .Net Async Operations, SQLite, Unity IoC, Serilog, IdentityServer3

For client side: Typescript, Angular 2 single page application, Bootstrap, Inspinia responsive UI, Gulp, SignalR

Vensafe

Objective

To develop and support automated sales solutions for FMCG items (cigarettes, tickets, batteries, some medicines, etc) which are usually prone to theft.

Solution

The project is for the Norwegian technology company (from the Scandinavia-Baltic group of retail solutions leading companies) specializing in supply of automated sales solutions for FMCG items. They provide efficient store operations, reduce losses and theft and help to reduce binding up capital in a number of high value products. There's possibility of integration with POS systems. The solution features dispensers, touch screens and product cards.

The hardware and software are designed to make it as easy as possible for the consumers to do their shopping, and optimal logistics for the stores. The sales system is very safe because every transaction and event in the dispenser is logged. This applies for both sales and physical events with the dispenser such as filling of products and opening of the door, etc. Every product that is sold can be traced back to a cash register and time of sale and extradition. Back-up and reports can easily be printed out. The number of products left after every ejection is displayed in an overview on the screen.

The team was engaged in the development of the following modules: ServiceWeb which includes the development of layouts, ejector setup, restart utilities (partially), tasks to DB update, kiosks/POD overview as well as bug fixing (price update and product availability); and POD which includes the development of refill interface.

Technologies and Tools

.NET, C#, Entity Framework, Angular 2, TypeScript, WPF, MS SQL, ASP.NET, SASS, XAML

Store Manager

Objective

To develop and support the Store Manager software that automates cash handling, thus saves both time and money.

Solution

The software allows simultaneous management of several checkouts. This gives a cash manager or a store manager complete picture of the operation's cash flow situation and opportunity to actively control the cash flow according to specific needs. The software integrates seamlessly into the business and increases employee safety by avoiding unnecessary high levels of cash. Store Manager Local and Central can be used for running at one shop floor and at any number of them respectively.

The team was responsible for the development of a mobile interface which allows to see the operations that are usually performed by the stuff can be launched from the tablet/mobile phone right at the shop floor (Store Manager Local) and the web part of the product: views and controls on Angular (Store Manager Central). Also the team was responsible for Windows Service and Reporting with configuration and scheduling, saved in XML format.

Technologies and Tools

ASP.NET MVC, JQuery, Angular, Typescript

Building the web site based on Nopcommerce CMS

Customer

The customer is a Danish IT and design company which specialization is building enterprise business solutions based on mobile and web technologies.

Objective

The customer looked for a new experienced web development service provider for their project since the previous supplier lacked cooperation flexibility and understanding of the customer's business values. In general the project encompassed transferring of the e-shop to Nopcommerce CMS with possibility for synchronization of data from the web service.

Solution

Upon the tender results Altabel turned out to suit the client best with its competences and cooperation approach flexibility so Altabel was chosen to implement the project on Fixed Price basis. The aim was to redevelop the web-site placing it onto Nopcommerce CMS and realizing the following functionality:

  • Viewing categories/products, putting products into a basket, placing orders and making payments
  • Viewing home page, shop page, news page, etc
  • Filling in an order structure, processing order and payment and sending the information from the store to the service and then getting back the updated information from the service to the store

The transfer to Nopcommerce was made without accessing to the source codes of the old site; also the plugin for synchronization of the data from the customer's service to CMS database was implemented and it allowed to simplify manual support of the store base; additionally the scheduled task with settings and customized entities from standard ones were created.

The customer was satisfied with the result of the project development. Later on there arose a number of change requests like uploading, the placing the solution to Windows Azure Cloud, etc. For better quality of the cooperation it was decided to switch the approach from Fixed Price model to Time&Material.

Technologies and tools

Net 3.5, MS SQL 2008, entity framework, Nopcommerce CMS 2.50, Windows Azure Cloud

IFS applications simplifying documentation storage, processing and various documents generation

Customer

The medium-sized Norwegian company, IFS and Microsoft partner, which specializes in design and development of innovative add-ons to IFS Application and offers specialized consulting services in different areas. It also provides users of IFS Applications with increased efficiency and smoother operations.

Objective

To develop applications that will help IFS customers become more competitive. Companies using IFS Applications have a great foundation for optimizing, changing and simplifying their business.

The products should improve user experience by enabling Microsoft Office as user interface for IFS Applications. The solutions blend IFS Applications with Microsoft Office, combining productivity with business data and processes. In the result, a number of standard solutions for IFS Applications should be offered, like Document Management for non-ERP users, Information Merger, Quick Reports and Power Tools. Process owners will experience improved efficiency and extended value by broadening the use of IFS Applications. The flexibility in the solutions will provide greater ability to meet ever-changing business needs. Serving businesses with increased speed and agility, the solutions will help bridge the gap between the requirements of the end users and the functionality that IT delivers.

Office Automation Suite

Objective

From the products' perspective the goal was to develop the solution that would simplify the work with the document storage (IFS documents), processing documents and generate documents/mails/reports from the templates. Also an entire document life cycle (creation or checking out, checking in, releasing) should be performed through an easily accessible and friendly GUI to make user's experience as effective as possible. Also it was necessary to expose functionality using COM technology in order to let the client create custom solutions in VBA. For this project purpose the customer needed a solid software development services supplier with highly skilled .NET and ASP.NET specialists.

Solution

Office Automation Suite is a solution (a number of various plugins for various reasons, which are sold to customers as one solution) performed by Altabel's Dedicated Development Team. The solution was going to be a set of MS Office add-ins and be provided within a single installation package which could be easily installed on user's machine and provide needed functionality directly from MS Office applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook). The system was planned to be supported by MS Office 2007/2010/2013/2016 on x64/x86 Windows platforms.

The following add-ins were included in Office Automation Suite:

  • Document Management (managing documents stored in the database of the depository (check in/out, save revision history, view/set information) using MS Office products interface)
  • Information Merger (creating documents templates using associated data from the database, automatic fill in templates with the relevant data to create actual reports)
  • Quick Reports (creating reports templates, filling in reports with data loaded from the database). This plugin is out-of-date now and will be excluded from the new version of the app. All the functionality is covered by Information Merger
  • Advanced Mail Merge (Word "Mailings" functionality based on associated data loaded from the database)
  • Power Tools (exposing functionality to be used by VBA developers)

Technologies and Tools

.Net Framework 3.5/4.0/4.6, WPF, Office Interop 2007/2010/2013/2016, VBA, COM, VSTO, WiX toolset, Visual Studio 2008/2010/2015, Team Foundation Server, Oracle DB

Approval

Objective

To create easy-to-use app for IFS Approval supporting common processes for approval in IFS Applications.

Solution

The solution allows approving documents, invoices, vouchers, customer info and Engineering part revision and spare part revisions in addition to supporting custom fields. With support for all mobile platforms and different cloud offerings, Approval has never been easier. It is able to tailor apps to suite the user's needs, regardless of the technology they want to use.

Technologies and Tools

.Net Framework 4.5/4.6, .NET Core, Xamarin.Forms, Xamarin.Insights, WPF, WCF, Entity Framework, Visual Studio 2015, Team Foundation Server, SQLite, Oracle DB, Ranorex Test Automation

Service Management

Objective

To create a service management solution for IFS Service Management that increases quality on maintenance and repairs processes.

Solution

Maintenance and repair in the field are often costly and labor intensive processes, with the need of external personnel. The solution for Service Management increases quality on maintenance and repairs process, and at the same time frees up time and increase capacity, by incorporating external personnel as well as internal personnel in a highly secure and scalable solution. With access to all relevant information on Work Orders, Business and Equipment objects in IFS Applications, personnel can execute their tasks more efficient. Providing personnel with checklists in the same App, the client can also make sure that the work is done correctly.

Tightly integrated with IFS Service Management, the App focuses on support for handling and reporting Work Orders and Round Orders. Images, videos, documents, location and sound can be added to the object easily, as well as time used, descriptions, inspecting details, material used, travelling time, overtime, traveling expenses, and of course - support for custom fields and QR codes.

Technologies and Tools

.Net Framework 4.5/4.6, .NET Core, Xamarin.Forms, Xamarin.Insights, WPF, WCF, Entity Framework, HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, AJAX, Visual Studio 2015, Team Foundation Server, SQLite, Oracle DB

DocBox

Objective

To create the app that let you get online and offline access to the IFS documents on any mobile device.

Solution

Docbox synchronizes the documents to the mobile device, enabling easy document registration and to keep an up to date copy of favorite documents on the user's device. It allows to save time and hassle by extracting data from the database into the documents while the user is on the go. It gives an opportunity for a user to add any addition text and save the information back into IFS Applications.

The advantages of the solution: easy connection to IFS business objects; real time data from anywhere in the world that can be shared with colleagues, updated and reported; synchronization of the documents, forms and more before going offline; having the latest revisions available on the user's phone/ pad; sharing documents, forms and information with one click; searching for a specific document in the database by using mobile devices.

Technologies and Tools

.Net Framework 4.5/4.6, .NET Core, Xamarin.Forms, Xamarin.Insights, WPF, WCF, Entity Framework, Visual Studio 2015, Team Foundation Server, SQLite, Oracle DB, Ranorex Test Automation

Addovation Cloud

Objective

To develop a Service Integration Platform serving perfectly for collaboration between IFS and the outside world.

Solution

Docbox synchronizes the documents to the mobile device, enabling easy document registration and to keep an up to date copy of favorite documents on the user's device. It allows to save time and hassle by extracting data from the database into the documents while the user is on the go. It gives an opportunity for a user to add any addition text and save the information back into IFS Applications.

The cloud service integration platform is located either in a professional hosted environment, located within the borders of Norway or Sweden, Microsoft Azure or in local in-house environment. All that is required is an Internet Information Server and an SQL Server database (2008+). The whole communication is done via REST-based interfaces; hence it is perfect for enabling collaboration between IFS and the outside world. No passwords are stored in Addovation Cloud, and all communication through the Cloud is encrypted.

Technologies and Tools

.Net Framework 4.5/4.6, .NET Core, WPF, WCF, Visual Studio 2015, Team Foundation Server, Oracle DB, WiX Toolset

AddForms

Objective

To create the solution allowing to add and complete information and push the data back to the IFS database in a secure and intuitive manner.

Solution

The solution extracts data from IFS into a PDF form simultaneously as it connects to the appropriate business objects in IFS. The user may work offline with the forms during the work process, add information by using list of values, combo boxes, drop down menus, and type in additional needed information, to complete or update work orders (or sales orders as another example). Whenever the mobile device is online, the user can either easily push the document back into IFS, or the application can automatically extract all the new input made and update IFS with the new information.

The cloud service integration platform is located either in a professional hosted environment, located within the borders of Norway or Sweden, Microsoft Azure or in local in-house environment. All that is required is an Internet Information Server and an SQL Server database (2008+). The whole communication is done via REST-based interfaces; hence it is perfect for enabling collaboration between IFS and the outside world. No passwords are stored in Addovation Cloud, and all communication through the Cloud is encrypted.

Technologies and Tools

.Net Framework 4.5/4.6, .NET Core, Xamarin.Forms, Xamarin.Insights, WPF, WCF, EntityFramework, Visual Studio 2015, Team Foundation Server, SQLite, Oracle DB, Ranorex Test Automation