Sunday, February 18, 2018

Data Transfer from COBOL to REALITY and Back

First City Trust

While working for DataSense, one of the more active customers was First City Trust.  DataSense had software that was built for Canadian Trust companies, and First City was a big customer of theirs. I worked with a number of other Trust companies but First City was the one I spent the most time with.

First City had migrated their core deposit taking software to an IBM mainframe, but continued to run a number of business units on the Microdata Reality system.  This included mortgage banking (where they administered loans) and leasing. There may have been more but those two come to mind.

COBOL to Reality and Back

Because of Reality's convenient query and reporting language (called English on Reality, but other PICK systems called it Access), it was way faster to do reporting on the Reality system, so whenever management wanted a report from the mainframe, the quickest way was to get the data to the Reality system.

I wound up working with one of the First City IT people who knew COBOL to come up with a format that we could import into Reality. We had to do EBCDIC conversions and had to read the fixed width fields. This was a breeze compared with what I had had to do with the Terry Winter conversion, so I was always quick to create the imports for these. In some cases, I would create resulting data that would be EBCDIC converted and written to tape to go back to the IBM.

I wound up using the IBM terminals to track my time on the mainframe, and got used to using their messaging system.

Resetting Reports

First City had a printing system that was over 20 feet long.  They printed a ton of paper every day.  They also had to store a ton of reports. In an effort to reduce costs, they launched an initiative to figure out what reports were required, by whom, and were there other reports that would provide the information.

They managed to do some cleanup, but there were a large number of reports, some 100 or more pages long, that they were unsure if anyone needed them.

So they decided to take anything that they couldn't find an owner for and simply stop printing it, and see who complained.

Answer: No one...

I think they saved a few hundred acres of Amazon rain forest by that one initiative, reduced their storage and printing costs, and took an unnecessary load off of their computers!

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