Version Reconciliation Is Integral to Y2K Upgrade

The Fina Oil and Chemical Company finds their "Jewel in the Crown" with Princeton Softech’s Version Merger during the organization’s Year 2000 upgrade of its human resources application.

Quality has always been important to the Fina Oil and Chemical Company, as witnessed by the ISO 9000 certificates we hold for virtually all our plant activities. Our stringent controls have a single purpose - to offer our customers products of the highest quality and to earn their trust, today and in the future. We feel no differently about our IT organization. That’s why, when faced with the Year 2000 - the single largest upgrade in the history of our company - we chose products with unparalleled quality and functionality.

Fina’s IT department supports our core activities in the petrochemical industry, touching every functional area. Simply maintaining our large inventory of applications is a significant undertaking. Since we operate in a highly competitive market, we continually evaluate our IT operation for cost reductions, increased efficiency, productivity gains, improved operational reliability and enhanced system performance. Our objective is to serve our customers, anticipate their needs and respond to them as closely as possible. When the IT department focuses its efforts on solving customer problems, there is a sense of urgency and a desire to succeed that results in customer satisfaction.

Our choice of vendors follows this same philosophy. We intend to be an example of how to become Year 2000-compliant, while remaining prudent as we have to take into account the needs of our clients, the financial world and the demands of government agencies. It was during the Year 2000 upgrade of our Human Resources application that we found the jewel in our Y2K crown of tools.



Hardware: IBM 9672

Operating System: MVS

Languages Supported: COBOL, CSP

Teleprocessing Monitors: CICS

Databases: DB2, IMS

Year 2000 Tools: VERSION MERGER, Vantage 2000, JCL/Proc, MHTRAN2, Translate RW, XPEDITER and AbendAid.

Table 1: Fina Oil and Chemical Company’s Hardware and Software Platforms

The Jewel In The Crown

We regularly upgrade Fina’s Human Resource, Accounts Receivable, Fixed Assets and Plant/Refinery Inventory Control applications through vendor maintenance releases. We upgrade our Human Resource Management System (HRMS) from Integral Systems four times a year. These maintenance releases are necessary, as they add functionality and respond to regulatory requirements. As is the typical situation with a purchased application, our business requirements forced us to make modifications to the vendor’s source code. We had modified HRMS extensively to accommodate Fina’s accounting business rules.

In the past, we had manually integrated our in-house changes with each maintenance release. But, Integral’s HRMS release 9.5, the Year 2000-compliant version, is massive and our custom code is scattered throughout the entire application. We had no way of easily differentiating the custom code from the packaged code. We needed a tool that would identify the modifications we had made over the past seven years, all of which needed to be applied to this release.

Integral recommended the jewel in our Y2K crown of tools - Princeton Softech’s VERSION MERGER, a version reconciliation tool. They found it to be the best tool to handle their code, CSP and COBOL when customers were migrating to Release 9.5. There was no other tool available in-house, nor did we know of a third party tool other than VERSION MERGER that could handle CSP. VERSION MERGER helped us ensure that this application will be compliant for the next century and that it would maintain its existing functionality.

VERSION MERGER is a powerful tool for merging the changes that companies make to their packaged applications with those that the vendor delivers in subsequent releases, because companies frequently modify packaged applications to address their special needs. These modifications must be re-implemented into each new vendor release. This can cause months of delay and squander valuable programmer time. The problem is magnified if you have not stayed current with your vendor’s latest releases and need to install intermediate releases before you can install the latest release.

This reconciliation process could have caused long delays in our Year 2000 project. We were able to conserve valuable programmer resources and eliminate errors. VERSION MERGER identified which programs contained potentially conflicting changes, helped to consolidate multiple versions, isolated differences between the versions and resolved conflicts.

We also use VERSION MERGER for project management purposes. The product is used for analysis when beginning a task or project. It expeditiously and flawlessly gauges the extent of the effort needed to reconcile the Year 2000 changes with other changes that have been made to HRMS. And VERSION MERGER is used in the debugging step of our projects because it identifies the specific lines of code that are different, enabling our analysts to focus on potential problem areas.

We especially like VERSION MERGER’s ease of use, but the product’s most beneficial feature is its precision. My current staff did not make the application changes and unfortunately, as is the case in many organizations, the seven-plus years of modifications that we made had not been documented. Without VERSION MERGER, we would have expended an enormous amount of effort determining what was done before our current support analyst came on board. VERSION MERGER’s ability to quickly and accurately pinpoint those changes gives us the assurance we need to proceed with the upgrade.

Our affirmation of VERSION MERGER’s value has not only been motivated by the assurance that the system will function as it should, post-2000, but the tremendous savings in time. VERSION MERGER saved us valuable time in the conversion process to the new release. Regular maintenance for HRMS typically involved one or two programmers, who dedicated approximately 400 staff hours per year. We would receive the releases on tape, with complete source code and a list of changes. The changes were applied manually where we had customized HRMS. For Release 9.5, which was a complete re-install, we estimated it would take two or three staff years.

We have specifically identified the cost savings in using VERSION MERGER to identify Fina’s in-house modifications. We estimated that the time to review suspect code manually, with the use of tools that we developed in-house, would be 350 staff days. This estimate assumed that we used staff who were not part of development and who may err in checking more modules than what would actually be necessary. By using VERSION MERGER, the actual identification process was 35 staff days. VERSION MERGER saved us 90 percent of the effort, resulting in net savings that were well into the six figures. These savings do not reflect possible savings in test time, since manual review would undoubtedly miss items and require longer test time. VERSION MERGER also prevented re-infection of the Year 2000-compliant software with non-compliant changes, something that would be easy to overlook using manual inspection.

Choosing The Right Tools

Version reconciliation was crucial to our Y2K project, and VERSION MERGER helped us confidently speed the process toward Y2K compliance. But, another daunting aspect of the Year 2000 project is choosing the right tools for other phases of the project. Companies should pay heed to specialty Y2K tools, versus a one-vendor product suite. While the traditional idea of product suites may seem reasonable at first glance, IT management must remember that the Year 2000 upgrade is not a traditional project. It is not about making general enhancements to programmer productivity - it is about the survival of the business. Year 2000 decisions must be made in light of the true goal: survival. The problem with many product suites is that their individual components do not have the same breadth of function found in niche products.

With each passing month, as IT organizations become entrenched in testing, the largest part of the entire effort, automated tools will pay the biggest dividends. With the right selection of tools, along with a well thought out strategy, IT organizations can establish a solid foundation for Y2K compliance and win back some lost time, as we did with VERSION MERGER.

Other Tools in Fina’s Y2K Crown

Fina’s challenge was to find the right tools for each phase of the Year 2000 project. We used Peritus Software’s Vantage 2000 COBOL Copybook/Code converter and DBMS bridge-to-bridge-compliant/non-complaint files and programs. We also used Peritus Software’s JCL/Proc Analyzer, which was used to analyze all JCL for needed system/applications changes. Prince Software has provided several products for our Y2K toolkit, including MHTRAN2, which upgrades OS/VS COBOL to COBOL MVS and Translate RW, which converts COBOL Report Writer programs to non-report writer programs in preparation for the COBOL MVS upgrade.

Prince Software’s products helped us make a smooth, expedient conversion. MHtran-2 enabled Fina to implement the translation with confidence, because we saw exactly where to make adjustments and knew precisely how much of the program MHtran-2 was able to convert. Translate/RW converted all Report Writer code in a simple, one-step procedure. It required no additional calls to assembler modules and no special run-time library, so we saved effort, time and money. Basically, our programs were made compatible with the latest COBOL versions without hours of manual translation or the risk of human error. The program generated by Translate/RW is independent, stand-alone, native COBOL, so the resulting code is structured, affording readability and ease of maintenance. This was a significant benefit for us as we prepare for the Year 2000 and beyond.

We also used Compuware’s XPEDITER to enable our programmers to quickly analyze, test and debug critical applications. AbendAid, Compuware’s fault management tool, helped us collect program and environmental information relevant to a failure. Compuware’s AbendAid analyzes the information and presents its diagnosis and supporting data in a way that can be easily understood and quickly navigated by our IT staff.

Finishing On Time

Although most software projects are not completed on time, Fina is on schedule to complete our Year 2000 project in the second quarter of 1999. We attribute this to our choice of automated tools, which gave a tremendous boost to our staff’s productivity. And, our investment in a solid Y2K toolkit will deliver returns well into the next century. Clearly, it was integral in upgrading our packaged HRMS application and will be for many more to come.


Gary Bussell is Manager of Applications Systems at Fina Oil and Chemical Company. He manages half of the applications group at Fina and is fully responsible for the IT portion of the Year 2000 Project at Fina.