Jerry Nixon @Work: Microsoft Case Study: Colorado Housing and Finance Authority

Jerry Nixon on Windows

Monday, March 31, 2008

Microsoft Case Study: Colorado Housing and Finance Authority

So, here's how it starts:

Agency Cuts Time to Process Home Loans by 67 Percent, Boosts Quality 300 Percent

That's compelling, unless - say - the original numbers weren't very impressive to start with. :)

I was the Technical Architect for STARS (strategic technology and reporting system). I didn't come up with the name (refered to as Stars System in the case study). Nonetheless, in 2005 we identified the need to replace a legacy system. After three previous failures (with other teams), most there thought we would fail. We didn't.

A year and a half later, we launched. It duplicated the base functionality of the legacy system, and overhauled their business process to the bone. We also setup their custom application environment to easily accept forthcoming new systems (which we are building today).

The Microsoft case study does not have my name in it. I'm vain, I know - but there's something nice about having your name stapled to an official case study. In fact, between CHFA, Captaris and Microsoft, my company's name (American Systems Group) even missed the final draft. C'est la vie. Sometimes consultants have to be truly "unsung" heroes. That's the positive spin.

This is my second case study, with the Quris study being my first some 4 years ago.

The STARS case study focuses on the use of workflow. There's no denying that our use of a back-end workflow engine introduced both development complexity and impressive system flexibility. We chose Captaris over K2 - Microsoft Workflow Foundation was not even in beta at the time. It was a good choice, but it's not cheap (~$50k/server).

How much development time was saved by using a workflow tool? It's hard to say. In the initial design, I would say it might be zero. But, you see, the real benefit of systematic workflow is imminent system changes and its ability to accept sweeping process changes with minor development effort. There is *still* development effort - but it is very small in contrast to typical timelines.

Anyway, here's the case study; I'm not exactly famous from it, but its nice to have something I sunk a year of my life in recognized by others in the industry as something other than "normal". It's far from normal.

As an aside, in 2007, STARS won the most "innovative" technical solution at the national conference of housing authorities. It's innovative alright; an appropriate award. Was I named? Just guess...