Making the Great Migration with OpenInsight
"It all made sense at the time," says Fran Whitley, Director of Administration at the North Carolina Real Estate Commission, looking back with only a trace of irony still lingering in her voice.
In 1998, after years of smooth sailing with the database application they built using Revelation Software's Advanced Revelation, it was time to make the move to Windows and get on the Web. The advice from the experts du jour was "Make the switch. Move over to the big-name platform. It'll be a big upgrade."
Five years later, the upgrade was most definitely not "up." Instead, it was stuck in a series of unfortunate events with a plot as twisted and dark as a Lemony Snicket novel. Only this time, there's a happy ending – thanks to OpenInsight from Revelation Software.
Keeping it Real in Real Estate
The North Carolina Real Estate Commission (NCREC) has a big job to do. "We're an independent state agency," explains Whitley, "and we handle licensing and regulatory oversight issues for the real estate industry in North Carolina. Our primary activity is issuing and renewing licenses for real estate agents, which involves everything from administering the exams, to approving the schools that offer prelicensing courses, to offering our own continuing education programs for licensees. We also serve as a consumer protection agency, so we provide information to the public about working with real estate agents and we investigate and prosecute consumer complaints."
Keeping it all straight requires a robust database application capable of generating a wide variety of reports. "We have in excess of 220,000 licensees in our database – about 89,000 of which are active," says Whitley. "The record for each individual licensee is really like a personnel file. We know where they are, who they're working for – all the information we need to know on a daily basis. Plus, we can also track complaint histories, keeping any information about a complaint that may have come in on a licensee."
The complex nature of each file is why they chose Advanced Revelation (Arev), in the first place. Arev's flexible MultiValue architecture makes it easy to combine and control any type of data, and generating reports is a breeze. "We have to generate all kinds of reports, in addition to what's used to manage the license registration and renewals," says Vickie Crouse, Data Processing Administrator at NCREC. "For example, we have a complaint tracking system that prepares detailed reports for our investigators to use. Those files contain everything from the original complaint by the consumer to status reports from the investigation. It's complex information, and Arev handled it beautifully."
Right Idea – Wrong Approach
Eventually, the time came for upgrading the NCREC database so it could easily be deployed across multiple workstations in their office as well as on the Web, giving the public on-line access. That meant leaving the DOS world of Arev and migrating to Windows.
"We took a look at everything out there," remembers Whitley, "and the people we were working with recommended that we go to Oracle. Unfortunately, that didn't work out very well at all. It was supposed to take 12 months – but actually, the whole process took us a little more than five years! And the worst part is that it never did work correctly. There were networking and compatibility issues that never got straightened out."
The series of unfortunate events included software bugs, 12-hour marathons to set up a single workstation client, and loading delays that s-s-s-s-slowed the whole system to a crawl.
OpenInsight – The Right Choice, After All
With not much to show for five years of effort except a lot of expense receipts, the NCREC team went back and took another look. This time they came right back around to Revelation Software's Windows-based system: OpenInsight. OpenInsight offers enhanced features for application building, along with improved networking, data manipulation, and error handling – all of which adds up to greater security and lower maintenance.
The decision was made to start over in OpenInsight, and it couldn't have been any easier. Within six months, their new Windows based system was up and running – fully functional, no muss, no fuss.
Patsy Fegenbush, an independent Revelation consultant, was brought in to help NCREC with the migration to OpenInsight. "It was a very smooth process, and very quick. For example, data transfers that had been taking two days were now getting done in 90 minutes – max. I remember Vickie calling me when she first moved the data over, saying 'This only ran for an hour or so. Is it supposed to be that short? Oracle was taking two days. What's the problem?' I told her there was no problem, because the data was already stored in the format it needed to be in. With OpenInsight, you don't have to manipulate the data, you just move it straight over."
Why Choose Anything Else?
Ok – so OpenInsight was easier and faster to implement than the big-name brand. But what's the catch? Surely, you must be giving up some functionality in exchange for simplicity, right?
NCREC's Software Engineer, Vincent Miranda says no – they didn't give up anything. "With OpenInsight," he explained, "we can do everything we need. For example, we now have an online renewal system, where the agents can use a credit card to renew their licenses. Well, we have to tie that back into OpenInsight to get all the data from the web transferred over to the office database – and that's easy to do."
OpenInsight comes with great features – and great service. Miranda said, "The Revelation training team was wonderful. We attended their seminars, and it helped us understand the infrastructure and the design of the system and how we could use OpenInsight for a smooth migration." And beyond that, "There just isn't much maintenance required," Miranda said. "It's doing really well."
Patsy Fegenbush agrees. "OpenInsight is easy to work with, and it's user-friendly – for clients, as well as for me, as their programmer. Also, with Oracle, you really need to have an in-house database specialist – in OI, you don't. And it's a very short training period compared to Oracle."
"Our OpenInsight system has been in place for six months now," says Vickie Crouse, "and it's doing wonderfully! So, in the end, Revelation has really worked out better for us."
Rock solid reliability. Complete flexibility. Why choose anything other than OpenInsight?