Recent Projects

Clients

Conissaunce has provided expertise to a wide range of organisations and individuals. Below is a selection of recent projects. Click on any name for more information.

B&Q PLC

In-store Pricing System

The In-store Pricing System delivered a new label printing system for B&Q. The new system improves the efficiency of store label generation allowing a higher volume of price changes per week. The solution was based on the Episys Retail Enterprise Suite an Enterprise Java solution. Price, Article and company hierarchy interfaces were developed on top of MQ from SAP, whilst a pair of web service interfaces were developed to support the store RF Guns to allow ad-hoc label requests at the shelf-edge and to track store stock movements. The presence of individual store stocking information allows batches of labels to be printed in store walk order greatly reducing the amount of time required to label the individual store. A Java applet handles the printing allowing the print stream to be centrally rendered and passed in a heavily compressed form to the individual client machines. In addition the platform supports PDA devices and hip-printers allowing for future printing of labels directly at the shelf edge, queue busting and so on.

As part of this project Charles:

  • Acted as the B&Q design authority on the project.
  • Co-authored the Detailed Technical Design for the solution with Episys.
  • Wrote the specifications for the MQ and ETL data take-on programs.
  • Coordinated the development effort across the different suppliers and in-house teams.
  • Managed the central server environments.
  • Provided training to the security and support teams.
  • Developed web based data repair utility (JSP, JSTL, Servlets, JDBC with Oracle, DisplayTags, POI).

The solution was rolled out across the B&Q store estate in December 2006. It supports a user population of around 14,000

IPS Batch Monitoring Application

Following on from the successful implementation of the In-store Pricing solution, B&Q asked Charles to write a utility to automatically check the status of the batch and store web applications. This was delivered to B&Q in June 2007. The Checking application is written as a stand-alone command line Java (J2SE) application running on AIX and scheduled using CRON. It performs checks against the database to ascertain the state of the last batch run, and also makes sure that the web application login page can be reached, that there is enough disk space available for pre-rendering labels and reports on the central server, and that the batch process is running. Once the checks have been completed, an Excel report is generated and emailed to the relevant support teams.
The main APIs used are: JDBC with Oracle, Java Mail and Logging, Jakarta Commons HttpClient, Apache POI.

Store Task Manager


The B&Q Store Task Manager project delivered a structured workflow for in-store assignments. Previously tasks were assigned to store managers via email to a generic and very busy store inbox. Although rules-based processing could have helped, B&Q decided on a more fundamental change and, following a successful pilot in 55 stores in January 2005, rolled out Store Task Manager across its entire operation - around 350 stores - completing the roll-out in March (approx 3000 users).

This Java Enterprise (JEE) based system is based on a browser-based workflow tool called Precision Workflow Management from Reflexis. One significant advantage of the new system is that feedback and alerting to head office are automatically built-in, so the head office team can monitor when a project has been actioned. This has proved particularly effective when dealing with preparations for external range reviews within a store, for example.

Charles' responsibilities included:

  • Management of relationship between B&Q and the vendor
  • Management of internal resources and co-ordination of activities during development and testing cycles
  • Delivery of technical, performance and security testing for the application
  • Working with the system test team to analyse complex problems, notably during performance testing, suggesting potential fixes and allocating these to appropriate development teams
  • Working alongside the third party application developers to deliver code fix and unit / system testing during UAT
  • Review and QA of all functional and technical design documents
  • Preparation of technical environments and data set-up
  • Development of support model and training material for handover of the application to the Systems support teams

The project saw an estimated cost saving of £1m a year. It subsequently won "Best in IT/Business Alignment" at the 7th Annual Retail Systems Achievement Awards.

Further information:
Article in computer weekly