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There are as many different kinds of transformation projects as there are companies considering them – every project has its own special issues based on the state of the application at the start, the business drivers, and the desired goal. But, we can make some broad categorizations in order to understand something about some broad categories of approach.
Two approaches are characterized by modest, short term investment and focused goals.
Business drivers for Transformation come in many different flavors and the perception of them often changes during the needs assessment process. At the start of the assessment process, a need may be obvious and well-recognized by much of the company or it may be an obscure problem, perhaps recognized by only one person and it may not have occurred to that person better software could fix anything. Drivers may be common to many companies or very idiosyncratic to a specific company and its own business processes.
Because of the atmosphere of comfortable inertia around legacy ABL applications, they often experience a sort of benign neglect – small, short-term, immediate projects get attention and larger scope issues never quite make it onto the table. A developer might bring up one of these more general issues in response to something in an on-line forum or conference. Or an astute manager might be aware of the issue from prior experience or reading.
While development shops in companies with OpenEdge applications are as varied as development shops everywhere, there is a tendency for companies with OpenEdge applications to minimize their expenditures on computing. Ironically, this characteristic derives from the low cost of ownership of OpenEdge. Since it is rare for a company to require a full time DBA, as many databases need, the DBA role is a part time job for one of the developers.
"Transformation" has become a popular term in the ABL for various kinds of application modernization -- moving to a new User Interface (UI), implementing a Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), evolving toward the OpenEdge Reference Architecture (OERA), and other projects directed toward upgrading old versions of legacy ABL applictions. Today's ABL is just not the same language it was back 15-20 years ago when many ABL applications were first written and our ideas about good architecture have, if anything, evolved more than the language.