Top five myths of screen scraping, part 1: it’s only a green screen in a browser
Imagine for a moment it’s your first day at a new job. You’re working for a company that relies on timely and accurate access to customer information. Perhaps you are a claims processor at an insurance company, a customer service rep at a bank, or a sales manager at a car dealership. One of the first tasks your supervisor gives you is to spend your first three weeks on the job learning a business-critical computer application that looks like it’s from 1975. How would that make you feel?
Surprisingly, many organizations still ask their employees to use green-screen (or text-based) user interfaces to work with essential business information. If your organization uses or sells mainframe, IBM System i™ or OpenVMS applications, you’re familiar with this scenario. And if you manage employees who use these applications, you recognize the problem green screens present. They’re unappealing, hard to learn, intimidating, and accessible only with terminal emulation software. They’re also incompatible with modern application integration standards like Web services and SOA.
Green-screens are a business problem and a technology problem. How can businesses stay competitive when it requires weeks to train employees on green-screen applications? How can a group of customer service reps help a customer on the phone when it takes several minutes to find basic customer data? How can a business share select pieces of critical data with employees, partners, and other applications without giving users a complicated way of getting to the data?
The technology side of the problem is simply that green screen applications are no longer the de facto standard for user interfaces. Host-based applications run businesses. They’re still around today because they’re reliable, secure and have decades of business rules and information housed in them. Application developers need a way to help the business use the same information from the legacy system but deliver it in a modern and flexible way.
Getting Past the Myths
For several years there have been ways of turning green-screen applications into more up-to-date and useful Web-based applications or services. This approach is commonly referred to as screen scraping. Screen scraping has negative connotations to it—some consider it a quick fix and a clumsy way to develop applications or services. But this attitude is out of step with today’s application modernization technology.
With the right combination of features, a screen-scraping tool can be an application modernization solution that solves the business and technology problems that green-screens present. Over the coming weeks, we’ll outline the most common screen-scraping myths, and show how current modernization technology challenges those myths.
Myth #1: Screen Scraping is Only a Green-Screen in a Browser
A basic requirement for green-screen-based modernization is the ability to dynamically display a GUI version of any application screen. This typically involves setting up generic templates or rules that interpret each screen on the fly and present a GUI version of the screen to the user. Dynamic GUI is useful for deploying applications to desktops or the Web, but adds little functional value from the user or business perspective. It is sometimes referred to as “greenscreen in a browser.”
The real value-add in screen-based modernization projects lies in the ability to customize the application user interface. Users need improved application usability and workflow and integration with the desktop and Web-based tools they require to do their jobs. The basis for a customized GUI is still screens; however, the screens behave more as application-level APIs than direct user interfaces. Traditional screen-scraping approaches focus on “green screen in a browser.”
Current modernization technology focuses on re-engineering the application at the user interface level, combining information from multiple green-screens and presenting it to the user when and where it is required to perform whatever business processes they are engaged in.
In our next post, we’ll address the challenge of host-to-GUI synchronization. Until then, you can learn about the remaining four myths–and how to move past them–by downloading the complete whitepaper at the link below. You can also visit our website to learn more about our LegaSuite portfolio of Application Modernization tools.