CHS, Inc.

PIR Group Makes Mainframe to i Series Migration “a Great Experience” for CHS

chs-internalWhen CHS Inc., a leading Fortune 200 energy and grain-based foods company, was faced with the challenge of upgrading their mainframe system – project lead Andre Dube had much to consider.

Dube’s primary consideration was reducing operating costs. The company’s mainframe system included database support for contract management, shipment logistics, freight payables, inventory management, and transaction archives. The application inventory totaled over 400 IDMS/DC online programs, 450 IDMS/DC batch programs, and 350 JCL programs. At a monthly operating cost of over one million dollars for maintenance and upkeep, moving into a supported database environment seemed the make sense.

An investment in the right hardware was the Dube’s first order of business – he ultimately decided on the IBM i Series, a system that CHS had experience with in other departments. With the actual migration from mainframe to the i Series the next phase of the project, CHS sought to find the right partner. “PIR Group was referred to us by IBM,” said Dube, and after just one meeting the decision to go with them was made.

The CHS migration project had its own set of unique criteria:

  • Detailed display screens needed to remain the same
  • International systems required multilingual GUIs.
  • Large number of programs had to be converted and tested.
  • Disaster recovery model needed to mimic their production environment.

The project also had its share of challenges. Not long after the conversion project began, Dube lost two key programmers. He suddenly found himself with no one on his team to manage the conversion. “PIR Group jumped in and assisted us in acquiring the necessary local personnel to staff our project team,”Dube indicated. “Losing two key people slowed us down and delayed the project a little bit, but with PIR helping us through the transition it turned out not to be significant in the long run.”

“It was a great experience,” says Dube. “We stumbled over a few database challenges, which they (PIR Group) resolved for us. Testing was critical to make sure everything fell into place, our business analysts worked closely with PIR’s team to learn to PIR Group on a regular basis to work closely with their staff. PIR did whatever it took to keep the project going forward, working through all the bugs. After we went live, they stayed with us for the next two weeks to insure we didn’t have any hitches. As a result they kept us from experiencing any significant downtime, and the system has been working smoothly for us ever since.”

Most importantly, the upgrade significantly reduced operating costs. Dube says, “With hardware and personnel savings on the i Series, we no longer needed database analysis, or the large support staff, so it all added up. Management was very pleased with the results.”