Deltek Adds XML Support to Advanced ERP, Financial and HR Applications with Stylus Studio



Deltek has been specializing in ERP, financial, HR, and Project Management applications for the professional services industry since 1984. Large government systems integrators are their core market.

John Black is one of the Deltek's product architects. He is also their primary XML developer and guru. John was initially exposed to Stylus Studio® 3.0, which he used to help teach himself XML. Since then, John has encouraged Deltek project teams to use the Stylus Studio® XML IDE — both for learning and working with XML.

One of John's current projects is a Time Collection application, which gathers data from a variety of sources, composes it into a timesheet, and then exports the result to Deltek's and other payroll applications. This project is part of a strategic initiative to transition Deltek's application suite from a C++, client/server, and Java Applet based architecture to J2EE and Web services.

An important part of the Time Collection application is building an interface for the time collection's engine, which is based on XML. Part of the time collection engine's interface are various "home-grown" data adapters that can read ASCII files, XML, JMS queues, PeopleSoft repositories, Oracle databases, and so on. The interface engine uses XSLT to transform inputs from these and other sources into a canonical (that is, normalized) form represented in XML, according to various data models defined by an XML Schema. By introducing the data adapter layer to convert native data formats into XML, Deltek was able to ensure support for legacy file formats, while isolating and reducing the customization work required to subsequently reuse this data, for example, in developing Web-based front-ends.

The Time Collection project used Stylus Studio® to develop the XSLT stylesheets that transform the normalized, XML input data to various other XML structures used throughout the XML application through a series of XML mapping operations. Stylus Studio® was also used to design stylesheets that transform XML error messages into HTML for quick display and re-entry. In John's own words: "I could get the data transformations to be perfect!" Finally, Stylus Studio® is used to create and test XPath expressions for navigating the XML data gathered by the Time Collection application.

John is now actively investigating Stylus Studio®'s SQL/XML support. Deltek is rebuilding the interfaces to its own relational databases, and they are constantly dealing with interfacing to databases present at their customer sites. Similarly, John is beginning to look at XQuery, which he believes will make it easier to create the kind of integration code he previously had to write by hand.

According to John, "the key to Stylus Studio®'s success at Deltek is its fast design-test- debug cycle. Stylus Studio®'s ability to make it easy to work with XML has been essential to the success of the Time Collection project."

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