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The AIS Project and JINR

Beauty of a Collaboration

The AIS Project was started in 1990 by CERN's DirectorGeneral to renew all administrative information systems of the Organization. At the time CERN suffered from incoherent informationcoming from various administrative applications which did not share base data, thus causing the incoherence seen by the management.
Prof. Carlo Rubbia, the Director General in 1990, insisted also that there must be user-friendly ways to access and drill down the information available.

One of our colleagues saw our 1990 applications setup as follows:

Such an architecture could not really scale up to the ambitious objectives set up by our Director General. Something fairly drastic had to bedone.

For these reasons, we decides to base the project on"open" technologies: Unix and Oracle for the databases andapplications. For the user friendly tools, we decided to base ourselves on the then current Macintosh and PC clients and offer on those platforms the decision management tools that were needed.

By 1994, a new set of financial and purchasingapplications had been put in place. At the same time, two new user-friendly tools had been developped, the Budget Holder's Toolkit,BHT, and the Electronic Document Handling, EDH. It is at this time that we met for the first time our JINR colleagues and starteddiscussing the possibilities of reusing our user-friendly toolsoutside CERN, in Dubna.

There was quite a good amount of skepticism about this:our tools were too matched to the CERN environment, another organization's needs were different, they depended on our underlying databases and applications. All of these reasons were valid, still the talks continued and finally a Collaboration Agreement was signed with the main goal of helping JINR evaluate the potential of AIS technology and possibly implement it in Dubna.

In 1995 we received for the first time our colleagues and work started on BHT. There was still some disbelief about thereal possibility of implementation inside JINR, but despite this we learned to know each other, to appreciate each other and, with some surprise, we saw so much progress happening so quickly that the possiblity of BHT running in Dubna was no longer as remote as it seemed at the beginning.

In 1996, a localized version of BHT started running in JINR while in CERN we started working on the Human Resources Toolkit, HRT, largely based on BHT technology. The periodical presence of our JINR's colleagues and their now wide knowledge of BHT, helped us in refining our HRT development and in pushing it ahead. Without much surprise this time, HRT also was later localized and started running in Dubna.

By today, the AIS applications encompass much more functionality than they did in the early 90's, the following picture shows this:

and basically most of our user-friendly tools have benefitted from the collaboration.

It would be very long to retrace all of our exchanges since 1994. But a few facts can help us show how far we have gone since the early days. Around 20 different colleagues from Dubna have visited us, with a few of them being the backbone and the soul of our collaboration. Our BHT abd HRT implementation have vastly changed since 1994 and are now available on the Web. JINR is also running its administration, at least in part, thanks to BHT and HRT. The versions people see and use daily today have reached such a state so quickly thanks to our collaboration.

Despite EDH not running yet in Dubna, we have also collaborated in this area. Here as well our colleagues have been very valuables with different, and sometimes critical, views and ideas.Their contribution to this part of the project has been of the same high quality and standards we experienced in BHT.

The beauty of our collaboration stands not only in the excellent results we have obtained. The JINR team organization, theJINR work organization is very much different than CERN's way of working: despite this, there has been a very profitable exchange for both sides. Instead of trying to merge two different cultures and ways of working into a single one, we have leveraged the differences to obtain the best of both worlds. Today, looking back, we can say we succeded beyond expectations.

We hope to continue in this collaboration in the coming years in the same way and with the same, if not greater, success we enjoyed so far.

Our collaboration work is documented in the Collaborative Web Community - "CWC-0 (Information)".

Achille Petrilli (Deputy Division Leader AS, CERN) 19.12.2000

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