In these days of DevOps, it’s easier to ensure that end users get all the information and training they need when they come to start using a new piece of software. Everyone has been involved since day 1 and everyone has had an opportunity to express their opinions and discuss what would make the new software work best for them. That isn’t the case with older CICS applications.
All too often, new people join the team, they’re quickly introduced to everyone (and who can remember all those names?) then shown how to use the applications. And they’re just shown how the last person used it to get the results they needed, and that’s it. There’s no understanding of what the application is trying to achieve, just the basic instructions on what to do. And so that new member of staff gets on with their job – doing exactly what they’ve been shown to do and unable to attempt anything else because they don’t have the additional information. And sometimes they can’t do what they’re meant to do because they have forgotten some small part of their training, and there’s no quick way of getting any helpful information from the program.
There’s another issue that many sites face, and that’s the fact that many of their all-important CICS applications have been running for quite a few years. They’ve been running very successfully. It’s just that most of the CICS programming team have left the organization, and there’s no-one left who has the time to really make any changes to this working program. No-one wants to sit there, pouring over the code, and adding helpful comments in the right place for new end users to read so that they can make the best use of the application.
What’s needed is some kind of online help facility that would allow application programmers to add online documentation to CICS applications without modifying the existing code.
And that’s exactly what Online Help Facility for MVS (OHF/MVS) gives you. The help text can be displayed in pop-up windows, and these can be placed anywhere on an application screen. This allows users to key data into any field that is not covered by the OHF help window.Because end users can get the help they need as soon as they need it, sites using OHF have found that it not only minimizes the number of end user support calls, it also reduces their end user training costs. And, because end users can quickly find out the correct thing to do next, OHF also decreases error rates. What’s more, you don’t need some expensive and hard-to-find systems programmer to put in the online help information. In fact, no programming knowledge is needed. Although you will need a systems programmer to install it, but that usually takes less than one hour, and, as you might expect, there’s comprehensive online help for the systems programmer.
Other features that come with OHF include:
- There’s an ISPF-type text editor that you use to create the help text.
- You can store large amounts of text for each help window. Full scrolling is supported, so the user can see all the text you’ve entered.
- It also comes with virtual PA or PF key support. This allows any key to be selected as the OHF help key, even if it’s used by another application.
- Help can be displayed as a single line, a variable sized window, or a complete indexed manual. Different help screens can be displayed based on the value of the selected field.
- A “swap” feature allows up to four CICS sessions to run concurrently on any terminal.
- It comes with a “Sticky cursor” feature that lets users cut information from the help text and paste it onto their application screen.
No longer do you need to have end users making mistakes or trying to guess what’s the right thing to do when they come across a less familiar screen in a CICS application. Now you can easily provide online help for those users in such a way that new users ‘get up to speed’ quickly, old users get a better understanding of what’s happening on the system, you’ve reduced your support calls, you’ve reduced the number of errors that are made, and you’re able to provide a much faster and more reliable service to your customers – whether they’re internal or external. You’ve provided a way for your CICS end users to get the help they need.