KM for rapid developers

KM for rapid developers

Transcom's RDP tool converts tacit knowledge to reusable code in the .NET environment.

By Paul Montgomery

A new rapid application development tool from Microsoft partner Transcom Software applies the tenets of knowledge management to the application building process.RDP, or Rapid Development Platform, changes the way developers construct Web-based enterprise applications. Instead of hacking away at raw code for hours on end, programmers can now spend their time defining business rules and processes. These processes can then be automatically deployed to multiple languages and technology platforms using preformatted code segments.

Chris Coleman, chief technology officer at Transcom, said the idea of RDP was to transfer the tacit knowledge stored in programmers' brains into explicit knowledge, in the form of reusable code fragments called templates.

"What we do is knowledge management for developers. We capture the procedures in templates, and genericise them," he said.

The rules and procedures can be exported from RDP to become applications and scripts written in C# COM+, SQL, PHP, Java, Delphi, Visual Basic, Oracle or Active Server Pages. Mr Coleman said that RDP also supported OLE DB and had just added XML, with Exchange integration coming, and support for the XSL and XSD scripting languages at alpha stage.

"This is the heart of how the system works," he said. "The language you use is user-definable. We have all the elements of what you need to build database-driven scripts and procedures."


While there are some generic templates included with the product, the real power of RDP comes when veteran programmers from an organisation defined their own templates, thus passing on their tacit knowledge in explicit form to be reused by less experienced coders.

"Anything someone can manually do, we can turn into a template instead," said Mr Coleman. "It is the most complex part of RDP to develop templates. There are our own structures in there, and they are best practice, but users can develop their own."RDP can even be used by non-programmers, using what Mr Coleman described as "wizards on steroids" to deliver a non-technical interface so that amateurs could just point and click their way to building an enterprise application.

"RDP allows users to focus on the business logic, rather than the plumbing. In a lot of cases, you can build enterprise applications without developers, but you still need the developers to write the templates," he said.

Many budding programmers these days learn their trade by copying code. This practice has been encouraged in Web browsers through the View Source function, a feature which has brought knowledge of HTML to many novice coders.

Since up to 70 per cent of code in Web-based applications can be copied and pasted from old code sets, according to Mr Coleman, RDP has a role in automating that process.

"We can capture all that knowledge so that juniors can produce at a very good level, even if they don't have the best knowledge," he said.


Transcom has received heavy mentoring support from Microsoft, and Mr Coleman has given speeches at Microsoft-sponsored events around Asia. Transcom is committed to delivering a Web-based program management tool incorporating the Microsoft Solution Framework (MSF) as the core methodology for application development, with products due for launch in late 2002. Microsoft Australia identified RDP as a key tool in its fight to convert independent software vendors (ISVs) to its .NET platform, on which RDP is built.

The company claims to be the first in the world to provide n-tier architecture code for .NET in C# and Visual Basic.NET out of the box. Mr Coleman said RDP would assist developers who wanted to use Microsoft technologies but wanted to break free of the old client/server paradigm.

"There are 8.5 million Microsoft developers. Of those, who can write n-tier applications? It numbers in the thousands," he said.

A free trial version of the software can be downloaded at

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