REVIEWER: Denise Price, manager of enterprise system services for York University.
BACKGROUND: The mission of York University is the pursuit, preservation and dissemination of knowledge. York promises excellence in research and teaching in pure, applied and professional fields.
PLATFORMS: Windows 2000, database running off a UNIX server, proxy server running on Linux with Apache, PeopleSoft HR 8.3 and PeopleSoft Financials 8.4.
PROBLEM SOLVED: York University was using a custom-built solution developed on campus that provided financial reports generated from PeopleSoft data. These reports were viewed by a number of users in PDF format. On average, 10,000 PDF files were created on a monthly basis. Not only were these reports static and lacking in functionality and flexibility, but they were also not available to all users. Once the users got the reports, there was no search capability. York University needed an enterprise solution that provided Web-based reporting with search capabilities, page-level security and the ability to download to Excel to conduct more sophisticated analysis with the information. Today, Actuate is used to view financial reports including budget reports, period end, detailed transactions and balance sheet statements. Actuate has been implemented to present Web-based reports and ensures that users can only view and download reports and pages within reports that they are eligible to view. Users can download information in fully functional server managed Excel spreadsheets so that they can easily manipulate it. They also have capabilities to search within a report for pertinent information; this is useful to avoid creating the 10,000 PDFs as we had done in the past. From the HR side, users are looking at payroll reports and staff information, which includes job description and, if applicable, union affiliation. York University uses PeopleSoft to produce reports in SQR. This data is then used as a source for Actuate to produce intuitive payroll expense distribution reports, often with some of the HR information combined within them.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Actuate 7 is an enterprise reporting application platform consisting of a set of products that employ familiar Web pages and Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to provide users with an intuitive, Web portal-like experience for accessing and interacting with decision-making information. Users can access data as Web reports, Excel spreadsheets, printed reports, multidimensional cubes and ad hoc queries. In addition, the platform provides a comprehensive development environment to build, integrate and maintain the core data access and reporting infrastructure of enterprise reporting applications. Finally, a scalable iServer manages the secure deployment of reporting and analytic content to large numbers of users. York University uses Actuate 7 predominantly for finance and HR systems, which are based on PeopleSoft. The longer-term plan is to port other reports, including those presented to our Department of Occupational Health and Safety and Advancement Services, onto Actuate to create what we call our "e-reports."
STRENGTHS: Actuate 7 is a unified platform for developing and deploying enterprise reporting applications. Enterprise reporting applications present decision-making information with easy-to-use interfaces, personalized relevance and timely delivery - resulting in adoption by 100% of users. Actuate 7 features a development architecture that is flexible enough to meet every user requirement for intuitively accessible and personalized information. Actuate 7 also features a deployment architecture that is scalable enough to serve 100% of the intended user population.
WEAKNESSES: When implementing Actuate 7, our developers needed to take some time to familiarize themselves with the extensive number of function calls available in the product API.
SELECTION CRITERIA: York University went through a very detailed selection process that spanned a number of months. Requirements were identified and prioritized in conjunction with the user community, and this served as the basis for the RFP. Actuate was chosen because it fulfilled our functionality, cost and support requirements. Actuate was also selected because it was compatible with PeopleSoft and could access other back-end data systems such as Oracle. Actuate also had to demonstrate suitability against our scripted demo that had to be delivered on our hardware. The demo was open for viewing by all members of York's campus and Actuate was chosen based on that feedback together with RFP responses.
DELIVERABLES: Actuate 7 enables York University to serve each of our user communities with the desired functionality while ensuring that our IT department can still be in control.
VENDOR SUPPORT: York University has a solid relationship with Actuate and receives support from Actuate's e.Support group. Whenever issues are uncovered, they are promptly resolved.
DOCUMENTATION: The documentation and training that Actuate has provided is generally good.
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