CATEGORY: BI Tools

REVIEWER: Shuki Gur, vice president of sales and marketing for Afek Information System Engineering Ltd.

BACKGROUND: Afek Information Systems Engineering Ltd., a subsidiary of the Afek Group, is one of the leading computer consulting companies in Israel. We provide solutions in a wide range of fields including computer system analysis, information systems development, ERP system implementation, and implementation and management of logistics projects.

PLATFORMS: Max 2.0 from Maximal Innovative Intelligence Ltd. runs on Microsoft NT and Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 OLAP Services.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Before we began using Max, we used custom applications for generating reports from our operational system. These were text and numerical reports that had to be created by analysts for the managers. The reporting process was too long and too slow to provide any real value, and it was extremely difficult to draw conclusions from the numerical data contained in several different reports. Working with Max enables us to take full advantage of our data resources. Because it is so easy to use and highly graphical we have been able to drastically reduce the layers and time frame between data gathering and data analysis. Now, Afek managers create their own views and reports without needing analysis experts to do it for them. This allows managers to make immediate decisions while reviewing data.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Afek senior managers use Max to analyze the various dimensions that define our operations. Using Max's intuitive, multidimensional graphical interface, our users can quickly see vital information concerning basic transactions. Then, using the one-click drill-down and analysis capabilities, they can look deeper to get more specific information and quickly spot problems and trends. Most importantly, Max enables us to manage by exception. Instead of looking at 50-plus customers and 100-plus projects, we can use Max' analysis wizards to very quickly and easily see which projects are particularly profitable or unprofitable. In the future, we expect to use Max to compare our forecasts to actual performance. Additionally, we are planning to expand the use of Max to the junior management level which will enable account and team managers to keep track of their own projects.

STRENGTHS: Max cuts the time it takes to find the knowledge hidden in our data. This is a result of several features of Max including the way Max automatically aggregates the data, the easy to use graphical interface and the simple one-click drill down. The "Find Similar" analysis wizard is particularly useful because it enables us to quickly find exceptions, even when we are not aware they exist.

WEAKNESSES: Max 2.0 is a large client. It would be easier for us to implement Max for a wider set of users if the client were lighter. I understand that the next version will be a light client, accessible via the Internet or Intranet, which will be a welcome advance.

SELECTION CRITERIA: The most important considerations were functionality and cost. Max offers exactly what we need in terms of multidimensional analysis, giving us extensive functionality without numerous different kinds of bars and graphs to complicate matters. Max is the clear leader in terms of ease of use, which was crucial given that we want all managers to do their own business analysis. In terms of cost, Max was significantly cheaper than the alternatives.

DELIVERABLES: The measures we currently have available are projects, time, team managers, account managers, profitability and invoice totals. All users create their own reports independently and they can manipulate the views and reports to meet their specific needs.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Maximal provides first-class support. Implementation is very straight forward, but whenever we have a technical or logical problem, they are able to help us.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is clear and easy to use. However, we found Max to be so intuitive, we hardly referred to the manual.

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