CATEGORY: Analytic Applications and Performance Management

REVIEWER: Rick Stevenson, director of financial systems for GAF Materials Corporation.

BACKGROUND: GAF Materials Corporation (GAFMC) is North America's largest roofing manufacturer, with currently $1.3 billion-plus in annual sales. The company traces its roots back to 1886. GAFMC boasts industry-leading brands such as Royal Sovereign, Timberline, Ruberoid and Topcoat in its portfolio. More than 3,000 people work at GAFMC's 29 manufacturing plants and sales offices throughout the U.S.

PLATFORMS: dynaSight and Applix iTM1.

PROBLEM SOLVED: We needed to find a more effective way to serve GAFMC's information needs, especially because company growth and new IT investments were exponentially increasing data volume and, in turn, the volume of potential reports. We also needed a real-time reporting solution for planning and forecasting; our existing system was taking too long to consolidate the data across the 30-plus servers. Real-time decision support was nonexistent. arcplan's dynaSight is a reporting platform that was easily deployed, integrated seamlessly with iTM1 and enabled consolidation of data and multidimensional analysis of business data across our operating units – that's more than 500 business users representing finance, sales, logistics, transportation, manufacturing and customer service! Our end users feel empowered, and overall it has improved planning and communication across the board.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We got our solution up and running in less than six months, and still marvel at our ability to promptly make changes to applications as needed. Development is so rapid and painless that we immediately noticed tremendous performance improvements. We'll be integrating dynaSight's new handheld functionality into our solution so that our sales representatives can access the applications on their PDAs in the field.

STRENGTHS: dynaSight's intuitive, object-oriented development environment, report flexibility and the ability to easily customize our BI applications as needed are perhaps the most important strengths. Packaged applications were too inflexible and internal development efforts would have taken too long, not to mention the drag on our IT resources. Because dynaSight is Web based, there is no client software required, which simplified deployment and makes it easy for our employees to access their data on the road. dynaSight's total cost of ownership has been very reasonable due in part to a quick implementation and low ongoing IT support requirements.

WEAKNESSES: While implementing dynaSight, we encountered a glitch only 4 days prior to go-live. Although this could have turned into a major issue, arcplan was there to work through it with us. Our issue was resolved within 24 hours, and we debuted the new system on time! However, in the initiatives I have seen emerging from arcplan recently, they are on a good path to improving their documentation. A monthly newsletter communicates new technical tips and company and industry news. A new content repository helps developers learn more complex functionality with documented examples, and a new Web support system keeps an online record of logged support issues.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Support for iTM1 and easy write-back were crucial criteria for us, and this functionality was difficult to find in competing products. We were also impressed with the product's user-friendliness. The look and feel of its user interface and its easy point-and-click capability to build and use applications helped us sell it within our organization. Perhaps the deal clincher was arcplan's proof of concept, which revealed several problem areas we weren't aware of. This insight immediately sold us on dynaSight's value.

DELIVERABLES: With dynaSight, we've created a business intelligence solution that includes a reporting function including budgeting, planning, consolidation and analysis, as well as an executive information system that is used extensively by our CEO for exception monitoring.

VENDOR SUPPORT: From day one, we have been very pleased with our support from arcplan. We still get the occasional check-in call from our salesperson, but whatever problems we have are quickly resolved. We've got phone and online support, and look forward to using arcplan's new content repository.

DOCUMENTATION: Other than initial training guides, arcplan offers little in the form of documentation. It does offer an online support site, which offers a wide variety of easy to understand tips, tricks and examples. However, the development platform and user interfaces are intuitive and browser-based. The learning curve is minimal, and all it took was a demo to get our users up to speed.

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