CATEGORY: DW Design, Administration & Management
REVIEWER: Tom Chubaty, IT project manager for Alliant Energy.
BACKGROUND: Alliant Energy Corporation is a growing energy-services provider with operations both domestically and internationally.
PLATFORMS: Sun UNIX, e450, SUN OS v5.8 and HP series V.
PROBLEM SOLVED: With over 100 locations, including three general offices, Alliant Energy, wanted to consolidate print operations by aggregating report information into an online readable format for efficient distribution to internal users. Vista Plus was fully implemented for use by all major functional areas within Alliant Energy including finance, human resources, payroll, purchasing, accounts payable, accounts recei! vable and the customer service department. Vista Plus reduces the cost of multiple print centers, eliminates the need for microfiche and simplifies the process of information distribution and access for Alliant Energy.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Vista Plus provides approximately 1,000 users with one place to go for quick and easy access to business-critical report information. Vista Plus is unique in that it aggregates report information created by many different applications as well as electronic documents and stores them in a central repository. The information can then be viewed by end users through a Windows or Java client. With built-in page-level security, users only have access to the information pertinent to their jobs that which they are permitted to use. In addition, Vista Plus has allowed Alliant Energy to reengineer business processes in different departments. By educating the different departments on what was possible with Vista Plus, the IT staff was able to customize and completely integrate it with Alliant! Energy's daily business processes. Vista Plus has become a mission-critical component at Alliant Energy, and there are plans to add Vista Plus to our disaster recovery plan.
STRENGTHS: Vista Plus has an intuitive, easy-to-use interface that works like Windows Explorer. Its ability to perform full-text or index searches as well as download reports to Excel is useful. The report- bursting feature is also valuable because it allows Alliant Energy to break up reports for efficient electronic distribution of specific information to authorized users. Smart Alarms notify users when new reports or generations are available for online viewing.
WEAKNESSES: It would be nice if Vista Plus were to incorporate all the features of electronic document management products. Along those lines, the ability to have document check-in and check-out control would facilitate Alliant Energy's workflow distribution. Quest is currently planning to add this functionality to an upcoming version of Vista Plus.
SELECTION CRITERIA: Alliant Energy had three goals for a report archival and distribution solution, including consolidation of reports from different applications, reduction of print and elimination of fiche. In consulting with independent parties such as Gartner, META Group and Doculabs, Quest Software came up as a strong candidate. During the evaluation, Vista Plus stood out with a user-friendly product that offered similar Windows and Java interfaces so there is no learning curve between the two. Vista Plus also works on either UNIX or NT with no cost difference, unlike competitive solutions that either charge extra for UNIX or do not provide support for UNIX at all. Alliant Energy created an ROI spreadsheet with an estimated 47 percent internal rate of return, an estimated document capture rate of 60 percent and payback in under three years. We expect to achieve this sooner because at least one territory is currently experiencing a 99 percent document capture rate. Quest also provides a unique computer-based training (CBT) which facilitates the training process and has received a very positive reaction. Alliant Energy conducted extensive training with Vista Plus because we want the users to be able to take advantage of the advanced features.
DELIVERABLES: Vista Plus provides a consolidated method of viewing reports and electronic documents in an efficient manner by providing document storage, archival and retrieval. The Vista Plus Java Client enables access to information over the Web which is especially useful for users in remote locations.
VENDOR SUPPORT: Quest Technical Support has been very responsive to all issues, providing workarounds and patches in a timely manner.
DOCUMENTATION: The documentation provided is very easy to understand and use. The pocket guides are an especially good feature. Alliant Energy used the Quest documentation to create its own customized training tools.
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