BACKGROUND: Based in Brookfield, Wisconsin, Alterra is the nation's leading provider of assisted living residences for the elderly. Formed in 1981, Alterra grew aggressively with a combination of new construction, acquisitions and mergers. By 1997, the new company had two separate human resource systems, one of which had Y2K issues. PeopleSoft was selected to provide the company with a single system to handle payroll and human resources for all of its 10,000 employees at more than 350 facilities.
PLATFORMS: Convoy/DM currently runs on Dell 6300 Windows NT-based servers with an Microsoft SQL Server 6.5 database.
PROBLEM SOLVED: We began work on our PeopleSoft implementation in March 1998 and had this crazy idea that we could go live by year-end. With the company's explosive growth (one new residence every three days) and the likelihood of future acquisitions, I knew there would be plenty of data conversion projects in our future. We began looking for a tool to automate the conversion one that could be reused in later projects. Convoy/DM was very highly recommended in the PeopleSoft world, and it had all of the PeopleSoft meta data. Purchasing the Convoy product made a lot more sense to us than hiring a consulting firm that would take its expertise and proprietary tools with them when they were finished.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Convoy/DM generates conversion programs written in SQR, the language used in most PeopleSoft implementations. By utilizing it, we reduced the risk of data inaccuracies. Convoy automatically performs validations and edits, so we were convinced of the quality of the data we were loading. Because of this, Convoy saved us so much time in conversion that we used the extra time for testing purposes. Thanks to Convoy, final conversion went very smoothly. We will definitely be using Convoy/DM to implement the remaining PeopleSoft modules, and I predict that we will be using it for non-PeopleSoft projects as well, such as data warehouses and the conversion of legacy systems to Oracle. We'll be moving a lot of data with Convoy/DM over the next couple of years.
STRENGTHS: Convoy/DM is very easy to learn and use, and the PeopleSoft-specific field validations and data integrity built into Convoy/DM enabled us to feel confident in the validity of the data after conversion. Convoy reduced our PeopleSoft implementation time because we didn't have the added headache of becoming SQR experts. Probably the biggest benefit we experienced with Convoy was the time saved by creating and modifying a conversion program in 10 to 15 minutes. Without Convoy, we'd still be writing conversion programs.
WEAKNESSES: In the version we currently are running, the software does not have the ability to merge data from multiple tables. Creating a newly aggregated source table requires multiple passes through the source data tables. We understand that this feature has been added to the most recent release of the product.
SELECTION CRITERIA: Highly recommended in the PeopleSoft world, Convoy's ability to automatically incorporate PeopleSoft table structures, edits and required field values made it a perfect fit for our conversion. Our requirement for an automated tool that could be used in future conversions was also a major factor in choosing Convoy/DM.
DELIVERABLES: The legacy systems replaced included HR and job cost and payroll systems, both of which were PC-based with proprietary data structures. We implemented PeopleSoft's version 7.5 of HRMS, payroll and basic benefits. Convoy played a huge part in meeting our stringent time frame. We were able to roll out PeopleSoft at our new facilities starting in October 1998, and we went into company-wide production on January 1, 1999. Convoy produced reliable code in a predictable time frame.
VENDOR SUPPORT: Convoy provided a customized on-site training course during which time our team built real programs that were used during the data conversion. The Convoy staff is extremely knowledgeable and helpful, and it was a real tribute to them that we were up and running so quickly.
DOCUMENTATION: We found Convoy/DM to be very easy to use. Its intuitive GUI and comprehensive on-line help made using the manuals, except for the installation documentation, almost irrelevant.
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