CATEGORY: Data administration, management, modeling and database performance.
REVIEWER: Lori Oswald, senior vice president of finance database systems for AmSouth.
BACKGROUND: AmSouth is a leader among regional banks in the Southeast because our relationships with our customers are at the heart of everything we do. AmSouth Bank is a publicly held company listed with the NYSE.
PLATFORMS: The production environment is Windows NT with a PC-based client/server setup.
PROBLEM SOLVED: AmSouth wanted to move financial and profitability reporting to SQL and OLAP technology in response to user demands for more flexible reporting and drill-down capabilities. Because this required several new OLAP cubes, our development teams began building them. However, we were maintaining OLAP meta data and attributes manually via cross-reference tables and had no formalized process for managing all the source and alternate hierarchies needed to drive the new cubes. Because some of those attributes drove business aggregations and calculation information, they were not insignificant. We determined that maintaining dimensions, cross-reference information and OLAP meta data would be too challenging, both in terms of resources and data consistency. We then began building our own databases for hierarchy maintenance, but this proved too complex and difficult to validate. We realized that our need was for a hierarchy management tool that would enable us to quickly build and deploy new dimensional applications, without the downside of incremental maintenance.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We chose RazzaDS to help us manage the integration of our G/L and profitability reporting process hierarchies and the alternate hierarchies required to create 11 financial and profitability reporting cubes. Razza is the center point of control for all changes to organizational, account, product and legal hierarchies. It also manages changes to complex cross-reference tables. An audit log allows us to keep track of who changes what and when, while versioning lets us keep historical versions. The Web acts as our front end, allowing users to view hierarchies and make changes. By maintaining the hierarchies in Razza's centralized repository, we no longer need to spend much time building new hierarchies. Integrity of reporting structures is ensured because we create and link alternate dimensions to standard validation processes. Individual departments can now maintain their own hierarchies without creating consistency problems. They can also extract and share parts of existing structures already in place. Thanks to the consistency and transparency provided by Razza, we're now able to maintain 11 Essbase cubes, with a maintenance reduction of at least 50 percent. Spinning new cubes takes 30 percent less time. The main benefit is that we now offer a much more robust environment to our users and we can deliver more information with greater accuracy. The architecture is flexible enough that we can add new databases/OLAP cubes without incurring additional maintenance and complexity that would stall new reporting development. We now have the necessary tools to validate results and securely push hierarchy management processes out to key business analysts. Our IT team is no longer bogged down in mundane maintenance processes. Consequently, they can focus on more strategic, value-adding initiatives.
STRENGTHS: Ease of use in maintaining hierarchies is paramount, as are one version of the truth and transparency. The audit log and versioning enable quick and efficient troubleshooting.
WEAKNESSES: The only item still on our wish list is to have system-generated security reports.
SELECTION CRITERIA: We couldn't find other products that serve this space. Our standard is to buy versus build whenever possible. If we can get a product that's close, we'll work with it. When we saw and worked with Razza for a day, there was no doubt that this was the right tool.
DELIVERABLES: The main deliverables are the hierarchies themselves, and the SQL cross-reference tables and data validation used to support financial and profitability management reporting. Razza provides proactive management and validation of all hierarchies to verify consistency and accuracy of critical reporting applications.
VENDOR SUPPORT: Razza listens well to our users and helps them solve business problems. We notice that product enhancements tend to reflect features that our users have requested.
DOCUMENTATION: Razza's new documentation is very helpful and clear.
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