PLATFORMS: Servers: Sun UltraSPARC Solaris environment; Sybase SQL Server on OS/2 server; Oracle7 & 8 using SQLNet over TCP/IP. DB2 running on an IBM mainframe via a Sybase pass-through gateway using Open Client. Clients: PCs (Pentiums with some 486s) running under Windows 95 and Windows 3.1 as well as Apple Power Macintoshes running O/S 7.x, 8.x.
BACKGROUND: ARCO Products Company (APC), based in Los Angeles, is a refiner, distributor and marketer of oil and gasoline as well as food products. ARCO Products is a leading retailer of gasoline on the West Coast with more than 1,500 branded retail outlets.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Before implementing VISION:Clearaccess from Sterling Software, APC had struggled to consolidate data on cash flow, sales and inventory. Financial analysts were manually keying all the data into computer spreadsheets and straining to track a huge volume of internal information. With that semi-manual system, they were unable to keep data current. APC needed to find a way to get up-to-date information to the people who needed it, where they needed it, when they needed it. The solution was to provide VISION:Clearaccess to more than 2,000 users in the company's six key locations.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: VISION:Clearaccess changes end users from passive dependent data seekers into active independent knowledge workers able to access the information they need to manage the business. With VISION:Clearaccess, these users also gained the power to drill down through the data and perform sophisticated analyses.
STRENGTHS: VISION:Clearaccess provides the APC enterprise with data access tools that can be used by knowledge workers including those with no SQL training. Users of VISION:Clearaccess can access data in IBM DB2 and Sybase SQL databases via TCP/IP networking and download it into Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. VISION:Clearaccess collects the required information even when it is spread among numerous DB2 databases in different departments. The VISION:Clearaccess Query Builder, an SQL syntax writer, draws "what-if" criteria, enabling the rapid sorting of data. End users are frequently able to set up custom reports on their own, freeing the IT department to concentrate on more challenging mission-critical tasks. With VISION:Clearaccess, APC builds reusable spreadsheets, scripts and reports, which are stored in a shared environment.
WEAKNESSES: The PC and Macintosh versions of VISION:Clearaccess have subtle differences where one will have a certain edit capability and the other does not. SELECTION CRITERIA: The original version of the product provided Macintosh access to DB2 data stored on IBM mainframes. When APC migrated from Macintosh to PC in the 1991-93 time frame, a number of other products were tested but both IT professionals and end users preferred VISION:Clearaccess.
DELIVERABLES: Using Excel models fed with both current and historical data, VISION:Clearaccess plays a vital role in supporting budget development and analysis--comparing APCs actual versus budgeted spending in thousands of lines of detail every month. Summary reports are developed for analysts, and when they need more information, VISION:Clearaccess makes it easy to run the system's "more detail" script with a point-and-click command.
VENDOR SUPPORT: When we have had occasion to phone Sterling Software for support, we have received an immediate response as soon.
DOCUMENTATION: The documentation answers all the questions a user might have. Every command is laid out well. The documentation even taught the reviewer better SQL syntax than he learned from formal training.
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