BACKGROUND: Avista Corporation is a widely diverse company specializing in electrical power generation, distribution and transmission throughout the western half of the United States, with expansion planned for the southwestern and eastern United States. We are expanding several of our independent divisions and are positioned to become a major player in all facets of the retail and commercial energy business. Our database environment consists of DB2 running on a remote mainframe at our IT provider's site in Sacramento, California. Multiple Oracle databases are maintained at individual sites. Payroll and human resource information residing on the Oracle databases is moved nightly to the mainframe for processing by the company's work management system (WMS), which is an in-house application that tracks and analyzes employee information.

PLATFORMS: Data Junction's products run on Windows 95/98/NT and UNIX.

PROBLEM SOLVED: With a growing employee base and a major expansion planned, we needed to streamline our payroll system. In order to track labor hours and analyze our human resources for workforce planning, we implemented a data mart system that allows employees to make simple alterations to their personnel records and report their weekly hours via an intranet. A data mart project of this scope required support for a wide variety of systems and multiple data types. Data Junction gave us the versatility and power to complete our project without custom code.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Every day, our local Oracle databases are updated with more than 2,500 employee transactions executed on our intranet using active server pages (ASP). Data Junction automates the exchange of these records between the local databases and a DB2 data mart running on a central mainframe. The transformations are designed in Data Junction's easy-to-use graphical designer and then automatically executed by the server-based DJEngine. Once the tables are loaded into the DB2 data mart, our WMS analyzes the data to produce payment and workforce reports. In addition to daily updates, more than 65,000 general ledger and employee time records are moved to the data mart on a biweekly basis. After the records are analyzed, Data Junction is used to rationalize the data with the report layout used by our corporate HR department.

STRENGTHS: Data Junction has been a key factor in the success of our data mart project. The product has an incredible ability to handle a wide variety of application and data format interfaces without custom code. Knowing that we had to interface with a wide variety of third-party vendors and their software, we wanted a solution that didn't require extensive programmer resources. Data Junction's versatility also ensures that we will be able to address any changes to our conversion requirements.

WEAKNESSES: Data Junction is so robust that adequate documentation on many topics seems lacking to the new user.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We chose Data Junction because of its ability to interface with a limitless number of data formats and applications. It is possibly the best product we purchased during the entire project. In its current form Data Junction is, hands down, the winner in functionality, ease of use and product reliability.

DELIVERABLES: Data Junction is saving our company sizable amounts of time and money by significantly decreasing our reliance on custom code for data transformation. With the old mainframe system, we employed two full-time programmers, constantly building and updating our data conversions. Data Junction allows us to populate our data mart with tens of thousands of records in about 30 to 45 minutes without continuously revising and adding code.

VENDER SUPPORT: The time frame for implementing our transformation routines was very short, so we elected to bring a Data Junction technical consultant on-site to help with the training effort. The consultant was outstanding in her understanding of the product and created custom training sessions for our needs. We were able to implement all of our transformation routines with minimal follow up. Questions that did arise were handled in a very timely and efficient manner.

DOCUMENTATION: Documentation was adequate for experienced users, but inexperienced users may need more guidance.

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