BACKGROUND: Bertelsmann Industry Services is part of Bertelsmann AG, which is headquartered in Guetersloh, Germany, and is the third largest media company in the world. Bertelsmann Industry Services provides a turnkey solution for the computer and healthcare industries. Outsourcing services include production, storage, order fulfillment and shipping. We host Web sites, print directories, have call centers for major airlines such as Lufthansa and Air France and distribution centers for both the healthcare and computer industries. Some of our sister companies include RCA, BMG Music and Random House.

PLATFORMS: Using Qport SmartView from NewGeneration Software (NGS), our users have access to data in NGS-IQ data marts and/or queries that reside on the IBM AS/400, and they download the data to their PC (with a Windows 95 interface).

PROBLEM SOLVED: We are currently using a software product designed for the graphic arts industry. Our business has changed drastically in the last three years, and we have added new business lines. Prior to 1996 we were basically a printing company specializing in directories, computer documentation and trade publications. The company has expanded into the outsourcing service industry and opened three call centers and two distribution centers. As we addressed our needs for these new business lines, it became apparent that we needed very flexible financial information. Although our software allowed us to keep very detailed information, it was stored in flat files with limited display access. We wanted our business unit managers to not only be able to print their own financials, but to have display access to all the details that went into those reports. Qport SmartView allowed us access to the hundreds of thousand of records gathered through our accounts payable and purchasing/inventory applications. Our managers can drill down from a one-line summary on a financial report to details such as when a purchase was made, for whom the purchase was made and on what purchase order number.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We will be placing this product on the desktop of all our managers. We are great believers in accountability and management based on information. The drag-and-drop formatting, slice-and-dice capabilities, filtering and drill-down features of this product have allowed us to deliver the data necessary to help our managers make informed decisions. We can also convert our data in a graph with a click of the mouse button.

STRENGTHS: The main strength of Qport SmartView is real-time access to the data on the AS/400 that all managers, regardless of their computer literacy, can easily access and understand.

WEAKNESSES: Qport SmartView should include a sort order selection. At the present time, the first field in the query determines the sort order. This means you may have to include fields that are not necessary for your report just to get the report to sort properly.

SELECTION CRITERIA: I have always considered software products that required you to read the book prior to using them as not user friendly. Qport SmartView is remarkably easy to install and use.

DELIVERABLES: The best description I can give you is that the product changes lengthy flat files into workable relational databases. We created displays which show production summaries for all our divisions and allow you to drill down to a particular employee and show the exact production jobs he worked on for any day included in the report. This saves us time as well as paper. We have been able to take a 100-page report and summarize it in one screen but still allow our managers to view details using drill down.

VENDOR SUPPORT: As usual, the vendor support is spectacular. NGS has always provided well-trained and technically informed user support for all their products. Vendor support is at the top of my list for any software program selection. It does not matter how good the program is if you do not have timely and informed vendor support.

DOCUMENTATION: I found the documentation easy to understand and was able to get started in very short order. After getting started, I was able to find answers quickly to any questions that did arise.

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