REVIEWERS: Frank Burkhardt, network administrator and Ray Shepard, executive information systems administrator at Blue Bird Corporation.
BACKGROUND: Blue Bird Corporation is one of the world's leading bus manufacturers, delivering thousands of school buses, commercial buses and recreational vehicles to the market each year the only company to produce all three products from start to finish. Blue Bird Corporation continues to set industry standards with its innovative design and manufacturing of school buses, commercial buses and motor coaches. Founded in 1927, Blue Bird has nearly 3,000 employees and four plants in two countries. Blue Bird has an extensive network of distributors and service parts facilities throughout North America. Blue Bird is a subsidiary of Henleys Group plc.
PLATFORMS: IBM RS/6000 7025-F80 (quad 333 MHz CPUs) with 6.6GB of RAM running AIX 4.3.3 operating system.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Databeacon 5.2 allows the executive team to perform real-time queries on data without the intervention or assistance of the IT department. The results of these queries can be saved on the executives' PCs in Excel, Word or PDF format and shared with others.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We have published several different Databeacon cubes tailored to the needs of our various business units. Each cube has several predefined views filtered to the needs of the class of user. Published cubes are accessed via our secure intranet using the browsers on users' PCs. Before the cube can be productive, the administrator must be aware of how the target audience intends to use the Databeacon Insight viewer so that the correct data is available. Currently each cube is created nightly, but we are in the process of moving to a build-on- demand format. This is not a high priority because the data is fairly static. We will be utilizing a DB2 database running on a different RS/6000.
STRENGTHS: Installation and setup were easy and straightforward. Tech support was only used once during installation, and they were very helpful. This product has been running nonstop in production since the last restart of the RS/6000 (88 days ago as of this writing). The ability for users to drill down through their data to details and save the details as a spreadsheet has virtually eliminated the request for ad hoc reports to the IT department. Only a minimal amount of training time was required for the users to be comfortable interacting with the data. Because users can see the source data (by drilling down to details), they tend to trust Databeacon's output. Documentation for the Windows environment is very good.
WEAKNESSES: Documentation is geared toward a Windows environment, not UNIX. Category names disappear when filters are applied, causing confusion when using predefined views. The only way to combine views is to save them as individual Excel or Word documents and then cut and paste into one document. Cubes are limited to a single data source so data merging must be done before cubes are built. The number of categories per cube depends on the amount of variability of the data in each category and, at maximum, is limited by 128-bit mapping. The software does not seem to recognize some older versions of Excel or Internet Explorer.
SELECTION CRITERIA: Databeacon was chosen for its ability to create graphs, charts and spreadsheets from a wide variety of data types. Cost, support and ease of use and installation were big factors in choosing this software. The ability for users to drill down to details from a spreadsheet or chart and save those details to Excel was a huge plus with our executive team when demonstrating an evaluation copy.
DELIVERABLES: This product provides users with access to data and provides the tools users need to mine that data. It has provided the end users with the ability to create the output they want in a form they can use without intervention from the IT department.
VENDOR SUPPORT: The support staff at Databeacon has been prompt, courteous and extremely helpful. They go out of their way to provide answers and solve problems in a timely manner.
DOCUMENTATION: Documentation is adequate for Windows-based users. Users of UNIX systems will have to rely on a combination of documentation and support.
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