PLATFORMS: BusinessObjects 4.1 is installed on multiple IBM RISC 6000 servers running UNIX with Sybase databases. A version of the product is also used on an IBM 3093 mainframe computer running DB2. End users have PC-based desktop computers running Microsoft NT and Windows 95.

BACKGROUND: Kaiser Permanente is America's largest not-for-profit health maintenance organization (HMO), serving 9.1 million members. An integrated health delivery system, Kaiser organizes and provides or coordinates members' care and hospital, medical and pharmacy services.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Kaiser measures its success by being able to provide consistent, quality health care while simultaneously finding ways to reduce costs for the organization and its customers. To accomplish this goal, Kaiser implemented a data warehouse with BusinessObjects as the primary decision support tool. The data warehouse has saved the corporation and patients millions of dollars while improving quality of care. For example, Kaiser used the data warehouse to evaluate drugs being used by physicians to treat a certain disorder. They found that one drug provided effective treatment and was much less expensive than the other two. By standardizing on this particular drug, Kaiser was able to save millions of dollars per year on reduced prescription costs and was able to pass these savings on to patients.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: From an administrative standpoint, BusinessObjects allows Kaiser's IT staff to easily manage security, user profiles, the central repository of business objects, meta data and microcubes, removing this responsibility from end users. The product also has the functionality and flexibility to work for a broad range of employees.

STRENGTHS: The main strengths of BusinessObjects 4.1 are functionality, performance and ease of use. Using a single interface, end users can easily perform queries, receive and generate reports, do on-line analytical processing (OLAP) and drill down into reports to get more information or perform ad hoc analysis. And because of the product's high performance, users don't have to wait for results.

WEAKNESSES: BusinessObjects requires a semantic layer, which shields end users from the complexity of the database schema. This layer requires initial work from the IT staff, who need to set up the meta data layer and repository, establish security profiles for users and groups of users, and deploy the product. However, this up-front investment in time is well worth the effort, especially in enterprise deployments, because it allows users to quickly leverage the power of the product to make more intelligent business decisions.

SELECTION CRITERIA: The main reason for choosing BusinessObjects 4.1 was because of the product's ease of use. Kaiser has found that BusinessObjects users require only a one-day class to become competent with the product. Kaiser also selected BusinessObjects because of the product's depth of functionality. At their own pace, users can easily graduate from viewing simple reports to doing complex "what-if" analysis.

DELIVERABLES: Users can receive predefined reports or do their own ad hoc queries. Users can also do OLAP or slice-and-dice and drill-down analysis. And they can post reports to the Web or share them with team members via the BusinessObjects repository or e-mail. On the administrative side, the product provides Kaiser's IT staff with several utilities that aid in rapidly setting up the BusinessObjects semantic layer. In addition, security can be managed from a central point, which is important in large deployments.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Vendor support has been very good.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is thorough and gives end users a good start in learning how to use the product.

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