PLATFORMS: CA-Visual Express runs on a variety of PC and Windows configurations including: Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Windows NT and Win-OS/2.

BACKGROUND: With a population of over 900,000, Fairfax County is one of the largest and most diversified jurisdictions in Virginia. The Department of Information Technology (DIT) was chartered to support automated data processing to all County government agencies.

PROBLEM SOLVED: The County is continuously bombarded by an overwhelming volume of information requests from its agencies--whether they come from the County departmental offices or from individual citizens themselves. In addition, software change requests to meet federal and state legislative changes are endless. The DIT has modernized its systems utilizing the latest in database and information access technologies integrated with existing legacy information systems. This effort has helped to shrink the end-user query backlog by expanding data access to include all County departmental agencies. As part of their modernization, the DIT implemented CA-Visual Express to provide end-user query and report access to VSAM and IDMS. The DIT anticipates the addition of DB2 and Oracle information access in the future.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The CA-Visual Express Quick-Query tool is used to export VSAM and IDMS data to the PC platform for input to Paradox, DB2/2, DBase and spreadsheet systems. In addition, QuickQuery handles ad hoc updates where required. The CA-Visual Express Report-Writer tool is used to create labels as well as free-form reports and listings. When indexes are defined properly, CA-Visual Express performs well under peak query loads--even on large tables.

STRENGTHS: A key strength of CA-Visual Express lies in its interface to IDMS. The DIT uses IDMS' On-Line-Query (OLQ) feature to query IDMS and VSAM data. OLQ is used to create SQL tables and then CA-Visual Express is used to access the SQL tables from the PC platform. CA-Visual Express' seamless access to IDMS data combined with its ability to access over 20 databases provides DIT end users with true enterprise-wide data access. And once data is accessed, DIT end users can use a variety of PC-based tools (such as WordPerfect) to produce reports.

WEAKNESSES: Greater flexibility in the CA-Visual Express Report-Writer tool is a key DIT requirement. The ability to format a report prior to creating an underlying query or to change sorting criteria without the need for report regeneration are features the DIT anticipates in a future release.

SELECTION CRITERIA: The DIT selected CA-Visual Express for its ease of use, its ability to access all legacy data and, finally, its minimal implementation costs. CA-Visual Express meets the needs of the DIT and its end-users' agencies by providing extensive query and report writing capabilities that are easy to learn and inexpensive to support.

DELIVERABLES: The DIT uses CA-Visual Express to create Paradox and DB2/2 database updates populated from data exported by CA-Visual Express.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Both during a six-month pilot project evaluation and after installation, support from Computer Associates (CA) has been very good. This was especially important to the DIT when it ran into installation complexities caused by the variety of hardware and software platforms running throughout Fairfax County agencies.

DOCUMENTATION: For getting up and running, CA-Visual Express documentation is useful and clear. For more advanced information on creating sophisticated reports or implementing complex CA-Visual Express systems, the DIT recommends taking an advanced CA-Visual Express course.

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