CATEGORY: Business Intelligence
REVIEWER: Timothy Beard, lead software engineer for the workplace solutions group at ChoicePoint Inc.
BACKGROUND: ChoicePoint is a trusted source of decision- making information that helps reduce fraud and mitigate risk. ChoicePoint is the leading provider of identification and credential verification services for making smarter decisions in a world challenged by increased risks. Headquartered near Atlanta, Georgia, ChoicePoint employs approximately 3,500 people throughout its 52 locations in 26 states.
PLATFORMS: ChoicePoint runs the Actuate iServer and e.Spreadsheet Designer on the Windows 2000 operating system on Compaq DL 380 hardware. End-user workstations are Windows 2000. Data is stored in an Oracle Database version 8.06.
PROBLEM SOLVED: ChoicePoint is an information-driven company. Data needs to be distributed quickly, efficiently and accurately at all times internally to field managers, operational managers and associates and externally to clients. Each internal position is responsible for taking information that has been collected from one source and entering it into another system accurately in order to perform background research on an individual or company. All of this research is conducted by individuals who do not have time for intensive technical training. Actuate's e.Spreadsheet Designer allows ChoicePoint's IT department to design fully functional spreadsheet reports that are easily consumable by managers. This enables managers to easily see and react to anomalies within the reports. ChoicePoint's IT department is able to regulate all of these spreadsheets because they are sent based on the security profile of each end user. The reports are proactively available to end users either via secure login to their report distribution portal or via e-mail notification. End users are now notified of new reports as soon as they are available. This improved performance is the value of the Actuate iServer as it reduces the CPU load on the database by transferring report requests and processing to the report server. Prior to the e.Spreadsheet Designer implementation, developers were manually creating spreadsheets containing complex data collection and query execution algorithms. VB macros were the only way to get data from the database into a spreadsheet. Developers needed login rights to execute ad hoc queries and then manually transfer data into spreadsheets for distribution. This was a highly manual process. Actuate's e.Spreadsheet Designer allows ChoicePoint to pass end results to users in the most efficient way. It also allows the IT organization to shift from being a support group for end users needing ad hoc reports to being a research and development group working on true system maintenance and enhancements.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: e.Spreadsheet Designer creates reusable templates for customized spreadsheet reports. With e.Spreadsheet Designer, developers can specify report layout and design. Using simple customization, such as Java callback code to assess data, e.Spreadsheet Designer can dynamically interpret data and burst report results into separate spreadsheets or tabs based on category. e.Spreadsheet Designer has a comprehensive API enabling developers to write Java code to manipulate data and dynamically build XSL style sheets. This functionality means that report format can be result-dependent.
STRENGTHS: Because it is server regulated and scheduled, the product eliminates the manual processes required to create secure, access-controlled spreadsheets and keeps the IT department in control of the spreadsheet reporting while being available to users on demand. In addition e.Spreadsheet Designer provides a programmable API to highly customize the product to meet specific requirements.
WEAKNESSES: ChoicePoint came across a limitation in report data row sets that the application could handle this was solved by a simple memory reallocation. With this modification, the application now handles reports with more than 150,000 rows.
SELECTION CRITERIA: e.Spreadsheet Designer was chosen from the technology side to help developers eliminate user requests to pull data from the system. e.Spreadsheet Designer in conjunction with Actuate iServer enabled ChoicePoint to provide widespread, published spreadsheet reports. e.Spreadsheet Designer allows ChoicePoint to efficiently put sensitive report data into the hands of authorized end users who run these reports on demand within their security profile.
DELIVERABLES: Actuate delivers Public Records Field Office reports to ChoicePoint's field offices.
VENDOR SUPPORT: ChoicePoint created test projects with the help of Actuate's e.Services group. Actuate also provided one week of initial assistance to set up Actuate iServer and provide guidance on customizations.
DOCUMENTATION: Documentation is well-written and comprehensive; more advanced documentation regarding customization is available from Actuate's Web site.
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