BACKGROUND: Based in Ontario, Canada, Clarica Life Insurance Company serves 3 million Canadians and 250,000 American policy holders. The company underwent a major transformation in 1999, changing from a mutual life insurance company owned by policyholders to a shareholder-owned, publicly traded company. To satisfy new requirements for reporting and management information, we needed to assemble data from many databases throughout the company.
PLATFORMS: Clarica uses Copy Manager on IBM MVS mainframes, AS400s and on Windows NT servers, where data is stored in Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 databases.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Having a single central repository which contains all of the data required to measure and manage corporate performance was one of the most urgent requirements in the company. Our raw data, however, is stored in many places and formats. It ranges from transactional data to call center statistics and workflow information. Some is in SQL databases while other data is in flat files and even in comma-delimited form. It is stored on mainframes, AS400s, Windows NT servers and workstations, and in some legacy IMS databases. Information Builders Copy Manager was selected to collect data from those production systems on a regular basis and move it into the new management database. Using Information Builders EDA middleware, Copy Manager extracts data from a wide variety of sources on a batch basis to populate our central repository. It allows us to join databases and clean the data before loading it into the management database. We are creating a set of business scorecards from this database which will quickly give managers the information they need.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Reliability and ease of use were important requirements. Because Copy Manager can work with so many types of data and allows us to do joins and other processing while copying data, it has significantly eased application development. In some cases, such as extracting data from IMS databases, it has solved some long-standing problems.
STRENGTHS: Copy Manager allows developers to essentially ignore the technology used to store the original data, because it makes everything appear as though it were in a relational database even when it is stored as a flat file. That allows developers to focus on cleansing data and populating the new database to provide accurate, timely reports. We have been able to develop our applications quickly with a minimum of training time.
WEAKNESSES: Copy Manager meets our immediate needs and performs as we hoped it would. One feature we have suggested is the ability to target more than one table. Although Copy Manager can work with several source databases simultaneously, data can only be extracted to one target table. We would like to be able to populate multiple targets in one process, rather than having to open the source database multiple times.
SELECTION CRITERIA: There are quite a few other products of this type available, and Copy Manager was one of about four products we reviewed in depth. Its ability to work with so many types of data and the fact that developers could use common SQL methods even when working with non- relational data were major factors in our decision to go with Copy Manager.
VENDOR SUPPORT: When we needed help with this project, Information Builders was very willing to assist. On three occasions, Information Builders sent a consultant to work with our development team. They mainly mentored our people as they learned how to use the system more effectively.
DELIVERABLES: We are currently producing one scorecard for a small group of users and will begin to roll out scorecards to more units of the company in coming months. When the project is completed, the data repository will be very widely used across the company and will be a critical management tool at all levels. The resulting system allows managers to view high-level summaries, examine a particular line of business or drill down to measure the performance of individual departments. While we were working with Copy Manager, it caught the eye of another team in our company who liked what they saw and used it to quickly develop an application to copy data from an IMS database.
DOCUMENTATION: Copy Manager's documentation was clear. Because the tool has proven to be quite intuitive to use, our developers did not spend a great deal of time using the documentation to come up to speed.
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