REVIEWER: Lawrence G. Chester, vice president finance for Colovos Company.

BACKGROUND: Colovos Company is a wholesaler and importer of stationary and bench-top power tools manufactured on a private-label basis for Sears, under the Craftsman name, and Grainger. The company is 100 percent employee owned. Colovos Company has been using enterprise-level software for the past nine years. During that time, we have expanded MIS to two other divisions. Our use of Baan has expanded our ability to manage our business and gain efficiency in our day-to-day operations while closely managing the financial impact of the operational activities of the company.

PLATFORMS: The Baan system is running on a Windows 2000 server, using an Informix database. Microsoft SQL Server, running on an NT server, houses the operational reporting database.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Consolidated financial information has always been critical to Colovos. Our current reporting tools provided nearly everything that was needed. The problem was how this software impacted our other MIS operations and ease of data access. Reports that we needed for our day-to-day operations needed to be run during regular business hours to provide information for shipping, receiving or sales support. The third-party report writer we were using required significant system resources when running. This frequently caused company operations to run at a fraction of their normal speed. This is where eCartography from AMB Dataminers has made a significant impact on our daily operations. Reports that previously took seven or eight hours to run now take three to five minutes. As a result, we can provide more accurate, timely information to our employees. The bonus is that system resources are no longer challenged when we need to get information.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: With the help of the eCartography Suite, Colovos is able to assess and document the Baan system, profile the content of the incoming data and produce the operational reporting database. The eSurveyor component of the suite gathers database catalog information and collects the pertinent meta data about the Baan environment. The eExplorer component provided a data profile that helped us make sense of the Baan data and identified potential data migration problems. Then, with the eBuilder component, we utilized the information collected to create and populate the operational database. Additionally, eCartography's portal application provides us with instant access to our data.

STRENGTHS: With eCartography, we received everything we needed to understand our Baan environment, build the reporting database and provide access to our business users. The data profiling capabilities are particularly strong. Even our Baan representative was amazed at how quickly we could link eCartography to the underlying Baan environment. Even better, training and implementation was done in a matter of days, rather than weeks, with results available immediately for management and staff use. We could also use a variety of reporting tools to access the operational reporting database, from our third-party report writer to Excel or Access. This allowed us to retain our original investment in that software.

WEAKNESSES: The user interface is not as graphical as we would like it to be, but it makes it up in functionality. The online documentation is okay but could use some additional explanation.

SELECTION CRITERIA: In the past, we have heard of meta data, data profiling and ETL tools such as eCartography; but because we are a mid-sized company with limited resources, we had never even considered budgeting for software of this type. However, the cost and ROI of eCartography has enabled us to justify the purchase and implementation of the software.

DELIVERABLES: eCartography provided Colovos with a full migration toolset that was instrumental in delivering our operational reporting database. As an example, we can now publish our financials online for all management, with drill-down capability to the voucher level. We can produce shipping reports that allow our employees to respond to requests for shipping information that is only hours old, with data brought from radically different tables in Baan. We can produce ad hoc reports in minutes that previously required hours to write and then hours to run.

VENDOR SUPPORT: AMB Dataminer's consultants were with us from start to finish. They were always accessible and definitely committed to making our project a success.

DOCUMENTATION: The product provides online documentation that gives you a good perspective of how to use the components. However, you will require training to fully understand it.

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