PLATFORMS: Clients: Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Windows NT. Server: Windows NT, Oracle.

BACKGROUND: Comcast Cable Communications is one of the largest cable television service providers in the United States. It serves over 4.3 million customers in 21 states. Comcast has also recently entered the on-line service market, providing high speed access to the Internet via their cable network.

PROBLEM SOLVED: We had several issues to address: training and support, ease of use across the enterprise and impact on IT. We wanted to offer decision support tools to all of our users. Since supporting and training users at our 70 remote sites is problematic, we really needed a single tool for both query and analysis. The tool we chose had to be intuitive for users, regardless of ability. In addition, we needed a tool with low IT administration and training requirements. Since running queries for users can be time consuming and expensive--and distributing paper reports is archaic--we needed the ability to distribute the information electronically and minimize IT involvement in reporting. We also decided to leverage our corporate intranet, so we needed a tool that provided all of the above features via the Web.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Brio Enterprise is used throughout the organization and provides decision support via our intranet. Users at our remote sites connect to our intranet via their local ISP, and then use Brio's tools to view and analyze information. BrioQuery is a powerful OLAP tool for power users and IT staff. Brio.Insight provides true OLAP right within the Web browser that we've already deployed, while Web-based Brio.Quickview is used to view standardized reports. Brio's server product allows us to create and distribute reports and data automatically, with little server overhead.

STRENGTHS: Brio.Quickview made it possible for less sophisticated computer users to access standardized reports, while Brio.Insight and BrioQuery gave our power users all the horsepower they needed. Regardless of which one of Brio's tools our users tried, the interface was the same--which really reduced our training and support costs. Brio's products were also completely at home on the Web and offered us far more choices than other products. Finally, Brio's products deployed very quickly, which saved us a lot of time.

WEAKNESSES: Of the weaknesses we encountered, most involved formatting and reusing customized Brio.Insight and Brio.Quickview reports. Some of these issues have been addressed in the 5.5 release, allowing users to customize standard reports downloaded from the intranet and requery the data over the intranet.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We needed an easy-to-use product that was Web-capable. It also had to have enough analytical horsepower to meet the needs of more sophisticated users. Once the user is exposed to the tools, acceptance is excellent--confirming that emphasizing ease-of-use in tool selection was an important idea. After careful evaluation, Comcast decided to construct a data warehouse using an Oracle database and Brio Enterprise decision support tools.

DELIVERABLES: Using Brio has proven extremely cost effective. Users are viewing capital expenditures, general ledgers, purchasing and invoice information from the intranet. We are in the process of expanding our data warehouse by adding work-order history, channel information and operational statistics.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Brio Technology's support staff has been very available and responsive.

DOCUMENTATION: Brio's manuals provide the right information and their on-line help is excellent.

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