BACKGROUND: Based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Petro-Canada is a major oil and gas company and a leader in the Canadian petroleum industry. The company explores for, develops, produces and markets crude oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids as well as refines, distributes and markets petroleum products and related goods and services.

PLATFORMS: Desktop: Pentium 130 MHz with 64MB RAM. NT server: Pentium 600 MHz dual processor with 512MB RAM. Database (Essbase) server: HP K570, 2GB memory, 4 x PA8200 CPUs (also supports the Oracle data warehouse).

PROBLEM SOLVED: Petro-Canada's oil and gas division recently took on the challenge posed by the company's management team: to create an integrated information system with easier, more consistent and timely access to information for business decision-making processes. This capability is being implemented through "The Dashboard Project," indicative of having the key performance measures and analytical data in a dashboard, looking forward through the "windshield of opportunity." This is not a trivial task as many operational and reporting systems and technologies have been independently implemented to manage our key business components of reserves, production, operations and financials. Current operational systems require significant application knowledge and training as well as additional manual effort in integrating data from other systems for decision making. Variance analysis is an ongoing activity as different people utilize different sources for their data. Today, using Comshare's integrated solution for analysis and performance measurement, all levels of decision-makers have access to the same numbers and views, and have confidence that the data is current, correct and verifiable.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Comshare's Decision product provides a single user interface for all required information in an intuitive, flexible manner. Executive views, graphs, charts, ad hoc analysis screens, drill down, drill through, alarms and alerts have been implemented to provide comprehensive business analysis capabilities.

STRENGTHS: Decision-makers have different interpretive styles which require data to be viewed in different formats such as spreadsheets, graphs, charts and maps. Comshare's innovative data visualization capabilities add tremendous value to the analysis and interpretive processes used at Petro-Canada. The integration of data in a single tool has simplified management's ability to access the information. The ability to save individual views allows users to build custom views with a standard tool. The speed of Comshare Decision implementation is excellent.

WEAKNESSES: User-saved views must be recreated when a new version of the software is implemented. Printed report formatting capability is poor relative to the online interface.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Petro-Canada conducted a rigorous evaluation of five products. We needed an application that could merge financial, volumetric and statistical data in a single view. We found that Comshare Decision handled this integration extremely well. In addition, from a technology perspective, Comshare Decision's development capabilities handled user requirements better. Petro-Canada users found that Comshare Decision was very intuitive but still had a comprehensive development environment that enables complex algorithms and summarization. The software tool's design allows the company to develop its application with both an end-user and a developer's interface.

DELIVERABLES: Volumetric, financial and reserve additions modules have been implemented. Petro-Canada is interested in the evolution of the Web version of the software, the added capabilities of geographic/map representation and drill down, and additional use of alarm and alert triggers.

VENDOR SUPPORT: The Comshare help desk and support center have been excellent. Application performance/tuning advice, application design and problem resolution have also been outstanding. In the evaluation phase conducted on-site at Petro-Canada, Comshare provided excellent support. Within a week, Decision was up and running on Petro-Canada's network servers with a model designed to mirror the company's businesses. Officers were able to view earnings, cash flow margins and volumes, and we were able to demonstrate the beginnings of "The Dashboard" to the management committee. Comshare was much better than any other vendor we evaluated at producing results through an actual on-site test.

DOCUMENTATION: Written documentation for Comshare Decision Desktop is not as robust as we would like to see. Online help files are basic and need more examples to lead developers in application creation.

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