CATEGORY: BI Tools

REVIEWER: Luke Evans, business process manager and data warehouse specialist for Salvatore Ferragamo, Inc.

BACKGROUND: Salvatore Ferragamo, Inc., headquartered in Italy, is one of the world's most successful fashion houses, famous for elegant footwear, handbags, designer clothing and accessories. The private, family-run company distributes its products worldwide with 1999 sales exceeding $400 million. United States sales of Ferragamo products make up nearly half of the company's earnings. Ferragamo USA oversees business transactions for sales points located throughout the North American market including Hawaii and Canada.

PLATFORMS: Data Junction is running on Windows 98 and DJEngine on Windows NT.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Our IT staff needed to build a business intelligence system that would enable Ferragamo USA's retail and wholesale departments to track approximately $200 million in annual sales as well as all inventory for North America. The data warehouse would eliminate the inefficiencies of reporting on the source system, leverage dispersed data and enable us to rapidly generate business intelligence on which crucial production and inventory decisions would be based. With Data Junction we were able to build the system in a fraction of the time it would have taken to custom-code the loading and transformation of data.

Data Junction is used to extract selected information from multiple tables in our back-office systems and load that data into our staging area, an Oracle relational database containing multiple tables for reporting, as well as multidimensional cubes for analysis. To automate this process, Data Junction's data integration engine is installed on our production server. We also use Data Junction to integrate specific data for data marts such as one we created to track wholesale transactions, including purchasing, inventory production and delivery for third-party vendors. With this rapid integration solution, our warehousing system is slated to be integrated into an enterprise-wide data warehouse with departmental data marts fostering data integrity, better meta data management and enterprise-wide business measures.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Data Junction provides direct connectivity to more than 100 data formats including AS/400 on which our source systems reside. Data integration projects can be created in a simple three-step process through the Conversion Designer in which an intuitive graphical user interface makes it easy to visually map source data to target structures. Data Junction's filtering, editing and mapping capabilities also make it possible to manipulate data in numerous ways. In addition to extraction and loading, we use Data Junction to design cleansing and validation rules and to apply numerous business rules to prepare the data for analysis. As we add more processes to our conversions, we expect to make more use of Data Junction's Project Designer. The Project Designer offers the capability to organize conversion tasks and include other processes, which will further speed data integration, maintenance and troubleshooting.

STRENGTHS: Data Junction's simple, visual design makes it easy to use, easy to learn and easy to train others. At the same time, its comprehensive functionality supports the numerous integration and validation tasks required in the setup and maintenance of a data warehouse.

WEAKNESSES: A feature I'd like to see added is a graphical query generator on the SQL pass-through query option to assist the user in building SQL statements. This would be helpful when joining numerous source tables into a single table.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We selected Data Junction because it offers tremendous functionality at a fraction of the cost of custom-coding or competitive solutions. Data Junction is also multiplatform. If we decide to go with a UNIX data warehouse platform, we could still work with Data Junction and deploy an integration engine in the UNIX environment.

DELIVERABLES: Data Junction saved us weeks of time in the implementation of the data warehousing solution and continues to save hours of time each week in programming, debugging, updating and maintaining the system. The data mart and warehousing system we created with Data Junction provides critical business intelligence for various business units, without the headaches typically associated with the delivery of a new IS system.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Our implementation of Data Junction went smoothly. Our timeline was tight, and our staff was experienced enough to build a robust system without consultants. On those occasions when we contacted Data Junction tech support staff, however, they responded quickly and were able to provide solutions.

DOCUMENTATION: We found the documentation to be thorough and easy to understand. Our data warehouse specialists learned how to use Data Junction primarily by following the online tutorials and help features.

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