BACKGROUND: Founded in January 1997, Bentana Technologies, Inc. is a software services and data management company that provides Web-based solutions for human resources (HR), payroll and benefits administration. Bentana's solutions help employers lower the cost of benefit and payroll administration as well as provide personalized content and services for employees. Bentana's Web-based service, BenefitsXtra, automates benefit plan and payroll administration transactions such as enrollment, eligibility, status changes, remittance and billing between employer service providers, employers and employees. BenefitsXtra allows small to mid-size employers and their employees to access and manage their personal information and benefits options over the Web.

PLATFORMS: Data Junction's products run on Windows 95/98/NT/2000 and UNIX.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Bentana licenses BenefitsXtra exclusively to employer service providers ­ Bentana partners ­ who offer HR, payroll and benefits services to small and mid-sized companies. In addition to BenefitsXtra, many of these companies use external administration systems and payroll processing services, which create data in diverse formats. Because of the large variety of these different file formats, we needed to provide a data mapping solution that would transform data from these sources into an acceptable format for BenefitsXtra. The ideal solution had to provide a simple user interface for Bentana partners to create data maps, run in a multi-user server environment and provide scalability. For example, one of our partners has hundreds of customer companies with different file formats. Combined, these companies needed to upload payroll records for over 30,000 employees on a weekly or biweekly basis.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Our partners use Data Junction to create transformation objects for each of their customers who require the regular exchange of data with external systems. These transformation objects are built in Data Junction's drag-and-drop visual environment which includes live connectivity to source and target data structures as well as mapping and manipulation capabilities. Bentana partners map each customer's source data to the BenefitsXtra target ­ a custom interface to BenefitsXtra Java application server that was built with Data Junction's Custom Data Interface (CDI) and the Java Native Interface (JNI). After the transformation objects are created, they are uploaded via HTTPS to the BenefitsXtra application server. Whenever the customer needs to exchange data with BenefitsXtra, they simply login to BenefitsXtra, select the transformation that the partner has created for them and upload their data file, again via HTTPS. On the server, the Data Junction custom interface connects directly to the BenefitsXtra Java-based server and performs the transformation. The data is passed row by row into BenefitsXtra in real time, where additional user validation and business logic is applied.

STRENGTHS: The Data Junction user interface and flexible APIs have been very useful in quickly completing Bentana's objectives. Our partners have experienced little difficulty in creating and updating transformation specifications for their customers. Using Data Junction Custom Data SDK, a custom interface to our application was built allowing seamless integration of data.

WEAKNESSES: Documentation is sparse regarding synchronizing conversions between the Data Junction mapping tool and DJEngine. The lack of documentation can make the design process more challenging.

SELECTION CRITERIA: The number of file formats supported, the available Data Junction APIs and the overall high-quality performance of the product influenced our decision to purchase Data Junction. The low cost was also an important incentive.

DELIVERABLES: Data Junction solved our data mapping needs, allowing us to integrate an off-the-shelf product rather than create one from the ground up. Its ease of use allowed us to employ the product with very little training for customers. It provides flexibility for the hundreds of different file formats that we encounter and enables real-time transfer of data. Data Junction provides true automation between different systems.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Because of the very short development cycle for this product, we were unable to attend the recommended training session on the Data Junction SDK. Regardless, Data Junction's technical support staff was instrumental in helping facilitate the development process.

DOCUMENTATION: Using only the documentation provided, we were able to successfully make use of Data Junction as well as the SDK and DJEngine.

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