CATEGORY: Data Quality

REVIEWER: Sherry Thens, DM1 product manager for Group 1 Software.

BACKGROUND: Group 1 Software is a leading provider of CRM-enabling software solutions for data quality, marketing automation, customer communications management and direct marketing applications. Group 1's DM1 marketing automation solution integrates its data quality products to give marketers critical data hygiene and enhancement capabilities. DM1 also offers data analysis, data visualization, modeling, reporting and campaign management ­ enabling businesses to implement the most effective direct mail, Internet marketing and telemarketing initiatives. DM1 is an open-architecture suite of integrated products that can be implemented in an organization's enterprise or accessed via ASP.

PLATFORMS: Windows 2000 server and Windows NT 4.0 server.

PROBLEM SOLVED: With each new customer, we must import that client's operational data into our data mart system. Prior to our partnership with Data Junction, our programmers custom coded those data imports. To provide a faster, more efficient and more accurate method for integrating critical customer information, we implemented Data Junction. By replacing custom code with a flexible, automated integration tool, we were able to move away from a time-consuming manual process to achieve a quick, clean import of data with enforcement of business rules specific to each customer. Data Junction is now an integral component in our implementation process, transforming client source information into our data submission format and then migrating that fixed format into DM1's ASP environment or on- site DM1 database.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The bulk of our work takes place within Data Junction's Map Designer, a drag-and-drop design environment which allows us to visually map all source data to our target structures and instantly verify the success of that transformation. Using the Designer's Expression Builder, we apply the appropriate business rules to cleanse and validate the data during transformation. In the future, we anticipate expanding our use of the higher-level functionality of Data Junction, including the ability to call COM objects and external DLLs such as our CODE-1 Plus data hygiene solution. The ability to call an external DLL from the Map Designer further enhances our ability to append both geographic and demographic data to address lists during the transformation project. We also plan to increase our use of Data Junction's Process Designer to link process steps together in a single automated integration project.

STRENGTHS: Data Junction's main strength is its flexibility. Through its many adapters, Data Junction provides the ability to connect natively to more than 70 data formats including legacy formats, relational databases and unstructured text formats. Data Junction's intuitive visual interface is simple to use and does not require extensive programming experience. By the same token, seasoned programmers can easily work with Data Junction to execute more complex transformation processes.

WEAKNESSES: When connecting to multiple flat files on the source side, Data Junction requires the user to go through ODBC and then write a SQL statement to join these files. It would be more convenient to have the capability within Data Junction to read multiple flat-file sources at one time.

SELECTION CRITERIA:A critical project that required rapid integration capabilities prompted us to look at a number of data integration solutions. Our senior development staff determined that Data Junction was a solution that offered both simplicity for fast implementation, as well as the requisite functionality to execute sophisticated integration tasks.

DELIVERABLES: Data Junction has given us a more efficient method for implementing our solutions and the versatility to work with clients who present all kinds of integration needs. We have been able to save time, labor and the many subtle costs associated with custom coding transformations. By implementing Data Junction, we have also gained quick and flexible enforcement of business rules during integration projects to ensure the quality of information coming into our database.

VENDOR SUPPORT:From the initial sales process to ongoing technical support, Data Junction has been extremely responsive. Their technical support staff is composed of knowledgeable individuals who have been able to provide task-specific syntax and helpful examples. We also found it very beneficial to work with Data Junction's Professional Services staff during implementation. They provided us with quick answers to some of our very complex questions.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation, especially the Help files, is very clear, easy to use and contains a number of useful examples. Data Junction's tutorials are also excellent.

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