CATEGORY: Data Acquisition, Transformation & Replication
REVIEWER: Robert L. Lloyd, conversion manager for ES&S.
BACKGROUND: Election Systems & Software (ES&S), the world's largest election management company, provides hardware, software and service solutions that support and automate all phases of the election process, including voter registration, ballot production, voting, vote tabulation and election results reporting. Headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, ES&S provides election hardware to more than 1,550 U.S. jurisdictions in 49 states and voter registration systems to more than 350 local U.S. jurisdictions.
PLATFORM: Data Junction is running on Windows NT.
PROBLEM SOLVED: As an election systems management company, we sell software for voter registration and management to jurisdictions all over the country. With each new customer, we must migrate registrant information and voting histories into our ES&S registration applications. Our customers have data ranging in source type from mainframe to current client service systems, requiring us to work with a variety of formats such as ASCII, dBASE, MSAccess, Excel and others. The integrity of the data varies. Because many files require a lot of parsing and reformatting, data manipulation, cleansing and validation must be done to ensure that the source data has the referential integrity that our Oracle-based target schema requires. We needed an integration tool that would replace custom coding of our conversions and would provide the connectivity, extensive data manipulation and conversion documentation capabilities necessary to support our conversion requirements. Data Junction has given us the capability to easily acquire and accurately transform this critical customer data.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We primarily use Data Junction's Map Designer and the Process Designer. The Map Designer's GUI makes it easy to visually define which source fields we will map to our target database. Because there are many codes that accompany elections data, our mapping process involves the dynamic building of lookup tables through the Map Designer's Expression Builder to reconcile these source codes with our target database requirements. Conversions are typically two-phased projects involving the initial mapping and error reporting. We set up those different steps through Data Junction's Process Designer. The Process Designer allows us to call and edit our initial conversions. Because the different phases of our conversions may not happen in close sequence, different users may have to go back into a conversion at a later date. Prior to using Data Junction, our staff would have to read through lines of custom code to try to determine what was being done in a conversion. Data Junction enables us to save visual conversion maps, which means the user can easily open that documentation and review what that conversion requires.
STRENGTHS: For our needs, the main strengths of Data Junction have been its ease of use and its rich functional library. Data Junction's visual mapping and process documentation capabilities are important strengths for us, alleviating the time- consuming and error-prone process of writing, maintaining and editing custom code.
WEAKNESSES: It would be convenient if it were possible to cut and paste conversion steps from one project to another. Currently, Data Junction requires the user to import and export conversion steps in order to move a step into a project, which is slightly cumbersome.
SELECTION CRITERIA: We decided to use Data Junction mainly because of the advantages it provided over our previous custom-coding conversion method. Data Junction's rich transformation capability makes it easy to map data into our applications, ensure the accuracy of the data and speed the process of data migration. We quickly gravitated to using Data Junction as the standard solution for integrating customer data.
DELIVERABLES: Data Junction provides us with a solid methodology for converting data to our schema, as well as a faster, more uniform and more accurate process for getting customers up and running with our election voter registration applications. Data Junction also provides us with a more efficient mechanism for troubleshooting any data problems.
VENDOR SUPPORT: Our sales representative is knowledgeable and responsive. Data Junction continues to keep us abreast of the latest product releases as well as any training opportunities that are available.
DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is outstanding. From a programmer's standpoint, it is direct, concise and does not require wading through a lot of extraneous information to get to an answer.
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