PLATFORMS: FOCUS Six operates in a mixed Microsoft environment, including NT-based SQL Server and Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 clients. FOCUS Six provides access to data stored within SQL Server and the legacy IMS database.
BACKGROUND: Freightliner is the leading builder of Class 8 trucks. Following the acquisition of Ford's heavy truck division, the company commands 39 percent market share in the high-end truck category. With the growth in business has come a new demand for better information. A legacy IBM MVS environment is gradually being supplemented with a mix of NT and IBM RS/6000- based client/server networks at the work-group level. The company, a long-time FOCUS user, is now developing reporting environments for SQL Server databases. Mainframe data is batch loaded into SQL Server during off hours to allow interactive reporting at the work-group level. As the driving force behind new truck designs, the engineering department has been challenged with maintaining parts design, procurement and product testing activities in a market where product innovation is becoming more important. The department's initial foray into client/server reporting using Visual Basic was problematic. Thanks to FOCUS Six for Windows, the bottleneck to obtaining information from SQL Server was eliminated.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: FOCUS Six for Windows brings the versatile database access abilities from Information Builders to the client/server environment. A multitiered, managed reporting environment, FOCUS Six for Windows allows users to build reports in a GUI-based, interactive environment. For long-time mainframe FOCUS users, FOCUS also allows them to develop reports using the familiar FOCUS 4GL.
STRENGTHS: FOCUS Six for Windows' flexibility is hard to beat. It provides access to a large variety of databases, including the IMS, SQL Server and Oracle installations in our shop. Furthermore, it allows us to access data from outside sources (such as vendors), who maintain data in different databases. Without FOCUS Six, we would have to build several custom interfaces to access each database.
WEAKNESSES: We have few, if any, problems with the product itself. Instead, the primary drawback is that there are fewer FOCUS developers than VB programmers. This has made it more difficult for us to hire developers who manage the FOCUS environments.
SELECTION CRITERIA: We originally developed a detailed functional matrix for our client/server reporting environment. The major requirements included Windows compliance, ease of use and availability of training and technical support. We decided to use FOCUS Six for Windows because it met all these requirements, gave us database accessibility and, as a bonus, allowed us to leverage our mainframe FOCUS experience in a new robust client/server environment.
DELIVERABLES: Our technical engineering staff became the first group to use FOCUS Six in the new workgroup reporting environment. With FOCUS Six, they gain quick access to work-order information on individual trucks (as identified by product serial number). In the past, it was difficult to learn anything except major design changes; with FOCUS Six's reporting capabilities, they know about even the most minor design changes. The result is that our test engineering group has been able to dramatically improve its productivity.
VENDOR SUPPORT: We have had excellent experience with Information Builders' technical support.
DOCUMENTATION: We were pleased that FOCUS for Windows' documentation was very consistent with its mainframe counterpart. However, we would have liked to see more examples and links to related topics.
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