BACKGROUND: Hallmark Cards, Inc. is an internationally known company whose name is synonymous with greeting cards. It employs 24,000 people working at dozens of offices, retail stores and production and distribution centers in the United States and around the world. In addition to greeting cards, Hallmark's product line includes stationery, gift wrap, puzzles, candles, decorative ornaments, crayons and family movies.
PLATFORMS: BI/Query runs on Windows 95/98/NT clients and supports every major relational database (from vendors such as IBM, Informix, Microsoft, Oracle, Sybase) via native support or ODBC.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Hallmark stores its financial information, including income and cost-related data, on a 12-gigabyte Oracle10.7 relational database residing on an NCR UNIX server at Hallmark's headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri. Financial data is stored on five different Oracle Financials modules: General Ledger, Assets, Project Costing, Payables and Receivables. Approximately 60 end users in the accounting and cost planning departments access the stored data using BI/Query deployed on Windows NT platforms. Before Hallmark installed BI/Query, the staff had limited reporting capability across the various Oracle modules because the Financial Statement Generator within the General Ledger works only with that module. Moreover, creating reports for the other modules using Oracle's proprietary report writer had occasionally proved to be time-consuming and expensive. In one case, a particularly complex report took the information technology (IT) staff two months to develop.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: BI/Query eases the IT workload by providing a simple point-and-click interface that enables end-user querying and reporting against every one of the Oracle modules (instead of restricting access to the module used in their particular department). BI/Query allows users to get data themselves, rather than depending on an IT person to do it for them.
STRENGTHS: Major strengths of BI/Query include its ease of use and speed. BI/Query increases productivity. For example, instead of having to wait for an overnight batch report on a file they've been analyzing or validating, analysts can see results within seconds. BI/Query prompts are another boon: they allow users to retrieve specific data from a report merely by keying in values (such as cost center number or national account code) following the prompt.
WEAKNESSES: BI/Query sometimes experiences problems when processing particularly large queries.
SELECTION CRITERIA: Hallmark wanted an easy-to-use tool that would enable querying and reporting across Oracle Financials modules. It also sought an application that could be easily deployed and administered.
DELIVERABLES: Accountants in Hallmark's tax department use BI/Query to import report results into spreadsheets so they can evaluate taxes on assets when filing personal property tax returns. They also use the application for various state, county and city audits (in conjunction with the General Ledger module) to load data into Hallmark's newly implemented federal and state income-tax compliance software. BI/Query lets tax analysts fine-tune data in a report, resubmit the report and quickly receive an updated version a task that previously involved running an overnight batch report on the mainframe. Hallmark has also developed about a dozen preformatted BI/Query reports. One such report allows bookkeepers to ensure that the detailed accounts in the project costing and fixed assets records reconcile with the high-level summary balances on the general ledger. It enables them to identify the out-of-balance accounts and concentrate on reconciling them instead of manually comparing thousands of accounts between the two systems. Another report allows managers to track monthly expenses down to the journal-entry level. By following BI/Query prompts, managers can key in their cost center number or their natural account code and get departmental results back in a matter of seconds.
VENDOR SUPPORT: Support from Hummingbird has been excellent. Sales and technical staff are knowledgeable and courteous, and they always return phone calls promptly.
DOCUMENTATION: The BI/ Query instruction manuals are clearly written and provide a useful, easy-to- understand, on-site reference.
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