BACKGROUND: Harcourt Learning Direct is the world's oldest and largest provider of distance education and training, offering a variety of career and training courses with subjects ranging from child day care to computer programming. The company has a student body of more than 350,000 men and women from 150 countries seeking career diplomas, specialized associate degrees and high school diplomas. More than 2,000 American corporations ­ including Procter & Gamble, IBM, Avon Products, Pepsi Cola, Ford Motors and Mobil Oil ­ leverage Harcourt Learning Direct training systems and methods to educate their employees. To keep up with diverse customer requirements, the company is currently developing online courses and exams, multimedia programs and increased customer service capabilities.

PLATFORM: ShowCase STRATEGY is a fully integrated e-business intelligence enterprise solution that enables AS/400 customers worldwide to quickly implement and develop e-business solutions to improve customer relationship, supply chain and financial management.

PROBLEM SOLVED: To ensure that its systems were Y2K compliant, Harcourt Learning Direct had begun converting its marketing, enrollment and distribution systems from an internal mainframe to an AS/400 using J.D. Edwards software and a home-grown system. In the process, Harcourt recognized the need for a business intelligence solution that would enable users to quickly and accurately track and integrate marketing and enrollment efforts as well as perform some financial tasks. Specifically, the company wanted to track the return on its advertising investments, individual responses to advertising and student enrollment patterns to determine the profitability of each course it offers.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: ShowCase STRATEGY has enabled Harcourt to track sales leads and analyze specific promotions based on the number of responses they generate and how many students enroll in the courses advertised. In addition, the company tracks sales leads generated from its Web site. The new solution also gives Harcourt's finance department a true financial picture, allowing users to accurately forecast revenues. One particular STRATEGY report, called "Same Time Out," allows the company to track the return on its advertising investments over a period of time. By analyzing the performance of a single advertisement from month to month, Harcourt can make long-term comparisons regardless of changing business cycles. Eventually, the Same Time Out report will be integrated into other functions throughout the company.

STRENGTHS: Ease of use is STRATEGY's greatest strength. In just six months, Harcourt is creating reports and generating information in a matter of hours, compared with a process that previously took weeks to develop. And because the system is so easy to use, it saves all users time. For example, Harcourt's marketing analysts can now directly execute queries without requiring assistance from IT. Today, Harcourt's decision support department consists of four people. Without them and the ShowCase software, Harcourt estimates that it would take six to 12 months for six to nine programmers to turn around the reporting for any given division within the company. STRATEGY has enabled the company to minimize the amount of time required for most department requests.

WEAKNESSES: The only weakness in the software is the job scheduling function. While STRATEGY allows users to schedule jobs and provides all the necessary documentation, it does not allow for additional scheduling. It's also important to be able to see jobs that have been omitted.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Harcourt needed a tool that could produce quick and accurate tracking information for its marketing, enrollment and advertising efforts. The system needed to be user friendly and integrate well with the J.D. Edwards software with minimal customization and IT requirements. The tool had to be fast and multidimensional with the capabilities to capture data and break it down to a finite level.

VENDOR SUPPORT: ShowCase supported every aspect of the implementation and did everything necessary to get the product up and running during the installation. The ShowCase support team is very knowledgeable and prompt in their follow-up.

DOCUMENTATION: Documentation is very thorough and rarely requires even a support call for further explanation.

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