PLATFORMS: The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, downloads personnel and payroll information daily from two different mainframes into an MS Access database on their HP-UX server. To query and report the data, they use IQ/Objects from IQ Software on Windows 95, NT and 3.1 workstations.

BACKGROUND: The HRSA directs national health programs which improve the health of the nation by assuring quality health care to underserved, vulnerable and special-need populations. It also promotes appropriate health profession workforce capacity and practice, particularly in primary care and public health. Under HRSA's direction, a nationwide network of 643 community and migrant health centers and 144 primary care programs for the homeless and residents of public housing serve 8.1 million Americans each year.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Before implementing IQ/Objects, HRSA management could not access and summarize human resources and payroll information in a timely and efficient manner. Management would receive the data six to eight weeks after the fact, which made it difficult for them to have a clear, up-to-date picture of what was happening with the workforce. The DHHS personnel software did not have user-friendly reporting capabilities. Because of this time lag and lack of reporting capabilities, HRSA management could not get current information (for example, how many people worked in the agency yesterday). By implementing a system to bring the needed information together into a central database and then providing the agency's end users with IQ/Objects to access it as needed, HRSA has made critical information available.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: HRSA uses IQ/Objects to deliver simple ad hoc query capabilities and sophisticated database reporting in one easy-to-use product. Using drag, drop and point-and-click techniques, HRSA users of IQ/Objects quickly execute ad hoc queries and create sophisticated multitier documents. With the IQ/Objects Personal Edition, many of HRSA's end users also access predefined reports stored on the server and execute their queries and reports as needed. Others take advantage of IQ's powerful report designer, using the Reporting Edition or Administrator Edition to create their own crosstab or free-form reports.

STRENGTHS: One main strength of IQ/Objects is ease of use. For the day-to-day reports and queries, its drag-and-drop Microsoft Office-like interface is easy to learn. The ability to predefine and store reports for reuse on a regular basis is also a real convenience. Another strength of this product is the ability to install appropriate editions of IQ/Objects for end users of different skill levels and needs. This flexibility helps to keep the installation cost effective.

WEAKNESSES: HRSA encountered difficulty with moving their stored reports to the new version of IQ/Objects and wanted more thorough documentation.

SELECTION CRITERIA: HRSA evaluated four reporting and query tool packages and chose IQ/Objects because of its ease of use and the flexibility to purchase different editions for users with different needs. The ability to add IQ/SmartServer as their databases grow was also appealing. HRSA is now planning to add IQ/SmartServer to enable users to schedule reports to run on the server during non-peak hours, leaving their desktops free for other tasks.

VENDOR SUPPORT: The support/maintenance package is good. It includes the tech support services line, faxes and automatic upgrades. HRSA has participated in a support contract from the beginning and has found the service to be useful.

DOCUMENTATION: HRSA would like to see more thorough documentation, similar to documentation found in products like Microsoft Office or Lotus Notes.

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