BACKGROUND: Federal Express, a subsidiary of FDX Corporation, connects areas that generate 90 percent of the world's gross domestic product in 24 to 48 hours with door-to-door, customs-cleared service and a money-back guarantee. The company's unmatched air route authorities and infrastructure make it the world's largest express transportation company, providing fast, reliable and time-definite transportation of more than 3.2 million items to 210 countries each working day. FedEx employs more than 150,000 employees and has more than 45,000 drop-off locations, 648 aircraft and 44,500 vehicles in its integrated global network.
PLATFORMS: We run dynaSight on an NT server and inSight on an NT workstation.
PROBLEM SOLVED: The Profitability Systems Development within the Corporate Financial Planning department at Federal Express needed a front-end product to provide an online analysis interface to Essbase for the domestic and international product profitability systems developed by the group. These systems provide data to report profit by key segments to senior management and financial analysts. We were specifically looking for a Web-based solution since the users of our international product profitability system are located across the globe. A Web- based solution would prevent us from having to install and maintain the systems on workstations with a variety of operating systems and versions in far- reaching geographic locations. We also needed a product that would enable us to design very flexible reports that would enable the user to filter on as many or as few dimensions as desired.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We are very pleased with the functioning of arcplan's dynaSight and inSight. In the future, we are considering using the write-back functionality and may also be utilizing the product against a relational as well as multidimensional database.
STRENGTHS: The development process for the reports (inSight documents) is relatively simple and extremely flexible. Once the user is familiar with the objects and how they function, a report can literally be designed to do anything you can imagine. The drag-and-drop concept for laying out reports is very easy to use. The variety of functions available is quite sufficient. There is no complex programming or custom scripting language required to achieve this flexibility. Another strength we have appreciated is the timeliness and effectiveness of the technical support for both products. Even when we have encountered problems with the behavior of a control, for example, the technical support has provided a solution by the next day. With the arcplan products, we are also able to design reports that require little or no end-user training.
WEAKNESSES: We are currently supporting both a Java and ActiveX version of our online reporting system. The ActiveX version for Internet Explorer contains functionality for exporting to Excel, a function that became available only recently with the dynaSight Java-based version. The pricing of the product is based on a named user rather than a concurrent user concept.
SELECTION CRITERIA: We evaluated available products on the following criteria: company longevity, installed base of product, Web deployment architecture, browser independence, databases supported, data access method, export of data, extensibility through scripting/programming, data retrieval (size), write-back to Essbase, disconnect- and-go capability, security method, report flexibility, screen controls available, formatting flexibility, analysis capability, speed of development and complexity of development. The key factors in making our decision were speed and ease of development, extensibility through scripting/programming, databases supported, Web deployment architecture and export of data. Some of the other products evaluated did not have write-back functionality and/or had only recently introduced developed access to the Essbase database. Other products required Java programming, and our group was not equipped with those skills at that time.
DELIVERABLES: Both the international and domestic systems have approximately eight to ten reports available online. These include P&L grids, graphs and trend reports. Each of these reports can be totally customized by the user by filtering on dimensions and changing the X and/or Y axis of the grid or graph.
VENDOR SUPPORT: arcplan provided both on-site and phone support. The technical assistance has been very responsive and helpful.
DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is sufficient for understanding the functions available in the inSight developer tool. Even without documentation, the drag-and-drop concept is very simple to follow and apply. I think the documentation could more clearly define the requirements to set up the dynaSight server and provide an overall explanation of the architecture.
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