REVIEWER: Murial Brannigan, CIO of James B. Oswald Company.

BACKGROUND: James B. Oswald Company is one of Ohio's largest employee-owned firms, providing insurance risk management and financial services to a wide range of clients. We are an experienced company committed to knowing, understanding and responding to our clients' insurance needs. With our unique ability to articulate and negotiate with our extensive network of major underwriters, we are able to obtain excellent service and coverage for our clients at competitive rates.

PLATFORMS: Windows 2000 operating systems and Dell Servers.

PROBLEM SOLVED: The problem was keeping up with the number of requests for reports IT was getting from management and sales. Information was difficult to access without extensive data manipulation. BlueSky Business Intelligence Portal from Relational Solutions, Inc. (RSI) helped reduce the burden of reporting for IT and made it easy for users to access. IT was able to cut in half the time spent on report creation.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: BlueSky is performing great! In the future we plan to more fully utilize the BlueSky cube technology. BlueSky is a query and analysis tool designed for accessing data and distributing reports and information. The user interface is designed for both business users and analysts. Analysts can query the database, create views and publish reports.

STRENGTHS: The main strengths of BlueSky are that it's easy to use, affordable, Web-based and open. Its easy-to-use, point-and-click interface is easy for the business users and customizable for their needs. Reports are also customizable, and different views can be created to minimize users' work. It has drill-down capabilities so we can see things such as sales across all geographies and drill down to regions, managers, rep, etc. By clicking icons, the view changes into a trend graph, pie chart, bar graph, table, etc. It also has built-in formulas. We can export reports to Adobe, Word or Excel or disconnect from the Internet and work offline. Query results can come back in a BlueSky Vision Cube, Excel or an Excel pivot table (BlueSky builds the pivot table automatically). Excel integration leverages expertise and software licenses. BlueSky also supports "on the fly cube building." BlueSky has an open architecture that can access any database. Its open meta data repository runs on any server database. Queries are brought back in an XML file that you can do other things with. The portal is nonproprietary to support integration with other applications, portals or query tools. Because security is built-in, users only have access to information they should get. Scheduling capabilities allow us to choose when we want reports to run. Administrators can limit the scheduling options. BlueSky is Web-based, making it easy to access. Browser-based administration saves time on setup and upgrades. Many query tools have become cost prohibitive for companies. After the cost of implementing a data warehouse, companies rarely have much money to spend on a query and reporting tool; but they are forced to either spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to roll it out to everyone or limit the number of users to something affordable.

WEAKNESSES: We would like to see an enhancement where users are able to color code results in reports. Relational Solutions has told us this will be available in the next release of BlueSky, expected this month.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We looked at several tools, but the ease of use and cost of BlueSky made it a no-brainer decision for us.

DELIVERABLES: BlueSky produces reports and provides our employees with an easy-to-use means to access reports and company documents.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Relational Solutions was very easy to work with. They accomplished what they said they would within the allocated time frame and budget. They have also been very responsive in answering questions and helping us resolve issues after the implementation, even when the questions weren't directly related to BlueSky. Our interaction with them since the implementation has been minimal because we have not had issues with BlueSky. The best part of working with RSI is that their consultants are professional and work great with our people. They are like an extension of our own team, and they truly care about our project's success.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is okay. By following the on- screen instructions, installation is intuitive and easy to understand.

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