REVIEWER: Rob Goodman, director of data warehousing for Juniper Financial.
BACKGROUND: Juniper Financial Corporation, a privately held company headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware, operates Juniper Bank as a division of Columbus Bank and Trust Company of Columbus, Georgia. Juniper offers a wide array of financial products and services and the ability for consumers to access account information, transfer funds and pay bills via the Internet, phone or wireless devices.
PLATFORMS: Sun Solaris (E450 series server) and Oracle8.1.6.
PROBLEM SOLVED: DataStage from Ascential Software provided Juniper Bank a comprehensive platform for integrating diverse data from external service providers and internal systems to create a sophisticated data warehouse supporting the company's marketing initiatives and providing investors and executives with the information they need to make good business decisions. DataStage allowed us to create a customized solution prior to the company's launch that has been refined and improved as the company further developed.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: DataStage provides us with a flexible and nimble information infrastructure for fast analysis of data, a fast data quality assurance process and quick response to unexpected issues and problems that inevitably arise. We develop customer information from multiple points of contact, including mail-in account applications and phone contacts. With DataStage, we can gather customer data, extract account and operational data, analyze it according to certain characteristics and feed it to other processes and utilities. These utilities can then analyze the data extracts to determine the results of various marketing campaigns and promotions, analyze customer utilization of certain services and products, or trigger customer service messages, account status reports and payment reminders. We fully expect DataStage to continue to grow in importance as we add capabilities and improve our processes and services.
STRENGTHS: A key strength of DataStage is the ability to incorporate complex logic required in building a sophisticated data warehousing environment, including the ability to read from complex files and apply logic to both load the database and to extract information from the database. Additionally, the ability to create output in just about any format is very important to Juniper Bank. DataStage is an integral component of our efforts to create lists for affiliate programs and to communicate with our customers. Finally, the portability of the product between NT and various Unix platforms is outstanding, enabling Juniper to spend a month developing on a version of the product for NT before porting all of the work to UNIX when the production system was ready.
WEAKNESSES: We've been satisfied with DataStage's support for editing meta data from database sources. However, we have found DataStage's support for managing complex flat files cumbersome. More recent versions of DataStage effectively manage meta data from flat files through a new complex flat file stage that reads meta data directly from Cobol copybooks, a functionality that was not available when Juniper implemented in the fall of 2000.
SELECTION CRITERIA: Prior to joining Juniper, I worked for a consulting firm that used DataStage in several solutions it deployed. I was confident that DataStage could be used to rapidly develop a data warehousing solution at Juniper. I proposed the product, and we put it through a competitive evaluation against another leading extraction transformation and loading (ETL) tool. We selected DataStage based on cost- versus-performance capabilities, customer service and ease of implementation.
DELIVERABLES: DataStage is used to process diverse data sources to load Juniper's data warehouse. This data is then used to create various extracts and lists for Juniper's marketing department and support an intranet-deployed Brio reporting environment.
VENDOR SUPPORT: It has been easy to work with Ascential. Prior to purchasing the product, the company was helpful in providing evaluation software that enabled us to get a head start developing our solution. This included providing an NT version of the software that was used until our production environment was ready. Without this support, we would not have been ready for launch. When technical issues have arisen, Ascential's support team has been excellent at providing answers or a work-around within 24 hours.
DOCUMENTATION: The hard-copy documentation is good and enabled us to set up a production environment using the UNIX command line API's provided with the product to automate the processes. The online documentation that comes with the client software is excellent in providing help and answers to day-to-day questions about the use of the product.
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