PLATFORMS: The client-side interface runs on Windows 3.11, Windows 95 or NT as well as any Web browser. The Server side can reside on AIX, HP-UX, Sun or Windows NT.

BACKGROUND: IBM's Telecommunications and Media industry practice (T&M) was created to help solve the complex problems of the rapidly changing telecommunications and entertainment/publishing industries. It focuses on providing business transformation and IT-strategy services to these industries.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Two large telecommunications carriers have enlisted IBM's T&M Consulting group's help in implementing Speedware's Media product to over 2800 end users across the US in order to provide up-to-date metrics information to managers. As a result, this has helped them reduce cycle times on repair calls, plot better service programs, determine the appropriate staffing and plan their overtime schedules. This has also helped them set objective standards so they can quickly and easily evaluate the validity of past decisions.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Speedware's Media product gives managers the ability to define their own views of management data without coding any SQL statements. The unique point-and-click interface is designed with business people in mind and not the IT department. The graphical front end features all types of graphs, as well as 13 SPC chart functions and the ability to perform statistical tests to spot trends. On the back end, Media's technology features a hybrid between a relational and multidimensional database. The dynamic low-level data resides in the relational structure and the more static aggregates can be stored in the multidimensional caches. The product also features a clever server-based ODBC implementation.

STRENGTHS: Without a doubt, Media's Briefing Board interface is its claim to fame. This ad hoc query tool lets end users create drill downs from high level aggregates to lower level atomic data and save it on their own personalized briefing boards. The popularity of this interface is due to its intuitive nature and sub-second response time. Also, Media's statistical functionality provides even novice users with the ability to generate SPC charts to help them spot abnormal data points. Media features a unique back-end architecture that integrates multidimensional and SQL caches to ensure optimal response time and minimize system load. WEAKNESSES: Media lacks a sophisticated query management tool to track system usage and query impact.

SELECTION CRITERIA: From the end-user's perspective, the Briefing Board is extremely effective and is Media's main selling point. On the back end, the multidimensional technology allows sub-second response time and generates very low network traffic, allowing the tool to work effectively even when using dial-up connections. For users requiring dynamic access to current detailed relational data, Speedware's Media/MR Hybrid OLAP was a great fit. Regardless of the back end, the development cycle is very short and the results very robust. The server-based ODBC means reduced maintenance on the client side and high scalability.

DELIVERABLES: The tool has allowed managers to generate their own view of normalized corporate data, ensuring consistency and coherence throughout the organization.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Speedware provides exceptional technical support and has been extremely responsive in providing patches and upgrades to their software. Their support organization also has a sophisticated Web site to let you place and trace your support calls. This has been very useful in finding tips and tricks during development.

DOCUMENTATION: Speedware's documentation is very thorough and available via CD-ROM or in hard-copy format. Complete developer documentation is provided and a simple end-user manual is also included.

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