PLATFORMS: ActaLink for SAP runs on Windows NT and works with SAP R/3 Release 3.0 or higher. Acta will introduce a UNIX version in Q4, 1998.

BACKGROUND: Metamor Technologies' Data Warehouse and Decision Support Systems practice is part of the Metamor Solutions group of Metamor Worldwide, Inc., a Houston, Texas-based company that offers information technology project support, project management, project outsourcing, systems design and development, as well as traditional and innovative supplemental staffing. This review relates to a project that Metamor performed for S-B Power Tools, located in Chicago, Illinois.

PROBLEM SOLVED: S-B Power Tools, a subsidiary of Bosch GmbH, the makers of Bosch, Skil and Dremel power tools, wanted to convert its existing transaction processing systems from a legacy mainframe environment to a new client/server SAP environment. S-B Power Tools retained Metamor to specify, model, design, build and implement a new SAP R/3-based data warehouse that will replace an aging legacy environment. With limited SAP and ABAP programming resources available, Metamor and S-B Power Tools initiated a search for a solution that would provide easy- to-use and cost-effective SAP information extraction without requiring custom programming.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: ActaLink for SAP extracts data from SAP and non- SAP sources, transforms and cleanses the data and loads it into a data warehouse or data mart for strategic business analysis. With ActaLink for SAP, users can build a data warehouse without a long or costly implementation cycle and without custom ABAP coding. ActaLink for SAP provides an intuitive graphical user interface for mapping and transforming the data from R/3 to a data warehouse. ActaLink's automatic optimization capabilities enable the data warehouse designer to focus on the contents of the warehouse, and not on the details of how to efficiently execute the extraction, transformation and loading process. ActaLink for SAP can join and merge data from other sources such as Oracle, Informix, Microsoft SQL Server, Sybase, ODBC-compliant databases and flat files. Acta provides preconfigured data marts, called Rapid-Marts, that address common business needs, such as sales and financial analysis. Rapid-Marts greatly accelerate the process of creating a customized data warehouse or data mart.

STRENGTHS: Metamor is very impressed with how "SAP aware" ActaLink is. Extracting information out of the thousands of SAP tables using custom-written ABAP routines would be extremely difficult and resource intensive. ActaLink's rapid development environment and ease of use were particularly important.

WEAKNESSES: Currently, the ActaLink Server, which performs many of the complex data transformations, is available only on Windows NT. We would like the option to perform these transformations on a UNIX platform. Acta has announced that the ActaLink Server will be available on UNIX in the fourth quarter of 1998.

SELECTION CRITERIA: To meet the project requirements, Metamor and S-B Power Tools sought a solution that would provide simple and efficient SAP information access without necessitating custom programming. They also wanted a tool that would facilitate rapid implementation. The ease of use of ActaLink for SAP, its unparalleled integration with SAP, its high performance and the availability of Rapid-Marts to jump-start implementation made it a clear choice.

DELIVERABLES: ActaLink for SAP provided immediate ROI by reducing IS resource requirements as well as increasing S-B Power Tools' ability to analyze key trends affecting the business of the company.

VENDOR SUPPORT: The Acta support organization is skilled and highly responsive. Issues were resolved quickly and cleanly.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is comprehensive and easy to read.

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