DataFlux dfPower StudioREVIEWER: Bob Conners, senior research consultant at MGT of America.
BACKGROUND: MGT is a national management research and consulting firm based in Tallahassee, Florida. Specializing in public sector projects, the firm employs 125 professionals in a wide range of disciplines, including disparity studies for state and municipal governments.
PLATFORMS: Windows 2000.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Many public sector organizations have regulations in place to ensure that government contracts include a certain percentage of contracts and purchases from minority or women-owned businesses. A disparity study helps determine if an agency has up-to-date facts for existing and future efforts to increase the use of minority and women-owned business enterprises. During its disparity studies, MGT investigates the data from a public sector organization to study the purchases or contracts from the entity. By comparing that information to a comprehensive list of eligible vendors in the area, MGT can help the agency determine what, if any, threshold is applicable. If the project encompasses an entire state government, a disparity study requires data from an array of purchasing databases that account for billions of dollars in expenditures. To accomplish this, MGT needed an efficient means of pulling together disparate data from many sources into one comprehensive data source that would expedite a timely analysis.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: To facilitate these studies, MGT chose DataFlux dfPower Studio, a data management solution that allows MGT consultants to analyze and compare financial data from a variety of different sources. What was once an arduous, manual process can now be automated by intelligently organizing numerous contract, vendor and payment files that arrive in multiple formats into one master data set. Once this master data set is available, MGT can build and utilize business rules to reconcile similar records.
STRENGTHS: Before selecting DataFlux, MGT conducted a comprehensive review of similar products advertising the functionalities MGT needed. Though lower in price, one candidate program was simply unable to handle the massive amount of data MGT deals with on a daily basis and could not perform even basic de-duplication procedures. The second candidate program had similar problems but could rearrange the data for de-duplication. However, the work format was extremely user-unfriendly and cumbersome. Because DataFlux was able to deal effectively with large data sets and presented data reports and formats that were extremely user-friendly, it was the clear favorite among the three finalists.
WEAKNESSES: DataFlux could be more user-friendly with regard to its "help" options. The user manual tends to be overly general and sometimes does not lead the user to develop more complex solutions. Another issue relates to the language required to write some of the code in DataFlux, which could also be more thoroughly outlined and supported with more illustrative examples. Finally, when there are multiple groups in a match cluster of data, DataFlux might add an option to create new groups rather than having them returned to the database.
SELECTION CRITERIA: MGT needed a solution that could accurately compare different data sources to integrate and match data from all client agencies and departments. With that information, the company can understand exactly what the relationship is with protected vendors - and make recommendations for improvement.
DELIVERABLES: MGT embarked on a comprehensive study for the State of New Jersey to pinpoint the compliance level within expenditures from the previous five years. More than 40 agencies submitted data to MGT for the study, which covered $8.5 billion in spending across 400,000 vendors. The consultants then had to aggregate the data to conduct a statewide, cross-agency spending comparison. A task of this magnitude - performed manually - would have taken approximately 3,200 man-hours to complete. With dfPower Studio, that figure was down to 300 man-hours within weeks of implementing the software.
VENDOR SUPPORT: DataFlux's technical support is of very high quality. In the early days of becoming acquainted with the software, MGT made rather frequent use of the DataFlux tech support hotline and questions were always answered promptly and accurately.
DOCUMENTATION: The user manual tends to be overly general.
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