BACKGROUND: Norwest Financial Information Services Group, Inc. (NFISG) provides IT support to Norwest Financial, Inc., a diversified consumer finance company with 11,500 employees operating more than 1,400 retail stores in the U.S., Canada, Central America and the Caribbean. Norwest Financial has over $10 billion in receivables.

PLATFORMS: NFISG runs the Rochade Repository server software on an IBM Model 750 Pentium 133 MHz server. This server has an 18GB SCSI RAID 5 disk. The server operating system is Windows NT 4.0. Client machines are predominantly Windows NT Workstation 4.0, with a few Windows 95 clients.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Using Rochade, NFISG has addressed a variety of problems as described here:

Legacy Impact Analysis. With data and program components on IBM TPF, MVS, Tandem Guardian and HP 3000 systems, assessing which IS artifacts were affected by business-driven changes was becoming increasingly difficult. By capturing meta data from these platforms in one place, NFISG was able to dramatically reduce the time needed to assess affected system components while increasing accuracy. Further, we were able to tie into the existing program turnover process and achieve a high degree of automation for repository updates. All the coding to support this application was done using Rochade's Procedures Language and its object-oriented extensions. We also created a custom user interface with Rochade's native GUI capabilities.

Change Control Information. When NFISG moved from a mainframe programming environment to a workstation LAN environment, there emerged a need to share data from a homegrown Change Control system on MVS with PC users on the LAN. Rochade provided the answer. The MVS change control data was downloaded to Rochade in a flat file and scanned into the repository. Users access the data through custom panels in the Rochade client.

Data Conversion and Migration. Norwest is moving data from its diverse legacy systems to an Oracle database for a new generation of systems and for data warehousing. Rochade is serving as the central meta data repository for legacy records and fields and new Oracle tables and columns.

Electronic Document Management. Guidelines that employees must follow when dealing with customers are documented in various procedures manuals made up of hundreds of MS Word files. State and federal regulators often require that we produce a copy of these documents as they exist at a point in time coinciding with audit activities. These files are now in the Rochade Repository as BLOBs (Binary Large Objects). Access to documents is controlled through Rochade, and once a document has been updated and checked into Rochade as a production version, it is archived permanently in the repository, thus eliminating the need to store paper copies of older versions.

Legislation Tracking System. We developed a tracking system in Rochade that allows our Government Affairs analysts and attorneys to keep track ­ in all 50 states ­ of legislation that impacts our business. This system uses the Rochade API and has a Visual Basic front end to the repository.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Rochade is stable and reliable. Considering the somewhat underpowered server currently hosting the repository, response times are generally quite good. We plan to move Rochade to a more powerful server soon.

STRENGTHS: Rochade's primary strength is its flexibility and extensibility. The extensible meta model allows users to put any data they want into Rochade, which is further facilitated by the extremely powerful Rochade Procedures Language. You are limited only by your imagination.

WEAKNESSES: There is a fairly steep learning curve for the product, and also an organization must dedicate quality people to the effort. Improved training materials and opportunities would also be helpful.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Rochade was the only repository capable of addressing the unique mix of systems in our environment. The other products couldn't even come close.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Help from Rochade customer support has been excellent. We are generally able to get all our questions answered via e- mail in a few hours.

DOCUMENTATION: Most routine functions can be understood through the documentation. Some of the more complicated topics (Rochade versioning, for instance) required some help from Rochade customer support.

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