CATEGORY: Data administration, management, modeling and database performance.
REVIEWER: Jessica Walters, data warehousing and business intelligence for Pitney Bowes.
BACKGROUND: Pitney Bowes is the world's leading provider of integrated mail and document management systems, services and solutions. The $4.6 billion company helps organizations of all sizes engineer the flow of communication to reduce costs, increase impact and enhance customer relationships. With approximately 33,000 employees worldwide, Pitney Bowes serves more than 2 million businesses through direct and dealer operations.
PLATFORMS: QualiWare Lifecycle Manager is a client/server, PC-based tool that runs on Windows.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Our primary goal was to create a more managed process for capturing, documenting, structuring and modeling business reporting needs. With QualiWare Lifecycle Manager's meta data repository, we're now able to store the full spectrum of reporting-related information in a centralized location. Information in the repository includes: detailed report requirements, conceptual data diagrams and mappings to source systems including several legacy databases, as well as business rules and business processes associated with reporting, and specific calculation routines. The new process enables us to more easily identify, document and bridge gaps in our reporting environment. We're identifying these gaps by looking at facts and dimensions as well as reports, data and the source systems themselves. By gaining greater visibility into the reporting architecture, we're able to better represent and edit requirements as gathered from users, perform impact/gap analysis and reuse objects in order to avoid having overlapping requirements between business functions.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The QualiWare functionality we're using includes the repository for storage of all reporting requirements and the modeling capability that enables the linking of those business rules to other requirements, systems and models. These relationships and linkages connect those requirements to data elements and attributes, information concepts and other data entities, all of which are tied back to reporting and the information systems that are sourcing them. QualiWare's modeling capability allows us to establish and maintain complex relationships between all the various entities, facilitating overall understanding of both: 1) how the various components of our architecture interrelate; and, 2) how the business itself operates. The result is that we're much better at making sure that the data warehouse and all the dimensional views for the data mart will support the successful delivery of business reports. Overall, the QualiWare repository enables us to have one live location for the members of the requirements team to work and share information that is being gathered from multiple business functions, and we can see where information is being reused associated to business processes and key performance indicators (KPIs).
STRENGTHS: The two biggest strengths are: 1) the relational, multitiered, object-based repository that allows us to load legacy and other existing intellectual capital while facilitating the development and storage of new intellectual capital; and, 2) how easily the product can be customized without having to write code.
WEAKNESSES: We would like to do SQL-style queries on the repository in order to create multidimensional matrices, but that's one area in which the program requires us to write QualiWare Command Language (QCL) routines. This code-writing requirement limits users from exploring the product more thoroughly and really maximizing its value.
SELECTION CRITERIA: For this process, we were using Microsoft Excel, Visio and Access. These tools individually had their benefits, but documentation was static, not reusable and not linked. QualiWare is like a combination of all three with added functionality.
DELIVERABLES: The deliverables include the actual conceptual data diagrams, requirements matrix, business processes, KPI matrix and data dictionary, all of which can be represented in an integrated business design.
VENDOR SUPPORT: At first, technical support was limited and training could have been more robust, but QualiWare has recently expanded its technical support services to meet growing demand with a full-time answering service.
DOCUMENTATION: Documentation for QualiWare is built into the help menus in the tool, and there are user and implementation guides available on the installation directories. However, the documentation could be more complete and better organized.
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