BACKGROUND: Spiritus Trading Ltd., one of the largest PC computer and peripheral trading companies in Israel, represents such companies as Acer, Toshiba and Western Digital. Because we operate with low profit margins and must contend with constantly fluctuating buy and sell prices, we rely heavily on analysis of customer and supplier data to keep ahead of the competition.

PLATFORMS: Spiritus runs 15 Max 1.0 clients with a single Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 OLAP Services. Each laptop PC holds its own OLAP Server for working offline. Spiritus uses a Windows NT Server 4.0 and Windows NT Workstation 4.0.

PROBLEM SOLVED: In the past, Spiritus had invested heavily in proprietary data analysis solutions which were expensive to develop, implement and maintain. The analysis solutions that were developed in house according to specific requests often took too long to return reports and answers. In fact, we ignored some questions because the answers would be obsolete by the time the analysis reports were available. Spiritus turned to a new comprehensive solution based on Microsoft's SQL Server 7.0 and the Max front end to speed up the analysis process and to enable more detailed scrutiny of the information.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: At Spiritus, we are doing near real-time loading and are using Max from Maximal Innovative Intelligence to do daily analysis, which has proved to be the crucial factor in enabling us to manage recent price upheavals and to minimize our risk. For example, following the earthquake in Taiwan, prices fluctuated by hundreds of percent over the course of just a few days. With daily downloads and calculations, we were able to immediately respond with price changes and inventory management. Currently, department heads and senior managers are using Max to help in their management of a wide spectrum of activities including sales, marketing, credit and customer support. We plan to expand the use of Max within Spiritus so that all traders will use it daily. Additionally, we will add several more analysis cubes based on efficiency benchmarking.

STRENGTHS: Max helps us quickly and easily understand the data and gain knowledge from it with absolutely minimal effort on our part. It provides a quick overview which, in fact, is a personal daily overview as defined by each of our users. This makes it very easy to see the important points at a glance and to identify problems in order of priority. Also important to Spiritus is the ease with which we can drill down to get more information, which provides a short, direct path to the root cause of any problem. This means that any of our users can quickly identify vendors, salespeople, product categories or even individual products that are experiencing shortfalls or, on a good day, are proving particularly profitable.

WEAKNESSES: The reporting capabilities should be improved. Maximal has told us that Max will be upgraded in mid-year 2000 to more tightly integrate with Microsoft Office 2000, so we will be able to easily do advanced reporting using Excel.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Spiritus reviewed several well-known, compatible solutions before deciding on Max with SQL Server. We found that Max provided the tightest fit for our specific needs, serving them in the most efficient way and giving us the ability to analyze all aspects of our data.

DELIVERABLES: Max provides daily views of thousands of products and hundreds of customers from hundreds of transactions. With these views, we can quickly identify problems, find the cause and act quickly. The other side of the coin is that we can also quickly identify and maximize opportunities. Because each view also contains the path to the knowledge it presents, the Max views serve as interactive reports to all relevant staff, whether they are in sales, purchasing, credit or personnel.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Maximal provided a full-service project to Spiritus, and the level of service has been exceptional. Spiritus has had problems in multiple areas caused by the data, and Maximal has used its expertise in data warehousing to help us work through the problems. Also, because they are so conversant with Microsoft's technology, Maximal has also helped us with issues relating to Microsoft SQL Server and OLAP Services.

DOCUMENTATION: For the first layer of implementing Max, we used Maximal's manuals and found them to be comprehensive and very easy to use. However, by the time we introduced Max to the second generation of users, they found the interface so intuitive that they did not use the documentation much at all.

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