BACKGROUND: SPS Payment Systems, Inc. (SPS) is a leading provider of technology-based outsourcing services. Our principal business services include electronic processing of point-of-sale credit card transactions, administration of consumer private label credit card programs, commercial accounts receivable processing, electronic marketing services and customized operating teleservices, such as technical help-desk support and customer service. The SPS data warehouse, which consists of nearly 100GB, runs on a Sun Solaris Server and Oracle8.0.

PLATFORMS: Pine Cone's products run on Windows 95 and NT clients, are available on most UNIX platforms and support Oracle, Sybase, Informix, IBM DB2/PE, IBM UDB and NCR/Teradata databases.

PROBLEM SOLVED: SPS wanted to put a data warehouse infrastructure in place before the data warehouse grew too large and became unmanageable. In addition, SPS wanted to be proactive in working with the business analysts to make the proper data readily available and the environment easier to use. SPS wanted an environment where we could determine not only system-level details such as CPU utilization, disk utilization and the number of concurrent users, but also detailed information about specific data warehouse activity which required accessing key information at the data level.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Pine Cone's Usage Tracker helps SPS analyze data warehouse usage patterns ­ looking to find out who is using the system and what data they are accessing ­ allowing SPS to help better meet the specific needs of its user community. Usage Tracker provides SPS a detailed view of what data is needed and not needed, who is using the system and what data they are accessing, as well as when they are accessing it. This adds a powerful new dimension to managing the SPS data warehouse. With Usage Tracker, SPS now also has a better understanding of the types of queries that our users are submitting and what information they require to fully analyze data trends and relationships.

STRENGTHS: Usage Tracker was straightforward to implement and quickly generated results that allowed us to gain greater insights into the workings of our data warehouse. This enabled SPS to improve the ability of the data warehouse to quickly deliver high-value information to our business users. Usage Tracker is a solid, dependable and valuable tool that makes managing a rapidly growing data warehouse much easier. Usage Tracker has proved to be a major asset to SPS. We increased efficiency, lowered costs and met or exceeded the expectations of our end-user community.

WEAKNESSES: Pine Cone's reporting environment is not as robust as we would like, although Pine Cone recently announced a relationship with Business Objects to integrate Usage Tracker into Business Objects' OLAP software. This will allow Business Objects' users to directly access the results generated by Usage Tracker, which we view as a positive development.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Pine Cone's Usage Tracker was chosen for its ability to provide data warehouse usage information that allows SPS to be proactive in dealing with data warehousing issues.

DELIVERABLES: For the first time, SPS is now able to track who is using the warehouse and the number and type of queries that are being submitted by time of day, yielding valuable statistics that help to optimize business use. With Usage Tracker, SPS is further leveraging its data warehouse investment by better understanding usage patterns. SPS can now offer greater help to users because SPS has a broader understanding of what users are trying to accomplish ­ from a business perspective ­ with their queries. This will allow us to appropriately utilize existing resources, avoid additional costs and better serve our internal and external users. With our data warehouse infrastructure now in place, we can quit worrying about technology and focus on providing good data that helps us grow our business.

VENDOR SUPPORT: The Pine Cone personnel are highly experienced professionals, able to address issues relating to the product and also to the wider business analysis context.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is comprehensive and easy to read.

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