BACKGROUND: Founded in 1849, William Zinsser & Co., Inc., Somerset, New Jersey, is the leading national manufacturer of primer sealers, shellac and specialty decorating products. The company's surface preparation and problem- solving products are designed to anticipate, prevent and fix many of the obstacles professionals and do-it-yourselfers encounter when painting and wallpapering. William Zinsser & Co., Inc. is a member of the RPM, Inc. group of companies.
PLATFORMS: Zinsser runs ShowCase STRATEGY 3.01 on an AS/400 Model 720 with the IBM OS/400 V4R4 operating system. Client machines use Windows 95, 98 or NT.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Zinsser had been using a non-Y2K compliant homegrown System/36 product that was very limited in its functionality. In 1997, the company purchased most of Infinium Software, Inc.'s range of ERP products. This included order processing, purchase management, inventory control, manufacturing control and the financial management/reporting products. The company needed a PC-based query solution that would provide users with easy access to a relational database on the AS/400. Having purchased an Infinium ERP system, Zinsser turned to ShowCase, an Infinium partner, for this task.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: ShowCase served as the ideal complement to Infinium's basic reports which were somewhat limited. Users throughout the company can readily extract data and create reports with limited involvement from the MIS department. Zinsser users access the system on a daily basis to create inventory management, purchasing management, sales analysis, financial applications and accounts receivable reports. Zinsser also created a customized report that ties in all sales and inventory data related to individual products. This function enables users to create an attractive report in less time and without the help of more expensive resources. In the future, Zinsser anticipates using more of the data warehousing functionality of the ShowCase products in addition to all the data extraction tools currently used.
STRENGTHS: STRATEGY is a very intuitive application that gives users access to data in a familiar interface. The product interfaces well with Excel, allowing users to create spreadsheets that have refreshable data links to the AS/400. Even users who are not familiar with the AS/400 can quickly access the data to create reports and queries. Given the rights, power users can also create data views or logical files on the AS/400 which allow for more complex data extraction capabilities. The installation went smoothly and took only one day to load all the information onto the Zinsser server. ShowCase's training services and other technical support are also helpful; they respond very quickly to technical calls. Training books designed to complement the courses are very informative and easy to use.
WEAKNESSES: More advanced documentation would be useful, particularly coverage of complex functions such as macro building. Also, much of the support documentation is only available online, which can be difficult to use. A limited functionality run-time version for lower end users would be a plus, as it is sometimes necessary to restrict users from accessing the information source while still giving them access to the actual reports. Web-based call tracking would also be helpful for viewing the status of outstanding technical issues.
SELECTION CRITERIA: Zinsser needed a product that could run on the AS/400, which the company had originally selected for its dependability. The fact that STRATEGY runs in conjunction with Infinium made the decision easy. STRATEGY provides a complete solution that integrates enterprise intelligence, data warehousing and business intelligence. From extraction and transformation of data from AS/400 operational systems such as e-commerce applications and ERP systems through loading data into the warehouse and keeping it refreshed through automated scheduling, STRATEGY offers an integrated suite of data warehousing tools. In addition, STRATEGY features an integrated suite of ad hoc query and reporting tools, Web-based enterprise reporting and OLAP-based analytic application solutions.
DELIVERABLES: Zinsser created custom reports using STRATEGY for purchasing, receiving discrepancies, vendor analysis, customer sales analysis, order/shipping analysis, inventory management and costing, accounts receivable and aged trial balance requirements. Zinsser uses Showcase reports in many mission-critical areas of the business.
VENDOR SUPPORT: ShowCase supported every aspect of the STRATEGY implementation before, during and after. The ShowCase support team is very knowledgeable and prompt in their follow-up.
DOCUMENTATION: Basic documentation is good. More information about advanced functions would be helpful.
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