CATEGORY: Business Intelligence
REVIEWER: Patrick Walden, business systems analyst for Trane, a business of American Standard Companies.
BACKGROUND: Trane is a leading global provider of indoor comfort systems and comprehensive facility solutions, with current annual sales approaching $5 billion. Trane is a business of American Standard Companies, a Fortune 500 company and a global leader in air conditioning systems and services, bath and kitchen products, and vehicle control systems, including electronic braking and air suspension systems.
PLATFORMS: Oracle RDBMS, Dell Servers, Windows 2000 OS.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Every department within Trane was using a different tool (Crystal, Access, FileMaker Pro), which was expensive and difficult to maintain. Consequently, we decided to create a new enterprise system consisting of best-of-breed solutions and a standard reporting platform. We evaluated several systems before selecting Actuate. Actuate was selected as the Web-based enterprise reporting application platform to ensure centralized and consistent reporting across the company. With Actuate, we were able to create enterprise reporting applications that would be able to be adopted by 100 percent of our users. Additionally, our end users used different reporting formats to compile data. Actuate applications helped us standardize a reporting format for the business.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Actuate provides scalable ad hoc reporting capabilities delivered over the Web to the end user which enables them to easily manipulate data. Users can also work offline and continue reporting without access to the network and database servers. Actuate's e.Report Designer Professional was utilized to create simple to complex report formats to cater to a broad range of users. Prescheduled and on-demand reports have been created and have been integrated with several existing applications. We rely heavily on parameterization capabilities to allow users to create various formats from the same report data. End users get value from the SmartSearch feature that enables them to filter and extract data for further analysis. Actuate's drill-down capabilities offer our end users the ability to see detailed information without needing to run another report. Actuate's e.Spreadsheet Designer was implemented to deliver dashboards, flash reporting and what-if analysis. Finally, Actuate's e.Analysis is used by end users who want to do quick analysis of different segments of the business.
STRENGTHS: The ease of use for ultimate end users ensures that they are most likely to adopt the application into their everyday work routine. Reports produced using Actuate offer point-and-click ease of use and provide rich ad hoc capabilities. The report development environment enables us to design and maintain enterprise reporting applications and individual reports with a standardized report format and design. In addition, the environment is flexible enough to fit into the business and support our corporate productivity initiatives, such as Six Sigma, so that the business did not have to evolve to meet the report design. Finally, the product offers a low cost solution, with no meta data layer to create or maintain.
WEAKNESSES: Our report developers have noted that Actuate's enterprise reporting application development environment is not 100 percent point-and-click. However, with products that offer point-and-click development, you hit a wall that you can't get beyond. With Actuate, there are data access and formatting methods you can use to override and customize, which is good when you want to build custom applications.
SELECTION CRITERIA: Actuate was selected because of its robust, scalable platform. The application provided an economically feasible way of generating more than 40,000 reports monthly. With Actuate, we were able to meet the needs of the entire user base by providing Web-based reporting, dashboards, flash reporting and analysis. Actuate also provided seamless integration to our multiple data sources including ProTrak.
DELIVERABLES: Actuate enables us to build scalable enterprise reporting applications that cater to our entire user community.
VENDOR SUPPORT: Our consulting is carried out by one of Actuate's consulting partners, Innovent, and we are happy with the service they provide. Our established contacts in Actuate's e.Support department will work with a problem until the issue is solved.
DOCUMENTATION: Actuate's training classes and materials are relatively good. Product manuals and the online documentation are good but could be improved with more real life examples.
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