REVIEWER: Gareth Williams, business information manager for Vector.
BACKGROUND: Vector is one of New Zealand's largest network infrastructure owners and managers. With more than 660,000 customers, the company operates a portfolio of businesses and services delivering electricity, gas and high-speed broadband communications services to consumers in Auckland and Wellington. The company also owns a leading industry training facility (Utilitech), a 70 percent share in a corporate metering service (Stream) and a 50% share in a leading arboriculture business (Treescape).
PLATFORMS: Compaq Pentium III PCs running Windows 2000.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Vector recognizes that the effective use of information is central to business efficiency and growth. The nature of business activities of a large network management company is such that information volumes are large and also multidimensional in nature. Vector uses a variety of data visualization techniques to allow it to identify areas of focus. ADVIZOR Analyst Workbench is used on projects where the analysis involves a large number of dimensions, and the relationships between these dimensions need to be identified.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The product has been used very effectively for analysis of network performance information. Such analysis involves dimensions such as network type, location, time, asset type, reliability statistics, etc. ADVIZOR is able to assist us to rapidly understand the relationships between these factors, resulting in better decisions on improving network performance. Many of our analysis projects involve identification of outliers (i.e., occurrences that fall outside the norm). ADVIZOR provides a number of visualizations that support this type of analysis, allowing areas for focus to be quickly identified and instantly isolated. This has been particularly useful on customer service-related analysis work.
STRENGTHS: The main strength of the product is its ease of use. We had a reasonably sophisticated analysis dashboard built and operating with our data within 30 minutes of installing the software without any training. The product is very flexible, allowing a wide choice of intuitive graphical data presentation techniques to be used either individually or in an integrated manner. This flexibility and integration allows a wide range of analysis problems to be solved using the tool.
WEAKNESSES: The only real criticism is the quality of the graphics produced is not as high quality as people are accustomed to with modern graphics packages. While this does not detract from the usefulness of the product, better options to configure legends, data labels and colors would be nice to have. We are told some of these desired capabilities have been addressed in the latest release of the product (which we plan to convert to soon), and others are going to be addressed in the upcoming year-end release.
SELECTION CRITERIA: We were seeking to supplement the data visualization tools already in use. Specifically, we were looking for tools that would allow interactive dashboards to be developed that highlighted trends and relationships. There were a number of different systems evaluated. We found that the main differentiator between them is the level of programming needed to achieve the required functionality. Many packages we evaluated required significant programmer effort to use. ADVIZOR was the only product that was literally out of the box. While future customization is possible, very sophisticated analysis can be undertaken without any development work.
DELIVERABLES: ADVIZOR has been used to develop data relationship models as a means of identifying subsets of information for further analysis. Work is currently underway to develop corporate analytical dashboards to allow end users to carry out focused analytical work themselves. Software licenses to support 50 users have recently been purchased to support the planned implementations. These will be served through Vector's intranet information portal, which already provides a number of interactive financial and network performance reports and company performance dashboards to users across the business.
VENDOR SUPPORT: Support has been provided both by ADVIZOR and by their local agent in New Zealand, Eagle Technology. We have not had a need for a large level of support to date, but are satisfied that support is available if needed.
DOCUMENTATION: Documentation is adequate but not a strength of the product. Our application of the product to date, however, has not been hindered by lack of documentation due to the product's ease of use.
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