PLATFORMS: Servers: HP T520 running Sybase. Clients: Pentium PCs running Microsoft Windows 95.

BACKGROUND: Sterling Commerce, Dallas, Texas, is a leading global provider of electronic commerce software and services that enable businesses to engage in business-to-business electronic communications and transactions. Sterling Commerce has more than 37,000 customer sites worldwide and over 1,700 employees.

PROBLEM SOLVED: The database management staff of Sterling Commerce's Columbus, Ohio-based Commerce Services Group, was seeking to reduce database complexity for end users, including several hundred sales and marketing representatives. The goal was to provide easy on-line access to specific information they needed. For example, the salesperson for a new product upgrade needed a contact list for all customers who have the original product. The database management staff also needed to give new hires a standard set of queries to produce the fundamental reports they need.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Sterling Commerce is using VISION:Clearmanage as its primary data warehousing report station, enabling users to publish standard reports. VISION:Clearmanage allows the data management staff to break up schemas into universes, which are sub-schemas. Those universes can focus down to a business process, whether that business process is accounts receivable, sales campaign tracking or mailing list generation. If an end user gets a huge database with 150 tables, they are lost. VISION:Clearmanage makes it possible, for example, to provide a universe of three tables and three views with everything pre-joined. End users can understand and work with focused universes very quickly.

STRENGTHS: Using VISION:Clearmanage, libraries of query and report definitions developed by power users are shared across the end-user community. The database management staff can leverage the knowledge and skills of power users to benefit all users in the company who have similar reporting needs. A power user can e- mail the script and the database management professional can load it on the server, making it immediately available to everyone.

WEAKNESSES: It would be helpful if VISION:Clearmanage were able to capture and maintain more meta data. It would also be helpful if the product integrated with a modeling tool such as Sybase S Designer. The meta data stored in VISION:Clearmanage is confined to aliases, descriptions and joins.

SELECTION CRITERIA: VISION:Clearmanage and VISION:Clearaccess were originally selected because the products were freely available from what was then a sister division within the company. Over the years, its functionality has proven itself, so that even though the divisions have split into separate companies, Sterling Commerce continues to use the products.

DELIVERABLES: For end users, 80 percent of what they need is already available in scripts from VISION:Clearmanage. If they see something important in a report, such as a customer with special needs, the database management staff has pre-written extracts so the user can access all the data for a specific customer. Then they can use the OLAP capabilities to find the specific issue the customer may be having. The sales staff frequently uses VISION:Clearaccess to generate targeted mailing lists for customers who have specific requirements which may match the functionality of a product. With VISION:Clearmanage, the database management staff has been able to develop more than 30 different ways for end users to generate mailing lists, including by product, industry or geographic region.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Support has been outstanding. When calls are placed to technical support, the response is very timely and helpful.

DOCUMENTATION: Documentation is adequate. The tutorials are a strong point.

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