REVIEWER: Max Wright, president of DogMatch.

BACKGROUND: DogMatch.com is a Web-based national adoption service designed to match shelter dogs with suitable families. Through DogMatch.com, Web users specify precisely what type of dog they are looking for by sex, age, breed, color, type of coat and how much they wish to exercise the animal. The system helps them decide what types of dogs best match their requirements and then returns photos of potential adoption candidates, along with information about their backgrounds. Users can enter ZIP codes to look for dogs in designated geographic areas. By offering their e-mail address, they will be notified as new animals are located that match their profile. DogMatch.com uses Information Builders Fusion Multidimensional Database technology and WebFOCUS Business Intelligence environment to streamline the process of finding suitable homes for shelter dogs.

PLATFORMS: DogMatch applications are deployed on a variety of Microsoft Windows and Windows NT platforms.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Using WebFOCUS, it was possible to create a highly visual presentation where all aspects of the canine selection and review process take place on a single browser screen. Other Web-based adoption services have rudimentary database technology which limits their effectiveness. These sites are list-oriented, operating like an electronic catalog. WebFOCUS allowed us to develop a more natural adoption process.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The national DogMatch database is made available through the WebFOCUS Managed Reporting Administrator, an ideal method of distributing information to sites that are geographically dispersed. Participating shelters are given a PC-based shelter management application that includes a desktop version of FOCUS. They use the software to enter data about the animals in their shelters, building a valuable database of information on their local computers. On a scheduled basis, one single mouse click automatically prepares a list of currently available dogs with their digital photos and uploads the information to the main DogMatch Web server.

STRENGTHS: WebFOCUS provides real-time access to the multidimensional database, in addition to powerful ways to manipulate and manage data remotely. The Fusion multidimensional indexing scheme is extremely fast in returning matched answer sets ­ regardless of the number records stored on the server. We have the capacity to give near instantaneous response, even with every dog in the U.S. listed in the database. Shelters can use WebFOCUS to track dog adoptions and adoption programs, getting a handle on what works and what doesn't so the programs can be improved.

WEAKNESSES: The WebFOCUS product line evolves and adapts itself to the changing Internet environment so fast that it's hard to nail down a persistent problem. System security is a good example. WebFOCUS has traditionally been run in a secure fashion ­ in which case the product is quite robust. However, the nature of the www.DogMatch.com environment is that it's an open, public-access application. Unless application designers are aware of the issues and take necessary precautions, the system administration facilities will be available to anyone with a port scanner. Application designers must always be conscious of security issues that confront a publicly available site and take countermeasures to prevent hackers from corrupting the system.

SELECTION CRITERIA: I have worked with Information Builders' products for more than 16 years and, as a result, am very familiar with the entire FOCUS family of products on all major platforms. I have more than 20 years of information processing consulting experience that emphasizes very large data warehouses. WebFOCUS is uniquely qualified as a Web development environment and possesses powerful capabilities to manipulate and manage data remotely.

DELIVERABLES: By participating in the national adoption program, the shelters get added value by using a local database to simplify routine operations. By maintaining their local adoption data in the database application we provide, they gain a wealth of management reporting options while automatically contributing to a national adoption database.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Information Builders demonstrated strong vendor commitment and support. In addition, the company has excellent help desk and technical support and is dedicated to making DogMatch a success.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation, help and training materials are very complete. The information, available in hard copy and electronically, is well integrated into the products.

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