PLATFORMS: The WebFOCUS HTML report generator operates on a Compaq NT server. It generates HTML reports dynamically from an NT-based Oracle data mart. Additionally, the Oracle database is loaded by an application written in IBI's Cactus visual development tool.
BACKGROUND: Founded in 1989, 4GL Solutions Inc., is a full service consulting firm that specializes in developing client/server and data warehouse applications for Fortune 500 and public-sector organizations.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Los Angeles, the nation's largest county, operates one of the largest municipal court systems. Not surprisingly, with such a large caseload, user access to court case information has become a critical issue. Until now, gaining access to dockets for the Los Angeles County Municipal Small Claims and Civil Courts have required users to battle L.A.'s notorious freeway traffic to get to the courthouse, followed by a long wait in line to obtain print outs or search through microfiche from hard-copy files. The emergence of the Internet offers relief. Web Court provides users free access to basic court docket information on a public Web site through any HTML-compatible Web browser. Web Court provides access to all dockets served by the system, which includes court cases involving less than $25,000 in damages. The Web Court Website is updated on a nightly basis, with source records extracted from an HP 9000 (UNIX)-based FOCUS database and fed to an Oracle data mart residing on a Windows NT server. In turn, WebFOCUS generates HTML reports dynamically using Information Builders' EDA SQL middleware for Oracle access. Web Court also uses the Web site Web server shareware from O'Reilly Systems for establishing the CGI session connection. Additionally, actual HTML pages were formatted using Microsoft's FrontPage Web authoring tool.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: WebFOCUS produces HTML formatted reports dynamically which include URL linkages of any data elements to any other Web site. The FOCUS report engine provides the ability to save report results on the fly and supports all the necessary style options (e.g., headings, footers, page breaks) expected from fully robust business report writers.
STRENGTHS: WebFOCUS's ability to dynamically generate reports is extremely valuable when dealing with complex information such as civil court dockets. This allows users to log onto the Web Court, view a summary report, then drill down on any object or column which has a hot link. WebFOCUS allowed us to design Web reports that could generate hot links within the content of the report at the time that the report is generated (when the user logs onto the site).
WEAKNESSES: We wished that WebFOCUS would have also included an HTML authoring tool. That required us to learn a separate product and integrate it with WebFOCUS.
SELECTION CRITERIA: We compared WebFOCUS with another leading Web-based reporting product. WebFOCUS won hands down, based on its ability to generate reports dynamically, directly off a database.
DELIVERABLES: Web Court has been phased in since November 1997. Early feedback points to success, as users discover that Web Court is a drastic time saver and a valuable resource.
VENDOR SUPPORT: We are currently part of IBI's InfoEite partner program, which entitles us to a dedicated support line; we have also received excellent support from IBI's Los Angeles office.
DOCUMENTATION: The documentation for WebFOCUS was helpful, however, we found ourselves calling in to technical support for help on some undocumented features and workarounds. The WebFOCUS documentation has become more complete and rich with each incremental release.
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