Canadian firms look to the south for data help

Three Canadian companies, all with large-scale needs, have turned to Information Builders Inc. to help build their solutions.

Bell Canada implemented an award-winning change management system, overseen by former senior project manager Bill Chadwick. The system is an automated just-in-time facilities provisioning application.

Chadwick, who has branched off into his own consultant business since retiring from Bell, said this middleware implementation came when Bell was converting to self-healing fibre rings.

“This is a new technology greatly desired by the clients. The problem was that any one fibre can carry up to 32,000 circuits and in the conversion process you disrupt the circuits while you upgrade them to self-healing rings,” he said.

Chadwick explained that previously when someone was watching satellite television or using the phone and the cable or fibre got cut, that would end the service. The self-healing fibre rings will push the service to a new fibre without a glitch to the user.

“We had to drill down through the hierarchy and find out what circuits are at the various levels of the hierarchy. Quite often there are aliases involved so we had to develop these alias tables,” Chadwick said. “It’s a constantly changing mix of customers and aliases.”

He explained that in the past it would have taken weeks to identify the owners of the 32,000 circuits just to move one fibre, and there were hundreds of fibres to be converted. This created a logjam, and Bell contacted IBI.

New York-based IBI’s EDA (Enterprise Data Access) offers contact with almost any database or application technology on any computer platform, according to the vendor.

Chadwick said originally they went to IBM, but were sent to IBI when IBM saw the complexity and diversity of Bell’s underlying solutions.

“So we crashed in the EDA software on the mainframe, and although we bent a few noses out of joint doing it that way – that quickly – the bottom line is it became cutting-edge for Bell and it became a business advantage,” Chadwick said.

He told a group at the recent IBI Summit 2000 in Palm Desert, Calif., that several people at Bell had been dreaming of data warehousing for a long time, and this situation gave them the opportunity to implement it.

Aventis Pasteur Ltd., a Toronto-based vaccine company, launched an SAP R/3 project which involved implementing SAP at three manufacturing sites, all of which went live simultaneously.

Roy French, CIO of management information systems with Aventis, said he originally found IBI while searching on the Web for ad hoc SAP integrators.

IBI’s Data Migrator for SAP R/3 (formerly SNAPpack Data Migrator) is a conversion and interface tool that migrates data from more than 80 sources into or from SAP R/3 as well as into Business Information Warehouse (BW). Data Migrator enables organizations to “go live” on time by eliminating the need to program custom interfaces and increasing the efficiency of conversions.

“We really haven’t explored what the [IBI] system can do yet,” French said. “We’re holding off until we decide which version we’re going to upgrade to before we implement data warehouse management. That will be the next step.”

French said he is looking to implement WebFocus, IBI’s Web-based solution for data management and reporting.

WebFocus 4.3, the latest version, will output fully-styled reports into Excel 2000 and generate Excel 2000 pivot tables.

Steve Venables, manager of financial systems for the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation, built his Financial Information Network (FIN) to sit on WebFocus.

Venables explained that WebFocus provides a report broker that will run through data and report back in seconds, which was important as his system has a 30-second time out.

“We were running into problems because the reports couldn’t build themselves in time,” he said, adding clients love that they can now get their information electronically and on their mobile desktops.

The Ministry had implemented an Oracle financial system on top of their data. Venables said the system was meeting the Ministry’s operational input, but there was a problem with the output. “The managers didn’t like the reports. They found that one report never gave them all the information.”

He noted the Ministry was then looking for a data warehouse solution. They researched many different companies, but IBI was the easiest to go with because they were already using some of their products.

Venables then built FIN on top of IBI to customize the system to the government’s needs. “It’s much easier to read. It reports in columns and rows. It’s a matter of 50 items on one page vs. 50 pages,” he said.

Another bonus from the system is that it was gathering data from numerous databases without too many difficulties, according to Venables.

“We’re dealing with a complexity of data here. In many cases we have to jump from database to database and pull it back together to run a report,” he said.

He is also an admirer of the IBI staff. “WebFocus people are great. You can call them and say ‘How do I do this or that?’ and they send you a snippet of code,” he said.