High-tech manufacturer in the top 50 of the Fortune 500
(Name withheld per customer policy)
Project Goal: Design and implement Business Intelligence (BI) infrastructure for use in global sales and marketing reporting and analytics.
Description: To support a growing sales and marketing team, in late 2005 we were asked to develop a proof-of-concept reporting and analytics environment using the evolving Microsoft® BI tools such as the SQL Server relational database engine, SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS), SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS), and SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS). The project was extremely successful — growing and evolving to support hundreds of users over nearly a decade and a half. The user community developed a “cult” following with a high level of trust in the overall work product. They depend heavily on the information infrastructure and have used various tools in reporting and analytics (SSRS, Microsoft Excel®, MicroStrategy®, Tableau®, Microsoft PowerBI®, etc.) based on a foundation of highly accurate data.
Key Project Considerations:
The data must be as current as possible. This was addressed by the implementing of Extract, Transform and Load (ETL) processes to refresh the environment data on a six-day-a-week cadence—the exact pattern of the sources we were accessing.
The user community should be able to trust the results implicitly. This led to an evolving set of controls around the ETL processes to ensure internal infrastructure or data issues don’t cause the reporting environment to return incorrect results. The controls typically allowed our team to address issues BEFORE the user community ever saw the problems. We effectively functioned as the “canary in the coal mine” that allowed us to inform our customer of issues before they ever knew of their existence—keeping users blissfully unaware that any problems had occurred.
The project has to comply with strict security controls over access to the data and reports/analytics. Users had access to data on a the need-to-know basis, and were restricted from seeing anything that did not pertain specifically to their job scope.
The project must be able to include an evolving set of new and changing data sources, reporting and analytics tools, use cases, business rules and other conditions. Long-term flexibility (design) and efficient maintenance techniques (process) were paramount to our notable success.
Additional notes: We were also engaged by various project stakeholders to do other forms of development that either supported the aforementioned efforts, or consumed data from them. These included:
- Internally-facing applications that performing tangential services in supporting the data environments and processes.
- Internally and externally-facing web applications—both of which had to meet stringent security, support and disaster recovery requirements.
Why has the project been successful for so many years? We have been able to work cooperatively with project owners and stakeholders to understand the evolving project needs and then take that understanding to work with various key technical and business resources to implement solutions that ensure all needs are addressed appropriately. Additionally issues are addressed quickly—most often without the knowledge of downstream users.
Where is the project today? The project is currently being migrated to newer “mass-data” (Hadoop) and analytics technologies. This includes a much broader enterprise utilization of what started back in 2005. We are key participants in this effort.
Our longevity with this client is a testament to our ability as a company to meet the needs of an extremely large project for an extremely demanding, large customer. Oddly enough, we didn’t realize just how big an impact we’d made until we were asked to “end-of-life” the original project in favor of the newer, more robust technological infrastructure. That’s when the very positive feedback we receive was amplified considerably. This is a source of great pride for our company.
The Book Beaver (California)
Project Goal: Develop a public-facing web application enabling students to buy and sell used textbooks.
Description: The seller would purchase textbook posting credits and, then, potential buyers would communicate with the seller to negotiate price, delivery and settlement steps.
Key Project Considerations: The website design had to include proper security controls and easily allow users to communicate with one another through the transaction process. Geo-location features included matching of IP address information against licensed third-party data. The site had to allow administrative controls, including the ability to address inappropriate behavior within the user community. And, retention of transaction history (including all communications) was necessary.
Additional notes: The company is no longer in business.
Genesis Financial Solutions (Beaverton, Oregon)
Project Goal: Creation and enhancement of externally-facing web applications for supporting two separate user communities. One application focused on users who needed to manage their student loans. The others were for managing their credit card accounts. Our customer was an issuer of multiple credit cards, and an administrator of student loans for the debt issuers.
Key Project Considerations: Both projects had to meet strict Payment Card Industry (PCI) and other security compliance standards. This included periodic security probes and audits to ensure ongoing compliance.
Poorman-Douglass Corporation (Beaverton, Oregon)
Project Goal: Creation of internal applications for use in large-scale class action and bankruptcy administration.
The most notable of the projects involved the Holocaust Victim Assets litigation (Swiss Banks) world-wide class action.
We helped build a claims-intake application that had to accept and store data in 23 different Latin-based and Unicode-based languages including Hebrew (a right-to-left language). All of this was used to help provide some compensation to a various class-member types.
Key Project Considerations: Highly-secure multi-lingual data intake and storage capabilities. The ability to support a claims intake process allowing a single multi-lingual claims representative to enter claims for different languages by simply “switching” the keyboard language to the language being used on the claim form.
It had to support claims processing in various locations including the USA and Israel.
Additional notes: The Holocaust Victim Assets Litigation (Swiss Banks) project was very successful. And we were very gratified to have been involved in such an important human-interest project. No amount of reparation will ever be sufficient to make the affected class-members whole. But what the project accomplished was laudable and necessary—a credit to all who labored toward the end results.
Poorman-Douglas Corporation was acquired by Epiq Systems several years ago.