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Case Study: HelpSystems' SEQUEL Data Access

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Mayline Company, LLC chooses SEQUEL from HelpSystems to deliver clear IBM i data insight across its entire organization.

 

Companies rarely suffer from a shortage of data. The challenge is to work with the data they have in ways that will allow them to turn it into actionable knowledge. Mayline Company overcame this challenge with the help of SEQUEL.

 

Mayline was founded in 1938 as the Engineering Supply Company. Over the years, it expanded its product portfolio through acquisitions and organic growth. Today, as one of North America's most versatile manufacturers of a complete range of office furniture and storage products, Mayline's leaders are fully cognizant of the need to maximize the value received from its data.

 

Like most companies, Mayline employs a wide variety of reports and queries to manage its business. It faced a number of challenges with regard to those reports and queries, including the following:

 

  • The company automated some reports and converted some to emailed PDF files, but it still had a number of old-style printed reports. It needed a way to modernize all of its reports and queries efficiently.
  • The IT department received a number of requests to allow users to work with data in Microsoft Excel. The company needed an easy way to facilitate this.
  • Many people had been using Query/400, but the number of people with Query/400 skills was declining. The company needed a much more intuitive tool so it could continue to access information and profitably create knowledge effectively without those skills.

The Clear Choice

Mayline evaluated a few query and reporting options. It settled on SEQUEL for a number of reasons, including these:

 

  • SEQUEL is native to IBM i. This was important because the bulk of Mayline's skill set is in IBM i.
  • Mayline was already using Robot SCHEDULE, another product from HelpSystems. Mayline was very satisfied with Robot SCHEDULE and found HelpSystems to be a very responsive and accommodating company.
  • The SEQUEL user interface is intuitive and easy to use.
  • SEQUEL is cost-competitive.

 

SEQUEL is now deployed extensively throughout Mayline.

 

"Every user touches something from SEQUEL," says Leslie Paulus, Systems Development Manager. "It might be the shipping department using a printed document, supervisors using SEQUEL to monitor functions, or executives using it to analyze sales and profitability. We're even using it for certain quick maintenance applications, such as reopening a shop order."

Dashboards Simplify Access

Mayline accesses SEQUEL largely through dashboards. Dashboards make it easy to see information at a glance and drill down as necessary. The dashboards are also self-documenting, providing text that describes the processes that users must follow to complete required tasks. The company is also starting to use SEQUEL's browser interface to provide queries and reports to a facility it has in Arkansas.

 

The look and feel of the dashboards and web interface are more important factors than one might think. Personal computers and web surfing are now ubiquitous. As a result, users are, to say the least, much more familiar with viewpoints on their PCs than with green-screen applications. Mimicking the look and feel of software users already use every day, even at home, has significantly reduced the learning curve for users.

Increased IT Productivity

In the past, Mayline developed reports using RPG. Not anymore. The reason is simple. The company estimates that it has reduced report development times by at least 75 percent using SEQUEL as compared to RPG.

 

Part of their increased IT productivity results from the fact that "SEQUEL does the grunt work of the interface for us," says Paulus. It also leverages existing SQL skills to make report generation quick and easy.

 

"We were very fortunate that our IT staff has very good SQL skills," adds Eric Bushman, VP Information Technology. "That led to them readily adopting the tool and making us productive very, very quickly."

 

IT productivity is further increased because, with SEQUEL, if users want to work with their data in Excel, or any other common PC format, their data can be downloaded in one simple step.

Increased Business Agility

Not only has SEQUEL allowed Mayline to reduce the strain that report development places on IT resources, but it also allows IT to respond to user needs much faster than in the past.

 

"Our ability to very quickly create a well-designed printed document is key," says Paulus. "For example, we recently changed the flow of finished goods. We now automatically generate a report that will ensure complete and efficient setup of customer orders. We were able to turn that report out in a couple of hours. As soon as we discovered that we needed it, we were able to deliver it."

 

The bottom line is that, "for a relatively small investment, we gave a refresh to our capabilities to view our data—to the point where people now use these tools to make better decisions because they have the capability to ask the questions themselves and manipulate data [drill down and graph data on the fly] to get their answers," states Bushman.

 

SEQUEL's ability to foster process improvement makes it "an agent for change," concluded Paulus.

 

Joel Klebanoff

Joel Klebanoff is a consultant, writer, and formerly president of Klebanoff Associates, Inc., a Toronto-based marketing communications firm. He has 30 years' experience in various IT capacities and now specializes in writing articles, white papers, and case studies for IT vendors and publications across North America. Joel is also the author of BYTE-ing Satire, a compilation of a year's worth of his columns. He holds a BS in computer science and an MBA, both from the University of Toronto.


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