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Open-Source Analytics Optimized for World Leader in Marine Logistics

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DataTerrain’s engagement with BIRT reporting and analytics solution is new, challenging, and creative – in addition to our automated report migration services. The client, who provides comprehensive terminal operating systems for marine and intermodal terminal operators around the world, required changing technology from Oracle Reports to BIRT (an open-source software)

DataTerrain’s first extensive open source engagement demanded an ability to modify and extend the existing reporting features to suit customer requirements. BIRT has an active user community, which is very helpful in providing inputs and techniques for any client that is planning to consider BIRT. The ease of modifying with Java code and adapting with the latest visual products are highlights of the project. The goal of BIRT/OPENTEXT reporting is to provide a technology platform for creating data visualizations and reports that can be embedded into applications of all kinds, especially those built with Java and J2EE. The client chose this platform specifically for its agility, and the open-source nature of the software proved invaluable throughout our project.

This project consisted of 4 phases and was completed over ten months per the client’s availability and requirements. DataTerrain’s team consisted of technically well-proven developers, QA Analysts, and a project manager, adhering to their usual delivery model of stringent project management and planning at the beginning of the project. All stakeholders were involved from various client teams to set the expectations, including expected delivery deadlines for each business unit. DataTerrain worked across time zones, ensuring efficient work and accessibility to our team throughout the process. Development time was also reduced by way of a collocated QA Analyst, who provided immediate feedback throughout the project lifecycle.

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The primary accomplishments of working with this client aligned precisely with their goals from the outset of the project. Not only were 200 reports and dashboards migrated and converted from legacy Oracle Reports server to BIRT/OPENTEXT, but also pixel-perfect reports were created, consisting of multiple pages within each report. Size and overflow were adjusted related to HTML, PDF, and Excel formats, rendering each based on the output of the specific report. Achieving this pixel-perfect conversion hinged on the team’s ability to customize the query tool in the DataTerrain automation system to replicate a hierarchy identical to that of Oracle Reports, the platform the client’s team had been using. To further maintain this consistency (and easy accessibility for members of the client’s staff), the conversion tool was customized to meet the client’s specific visualization requirements, such as header, footer, font style, and so on.

Within these converted and migrated reports, the DataTerrain team handled filter expressions at the query level to improve performance, used JavaScript to aggregate essential information in stored procedure output columns, and created dynamic Session IDs for users per the client’s specific requirements.

Beyond the migration, conversion, and customization of these reports, the DataTerrain developers encountered some shortcomings of the chosen BIRT/OPENTEXT platform. Still, because of its open-source nature, the team was able to create multiple custom solutions to achieve the client’s desired results within their selected reporting platform. These custom solutions were both large and small and were essential to creating the pixel-perfect conversion across reporting systems.

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These agile custom solutions include:

  • A solution for nested crosstab fields, allowing lists or data items to be added outside the crosstab and giving each added list or item the appropriate master-detail (parent-child) relationship.
  • A creative solution to substitute the legacy Oracle Reports Insert Statement function into BIRT/OPENTEXT / OpenText.
  • Fine-tuning BIRT/OPENTEXT to support running aggregation systems found in legacy Oracle Reports
  • A solution in BIRT/OPENTEXT for supporting horizontal tables (unavailable in the base software)

Open-source BIRT/OPENTEXT architecture and the deep pool of knowledge in the development team was used to adjust existing BIRT/OPENTEXT functionality to meet the needs of the client, and create a method of reporting that was both familiar to users and met all of the client’s specifications.

All of the custom solutions fit well for the client’s needs and follow best practices in the Business intelligence arena. The new reports and dashboards have been deployed in the live environment and used by daily business folks. This shows DataTerrain’s ability to take an open-source and customize it to a large business need.

This project required great attention to the unique needs of the marine and intermodal terminal industry, as well as the methodologies employed by this particular company. Working closely with the client’s leadership team allowed the project manager, QA Analysts, and developers to gain an in-depth understanding of report usage and visual elements. The insights gained helped to build functionalities that would allow the client to not only maintain their current level of Business Intelligence and data management but also to achieve new levels of consistency and success through an updated, customized reporting system.

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