Improving Customer Service with Attunity Change Data Capture

Customer service is always important but never more critical than during difficult economic times, when wasting time is just not acceptable and customer satisfaction is an imperative.

Atlantic Detroit Diesel-Allison sells and services a full line of Detroit Diesel, Mercedes-Benz, and MTU engines, and the automatic transmissions offered by the Allison Transmission Division of General Motors Corporation. Atlantic DDA is the authorized distributor for these on-highway and off-highway products in Northern New Jersey, the five boroughs of New York City, Long Island, eastern New York State, western Massachusetts, Vermont, and Connecticut. Atlantic DDA has eight locations, 123 service vehicles, more than 130 skilled technicians, and more than $15 million worth of complete replacement parts inventory.

Atlantic DDA had initiated a plan to improve its service department by improving order processing, thus driving more revenue, with additional goals of gaining operational efficiency and heightening customer satisfaction. In order to achieve these objectives, Atlantic DDA needed to make real-time information available to its teams of service representatives in six of the company's locations. The plan was simple: enable the service representatives to work faster and relay the most up-to-date information back to customers, such as when the customers could expect to get back the equipment they have in for repair. In addition, having access to real-time information would also enable up-to-date operational reporting as well as support current information in web applications.

Atlantic DDA adopted an Oracle-based SOA solution. As part of that effort, it has implemented real-time operational data replication and low-impact change-data-capture technology from Attunity. Using Attunity software solutions, such as Attunity Connect, a real-time connectivity software, or Attunity Stream, a log-based, real-time change-data-capture software, Attunity's customers are able to drive down the cost of managing their operational systems, creating flexible, service-based architectures for increased business agility; and by detecting critical actionable business events, as they happen, achieve faster business execution. For Atlantic DDA, the implementation has enabled it to improve its repair order capacity and associated revenues. The implementation of Attunity's solution has also improved overall efficiency of its service department operations and customer satisfaction by enabling better response time and the ability to provide the most up-to-date information to customers.

But according to Atlantic DDA, making this real-time information available to its service representatives proved a challenge. It required integrating and synchronizing data from an iSeries system to the Oracle Middleware system developed by Fadel Partners and hosted on HP servers, fitting into a user interface that leveraged Oracle's Application Development Framework (ADF). With the help of the technology and management consulting firm Fadel Partners, Atlantic DDA explored CDC solutions. "We were having problems extracting data from our DB2/400 back to our Oracle platforms. We went through numerous procedures on how to implement that particular push and pull," Will Ortiz, director of IT, Atlantic DDA, tells DBTA.

Atlantic DDA tested software, including one solution that Ortiz described as "the cadillac of all cadillacs," which, although extremely expensive, still did not provide the features it needed.  "Attunity was one company that actually allowed us to test and make sure that we were comfortable with the software, and actually because they did that, we saw the potential that CDC offers." Atlantic DDA stress-tested the Attunity software over a period of months. The test period not only sold Ortiz on the technology but the company behind it as well, he says. "You know that they are backing up their software 100% and that is what I love."

The solution needed to have low impact on the source iSeries system. The Attunity ODR solution that was ultimately selected employed log-based CDC that monitors the DB2/400 database journals and captures only the changes made to the required tables. By using log-based CDC technology and offloading the changes as soon as they are captured, the ODR solution accomplishes minimal impact while also scaling to meet the high throughput of changes in near real time. The CDC technology is used in conjunction with Fadel Partners' Service Repair Order System, leveraging Oracle's SOA Suite. "The CDC sits in the middle between the 400 and the Oracle front end," explains Ortiz, adding, "Without CDC our business crawls."

The technology makes the service representatives, who open repair orders (ROs) and interact with customers as they explain the work being done and the costs involved, more productive. "For us, time is money. For every RO they open, that is money coming into the company," says Ortiz.  "An average agent will take at least 5 minutes to open a repair order, but now it takes less than a minute. They can open it, enter the customer information, and boom-they have the RO already open, ready to work-instead of someone going from one screen to another to another. The front end-the UI from Oracle-indexes key information but it is also pumping back into the back end systems."

The ODR with CDC solution from Attunity was completely operational by November 2009, says Ortiz. Now, with the solution successfully implemented in its service department, the company also intends to roll out the CDC solution in its other departments, including accounts payable, shipping and receiving, and its parts department. Looking back Ortiz says, Attunity was "extremely helpful," not only allowing Atlantic DDA an ample test period, but in answering technical  questions and offering tips on how to manage the software and use it to the fullest. "If I had gone with the alternatives," he reflects, "I think I would still be working on the project."