BACKGROUND: When Britain's previously monopolistic telecommunications market was opened for competition, Mercury Communications was the first challenger to British Telecom. To compete successfully with BT, Mercury had to offer more ­ more value, more flexibility, more service. Ever since then, Mercury, now known by the name of its parent ­ Cable & Wireless Communications ­ has continued to grow its market share through technical and service innovation and by identifying its customers' needs. One element of telecom success is understanding your customer, and when you've grown as big as Cable & Wireless, that means extracting information from a massive database. Every telephone call made generates data, (i.e., the originating and terminating numbers, start time and duration). A customer's records tell Cable & Wireless how that customer uses its services ­ number of calls, average duration, frequently called numbers, the time of day calls are made, the proportion of local, long-distance and international, and more. But for a major company like Cable & Wireless gaining this understanding is hindered by the problem of size ­ the volume of data is unimaginably huge.

PLATFORMS: The WhiteCross Call Detail Analysis System is an integrated hardware/software solution, comprised of a massively parallel processing data server and an ANSI-standard SQL database together with standard interfaces to other RDBMSs, analysis tools and networks.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Until now, Cable & Wireless had been unable to make ad hoc inquiries against the full database. Instead they had been restricted to looking at customer behavior and needs, either by analyzing regular reports or by taking small samples and analyzing them. The sheer volume of data prevented any computing platform from examining every record for every customer. The acquisition of the WhiteCross Call Detail Analysis System changed this, giving Cable & Wireless the power to make ad hoc inquiries against more than a full month's worth of records for all our customers in interactive response times. By doing so we can identify traffic patterns and devise and test pricing packages based on real-world data.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The current implementation is meeting our expectations, and we have already performed a number of analyses which would previously have been impossible. We don't look to expand the functionality of the system. Rather, we might take advantage of its excellent scalability to expand its capacity to analyze customer call profiles over longer periods of time.

STRENGTHS: For us the greatest strengths of the system are flexibility and power. Flexibility, because users of the system are far less constrained in the questions they can ask. Power, because it returns answers from a massive database in just a few seconds. This allows us to reformulate questions and drill down into information in a interactive and iterative way. An extra bonus is its use of plain SQL which eliminates the need to acquire any special vendor-specific tools or skills.

WEAKNESSES: It is difficult to pinpoint any technical weakness. One weakness, if it is such, is that the database is pure SQL. This means that it has none of the proprietary front-end, point-and-click tools that Oracle and Sybase DBMSs supply.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Cable & Wireless was an existing customer of WhiteCross, and we had confidence in their ability to perform as advertised. None of our partners were able to offer anything like the performance we anticipated from WhiteCross. As part of its response, WhiteCross demonstrated its ability to perform the type of analysis we wanted against a database of many millions of records.

DELIVERABLES: When it comes to output, the system is dedicated to responding to ad hoc queries. This system is the only place in the company where all the call records, from both consumer and business customers, can be examined and cross referenced. Because of the system's standard interfaces, we can analyze this detail data directly using report writers, modeling tools or spreadsheets.

VENDOR SUPPORT: WhiteCross met the project deadline and understood our requirements. Their consultants are technically excellent and they also understand the business drivers which lie behind our quest for knowledge. Their proven approach is based on a flexible project methodology devised to make visible the analysis requirements which will enable business advantage.

DOCUMENTATION: We have been supplied with a very full set of manuals. In addition, WhiteCross has prepared a set of inquiry templates which allow even an inexperienced user to ask relevant questions, just by filling in the blanks.

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