BACKGROUND: CheckFree has been the leading provider of electronic commerce processing services and software products for over 15 years and has revolutionized the way money moves for over 1,000 businesses and 850 financial institutions. Last year, CheckFree processed over 85 million electronic transactions worth $15 billion for over 2.5 million merchants and 1.5 million consumers. CheckFree offers the industry's only proven and 100 percent reliable payment processing infrastructure that allows bills to be paid via any user interface, any delivery channel and any payment delivery system.

PLATFORMS: CheckFree utilizes an Oracle database running on an HP system.

PROBLEM SOLVED: In 1997, as CheckFree was going through a merger, the company's data warehousing group was looking for opportunities to build support for data warehousing within the organization and present some immediate return on investment. At the time, accounting was overwhelmed by requests for reports related to the merger, as well as regular budget report requests from each level of management. To ease the burden on accounting, CheckFree deployed Cognos' PowerPlay (OLAP tool) and Impromptu (query and reporting tool) to a few high-level managers so they could access budget reports from their desktops. As the benefits of instant access to reports became apparent, the company turned to Cognos' Web solutions to provide access for users across the enterprise while keeping the total cost of ownership down. Last year, CheckFree installed Cognos Impromptu Web Reports, a complete managed reporting solution that users access via the Web.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Impromptu Web Reports provides an interactive system of reports, with report-to-report drill through. Because there is a single-point of administration, the deployment burden on IT is significantly reduced. The powerful scheduling option features run reports automatically at predetermined intervals. Administrators can choose from three easy-to-manage report options including: broadcast reports that are pre-authorized, pre-run and ready for viewing and printing; personal reports that are pre-authored and ready for users to run against the database and allow users to respond to prompts; and narrowcast reports, which leverage centrally defined user roles to allow authors to create one report for different target audiences with users able to see only the subset of information they are authorized to access. The report audit log provides administrators with information about report usage to assist them in ensuring that reporting applications are meeting the needs of the organization. Impromptu Web Reports is accessed through a familiar Web browser and presents reports in an easy-to-read, easy-to-print PDF layout, so end users also see the benefits of the product's functionality.

STRENGTHS: Impromptu Web Reports provides an enterprise-wide reporting solution with low administrative cost. Web access gives users access to vital data without the need for desktop software installation. The intuitive user interface and PDF report formats contribute to the product's ease of use. Managers quickly see the value in the reported data, as they are able to reach vital information faster and make better, more-informed business decisions.

WEAKNESSES: Impromptu Web Reports does not currently support UNIX. UNIX support will be available in the next version of the product.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Impromptu Web Reports was selected for its portability and ease of use for administrators and end users.

DELIVERABLES: Users quickly embraced the tool and are receiving more in-depth information in less time, and they have gained a better understanding of their financial statements and the business as a whole. The accounting staff has also seen a significant reduction in requests for information, freeing them to focus on other corporate initiatives. The results have been so positive that CheckFree is now planning to roll out the solution to other areas of the business, including human resources.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Cognos was very responsive during implementation and continued to support CheckFree as it rolled out the solution to users.

DOCUMENTATION: The on-line documentation is thorough, simplifying installation and use of the tool.

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