REVIEWER: David Sigler, founder and CEO of Direct Loyalty Corp.
BACKGROUND: Direct Loyalty Corp.s Survey-Dining.com offers an easy, cost-effective way to supplement a restaurateurs instinct with independent customer opinion. Priced at $49 a month, SurveyDining.com is a hosted online service that automatically analyzes customers responses to survey questions about their restaurant experiences. Through powerful business analytics, SurveyDining.coms mission is to help restaurants measure and increase customer loyalty.
PLATFORMS: Dell Poweredge 2650, Dual Xeon 2.8GHz processors, 6GB RAM, redundant AC power supplies, 5-146GB hard drives running Microsoft Windows Server 2003, IIS 6.0 and .NET 2.0. IX Web Hosting from Ecommerce Corporation.
PROBLEM SOLVED: We considered traditional business intelligence (BI) software packages priced at $25,000 to $200,000, but as a startup, we didnt have the option to spend the money to use them. nextanalytics emulates MySQL pricing of $595 per server per year and serves as the technology core of our hosted services offering. The cost was trivial compared to other solutions we looked at.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Our goals with SurveyDining.coms technology are simplicity and power. Restaurateurs see actionable information on the loyalty metrics that matter. Running behind that is nextanalytics 3.0. As a cross-platform (Java/UNIX and .NET/Windows) product, nextanalytics 3.0 gave us a wide choice of server hosting companies. The product queries millions of cells of data in subsecond time, offering instantaneous results for SurveyDining.com customers. nextanalytics also offers more than 100 powerful business analytics functions that would require custom programming in BI platforms and often arent possible with spreadsheet macro programming. This gives us flexibility to build in more analytics functions and offer tiered pricing based on those analytic operations. nextanalytics 3.0 is available as commercial open source. This made nextanalytics freely and easily customizable by SurveyDining.com to integrate into a solution inexpensively and with low risk.
STRENGTHS: Installation and setup were easy and straightforward. Technical support was excellent. nextanalytics has been running nonstop in production mode since being installed six months ago. Only a minimal amount of training time is required for SurveyDining.com users to be comfortable interacting with their customer loyalty data. Because users can see the source data build over time, they tend to trust the output coming from nextanalytics. Online documentation, plentiful examples and video tutorials are very helpful.
WEAKNESSES: The nextanalytics product does not come with built-in graphical widgets. Reporting using nextanalytics out-of-the-box is restricted to colored cross-tabs. Fortunately, using third-party add-ons is relatively simple. In addition, expect to spend a few days learning the scripting language in order to become an expert. The ability to capture, edit and save scripts on the fly does, however, lessen the learning curve.
SELECTION CRITERIA: The product was selected based on my more than 15 years evaluating and implementing enterprise information systems at several technology companies, including a publicly traded survey firm. Cost and implementation speed were major drivers for product selection of a business analytics tool for Survey-Dining.com. nextanalytics is free to registered users wishing to try before they buy. As a commercial open source product, nextanalytics is ideal for our business because we can cost-effectively expand on a per-server basis as our customer base grows. In addition, if we want to customize parts of the system, we can easily do so due to the availability of source code.
DELIVERABLES: In one weekend with nextanalytics, we built automated customer segmentation analytics into SurveyDining.com that would have taken weeks or months to create with a BI product. Spreadsheet technology wasnt even an option for what we wanted to do.
VENDOR SUPPORT: The support staff at nextanalytics has been courteous, prompt and extremely helpful. They go out of their way to provide answers and solve problems in a timely manner.
DOCUMENTATION: Documentation is adequate. A recent upgrade to the nextanalytics Web site includes extensive technical tutorials, online video introductions and online forums that are much appreciated.
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