REVIEWER: Anand Rao, director of data and BI services for First American Enterprise Technology Group.

BACKGROUND: The First American Corporation, a Fortune 500 company that traces its history to 1889, is America's largest provider of business information. First American combines advanced analytics with its vast data resources to supply businesses and consumers with valuable information products to support the major economic events of people's lives. The First American family of companies operates within five primary business segments, including title insurance and services, specialty insurance, mortgage information, property information, and risk mitigation and business solutions. With revenues of $8.1 billion in 2005, First American has approximately 2,100 offices throughout the U.S. and abroad.

PLATFORMS: Sun Solaris, iPlanet, Weblogic 8, Microsoft IIS, EMC, Oracle, VERITAS backup and monitoring.

PROBLEM SOLVED: First American has many autonomous subsidiaries operating independently, and each entity had its own reporting tools and IT staff to support departmental-level reporting. The BI/reporting teams were decentralized. It was a nightmare to support the various reporting environments, which had huge backlogs and unreliable data quality issues compounded by frequent system outages. The new reporting environment with MicroStrategy provides enterprise reporting and analytics, executive dashboard KPIs and Web-based event-driven alerts. The departments that are migrating to MicroStrategy can now take advantage of centralized BI and reporting without the overhead of IT staff. Our BI roadmap has repeatable project plans for acquiring, maintaining and distributing many different First American products, which may be using different online transaction processing (OLTP) applications (such as order volumes, invoicing, customer support, technical support and billing and revenue information) tied to common client IDs across all First American product companies. Our current data mart is approximately 4TB and is projected to grow to 12TB by the fourth quarter of 2006. Our MicroStrategy implementation allows us to add more users on demand and is scalable to support a few hundred active users.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We started with converting all the SQL and Excel-based reports to MicroStrategy reports and trained our end users to be early adopters as self-service reporting subscribers. MicroStrategy's user interface was very easy to adopt, and most of our users, who are Microsoft Office tools users, experienced no problems adapting to the new UI. Our report designers took advantage of drill maps, prompts and guided executive reports and parameter-driven templates that can support 80 percent of our most frequently used reports, allowing for a small percentage of custom development for advanced users.

STRENGTHS: The main strengths of the product include its zero footprint, Web-based architecture, how easy it is to train end users, its intuitive user interface, the single metadata source and that only one instance of data is maintained to serve many applications. The centralized metadata model allows for greater flexibility and support.

WEAKNESSES: We consider some of the weaknesses to be the ramp-up time, the UNIX installation and configuration, and the lack of qualified, affordable MicroStrategy resources who can work and take ownership of large enterprise BI projects. 

SELECTION CRITERIA: We evaluated numerous vendors and selected MicroStrategy because it provides a full functionality, zero-footprint Web architecture, robust security, integrated platform, UNIX platform support, large-scale reference customers in our space and the best total cost of ownership and ROI numbers.

DELIVERABLES: MicroStrategy anchors the company's dashboards, event-driven reports and static reports related to First American orders, vendor performance and service turnaround times. We have a large-scale initiative that provides a central repository for all First American "certified" data, and our end users are able to conduct product penetration, track and impact revenues, and gain a 360-degree view of our customer base.

VENDOR SUPPORT: MicroStrategy provides excellent presales support from its technical and nontechnical staff. Their ongoing consultative sales effort is not pushy.

DOCUMENTATION: The online documentation is easy to access and read, and it follows their classroom training material.

MicroStrategy 8 Release 2
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(703) 848-8600

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