BACKGROUND: First Union Direct (FUD) is the customer call center division of First Union National Bank, the nation's sixth-largest bank. FUD provides 24-hour customer support to 16 million customers with a staff of 5,000.

PLATFORMS: Informatica's products run on Windows 95/NT and UNIX and support IBM DB2, Informix, Oracle, Sybase, Microsoft SQL Server, IMS, VSAM, ODBC, flat file and other operational sources. First Union Direct is currently running PowerCenter on Sun Solaris ES10000.

PROBLEM SOLVED: As its call center volume continued to grow, FUD found it increasingly difficult to obtain a timely and accurate reading of its customers' needs. FUD's changing business needs were addressed by replacing its old system for business analysis ­ a Microsoft Access database used in conjunction with Microsoft Excel spreadsheets ­ with an enterprise-wide data warehousing system. FUD used Informatica's PowerCenter to build a centralized data warehouse that allowed the company to consolidate and analyze data from more than two million customer calls received each week at the company's 10 call centers across the East Coast. With PowerCenter, call center managers now have access to a higher level of detail on customer interactions than was previously possible. FUD uses this new business insight to evaluate current service programs, analyze the peaks and valleys of customer calls and maximize the efficiency of its call center staff and marketing programs.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Informatica's PowerCenter serves as the main platform upon which FUD consolidates customer data from 10 different call centers. The 10 sites run Aspect Telecommunications' call center applications (on Informix 5.0) on 22 disparate systems. The data is pulled into an Oracle7.3 (NT) database using Aspect's Data Server. PowerCenter is used to migrate the data over to FUD's data warehouse (Red Brick Warehouse 5.1) upon which Brio sits as the analytical application that feeds business users the appropriate customer data.

STRENGTHS: The core benefit provided by Informatica's PowerCenter software is the ease at which transformations can be designed through a graphical interface, reused in multiple independent transformation designs and carefully tested and version controlled in a dynamic, multideveloper environment. PowerCenter also operates across multiple operating systems, providing flexibility in job scheduling with an integrated transformation repository. This feature allows distribution of key transformation jobs across platforms for maximum scalability and use of existing hardware resources. Informatica's source and target flexibility combined with platform scalability and an excellent and intuitive interface provided significant savings and efficiency over traditional programming code methods of transformation design and maintenance. Lastly, Informatica's optimized engine provides fast and efficient data throughput ­ a critical component to the overall delivery of hourly data loads for intraday reporting.

WEAKNESSES: The most obvious weakness is Informatica's inability to write natively to FUD's Red Brick Warehouse. This precludes the use of Red Brick as the Informatica repository and requires porting transformation output to flat files for load to Red Brick. The excellent Redbrick TMU load speed reduces the problem and creates neatly organized data archive files. FUD also encountered a higher learning curve for the product than was expected. Now, however, FUD developers are far more effective than when they used traditional coding methods.

SELECTION CRITERIA: After undertaking a formal evaluation process, FUD chose Informatica for fast implementation time and many others factors, such as: 1) Informatica's products are engine-based requiring no hand coding, 2) Informatica's products are also compatible with both UNIX and NT allowing the company to leverage its existing hardware investments, 3) the product has a great GUI, and 4) Informatica demonstrated how one of its banking customers had a successful call center-focused data warehousing implementation built upon its technology.

DELIVERABLES: One of the primary drivers of FUD's data warehousing project was eliminating the need to print paper-based reports to 10 different call center sites every morning remotely over the corporate WAN.

VENDOR SUPPORT: FUD has established an exceptional relationship with Informatica based on their excellent customer service and technical support. The relationship between both companies has been very good. Informatica has always been responsive to making requested changes to its products, and the company's implementation work was also outstanding.

DOCUMENTATION: The materials that accompany PowerCenter 1.5 are clear and easy to understand.

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