MicroStrategy 7i

REVIEWER: Zach Henderson, director SFE, Americas, IMS Health.

BACKGROUND: Operating in more than 100 countries, IMS Health is the world's leading provider of information solutions to the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. With $1.6 billion in 2004 revenue and more than 50 years of industry experience, IMS offers leading-edge business intelligence products and services that are integral to clients' day-to-day operations including portfolio optimization capabilities, launch and brand management solutions, sales force effectiveness innovations, managed care and over-the-counter offerings, and consulting and services solutions that improve ROI and the delivery of quality healthcare worldwide.

PLATFORMS: Compaq DL580 G2 Server with four XEON 1.5 GHz CPUs and 4GB of RAM.

PROBLEM SOLVED: The prior IMS Health reporting interfaces were designed for full-time data analysts. This was a major constraint because our business user community of pharmaceutical sales representatives, district managers and other field sales personnel are not well-versed in building complex, multistep queries (e.g., SQL), yet are the primary interface with pharmaceutical company clients such as prescribers. In the past, we relied on other BI tools, proprietary or otherwise, that were not able to support the terabyte-sized volumes of data that IMS processes. In 2001, we deployed the MicroStrategy Business Intelligence Platform to anchor Sales Insights, a customized online and e-mail application that enables pharmaceutical company end users to access the value of advanced analytics without becoming analysts themselves.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Our current reporting environment is robust, secure and leverages MicroStrategy's scalability to support analyses against very large volumes of data. IMS leverages the caching feature so that very large result sets that have already been queried are pulled back and are quickly available for users. With MicroStrategy's excellent tuning capability, which can be adjusted to optimize performance, report run times have been reduced to a matter of seconds. It was important for IMS to customize the MicroStrategy Web and e-mail interface to meet pharmaceutical end users' needs. Sales Insights' user interface breaks the analytics into smaller, digestible pieces of insight that answer a specific question, so end users absorb the advanced analytics without becoming overwhelmed by too much data. IMS required a personalized, scalable, report distribution solution, capable of delivering reports to users in the desired format they required. IMS leverages MicroStrategy Narrowcast Server with other technologies to deliver event or schedule-based Excel workbooks to pharmaceutical field personnel via e-mail.

STRENGTHS: The key strengths include the MicroStrategy platform's reporting and analysis capabilities, data scalability, performance, flexibility, ease of UI customization and integration with a portal environment, and ease of administration and maintenance. MicroStrategy gives our highly mobile end users the flexibility to easily view reports while on the road. 

WEAKNESSES: The way IMS has deployed MicroStrategy does not allow us to leverage MicroStrategy's server-based pricing option. Thus, we pay according to MicroStrategy's per user option.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We evaluated a BI tool with cube-based architecture that was difficult to administer over a large number of markets and large sales force, and took too long to run queries without breaking up the cubes into smaller pieces. Also, another BI product did not offer a broad range of features or the power and scalability we required. Conversely, MicroStrategy could easily handle large sets of data with appropriate performance times, offered the interactive reporting and analysis capabilities our users needed, and could easily support a personalized, report distribution environment. We adopted an environment with one BI solution anchoring one data warehouse, instead of selecting a BI solution that required us to maintain multiple environments for each client.

DELIVERABLES: MicroStrategy powers Sales Insights Online, IMS's online version of MicroStrategy Web Universal and Sales Insights Direct, IMS's e-mail version.

VENDOR SUPPORT: MicroStrategy is responsive to our requirements and receptive to our company's direction for the solution. We use MicroStrategy's Technical Advisory Services and have found the consultants to be knowledgeable and dedicated.

DOCUMENTATION: We believe the documentation is complete and easy to understand.

MicroStrategy 7i
MicroStrategy Incorporated
1861 International Drive
McLean, VA 22102

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