CATEGORY: Data Integration
REVIEWER: Babu Kuttala, head of information management for ING U.S. Financial Services.
BACKGROUND: Winner of a 2003 DM Review World Class Solution Award, ING U.S. Financial Services offers a comprehensive array of products and services, including retirement plans, employee benefits, life insurance, fixed and variable annuities, investment advisory services and mutual funds through a variety of distribution channels and affiliates. ING U.S. Financial Services is part of Amsterdam-based ING Groep, N.V., one of the largest financial services organizations in the world.
PLATFORMS: Server runs on HP-UX, Sun Solaris and Windows NT; client runs on Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Windows XP; and repository runs on SQL Server and DB2-UDB.
PROBLEM SOLVED: ING's rapid U.S. expansion through acquisitions resulted in growing amounts of data locked in unconnected silos, many on proprietary legacy systems. ING wanted to consolidate IT resources while boosting corporate performance through complete and up-to-date information and a unified customer view. To do this, the company needed to integrate data from across divisions to create a holistic view of its customers, better target sales and marketing efforts, and equip service agents with complete information. ING also needed to satisfy increasingly stringent federal regulations such as HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley and the Patriot Act. In the operational data delivery area, ING's development enabled near real-time processing of assets taken over by the company, up-to-the-minute financial reporting, real-time information on fund pricing and commissions, and better customer service information for customers and agents. In the decision support area, ING's data warehouse supports customer segmentation for targeted marketing and advertising programs; sales reporting; and multidimensional analyses to improve cross selling, direct marketing, customer retention programs and regulatory compliance requirements.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: ING used Informatica's PowerCenter data integration platform to integrate more than 3TB of data from more than 10 heterogeneous systems and incorporate five separate financial service operations, each with different architectures, into a single system capable of processing in near real time. ING's solution is now used by more than 5,000 employees and processes millions of dollars of transactions every day. Informatica PowerCenter is a key part of ING's data integration project for loading its operational data store, data warehouse and data marts with up-to-the-minute data. It is used to source and load data into IBM WebSphere MQ queues and source data from mainframe sources. ING has been using PowerCenter for approximately four years, and has explored its global repository, common meta data control, XML exporting for convenient data migration and debugging tools. ING has improved its quality of information and is able to cost effectively satisfy regulatory compliance deadlines. By providing marketing with holistic views of customers, the solution also enabled ING to target campaigns and improve its complete information strategy. The increased accuracy of the newly automated data transfer process has allowed ING to improve its operational efficiency.
STRENGTHS: The main strengths of PowerCenter are its open meta data repository for cross-application use of the processing meta data, its connectivity to multiple heterogeneous sources for company-wide data integration and its processing efficiency with quick loading of data and ability to scale. In addition, PowerCenter is easy to use and maintain. PowerCenter also provides bidirectional feeds to ensure that changes to items such as 401(k) fund allocations are immediately recognized and updated throughout the system. It easily adapts to evolving business needs and can scale to meet data requirements that ING expects to change and expand with future regulations and acquisitions.
WEAKNESSES: PowerCenter's weaknesses are its versioning capabilities and the difficulty of conducting selective folder-level backups; however, we anticipate these weaknesses to be resolved in the recently announced new version of the product.
SELECTION CRITERIA: ING selected PowerCenter because of the platform's meta data-driven architecture, its breadth of connectivity across heterogeneous sources, its ease of use for rapid development and its ease of maintenance through effective code and debugging features.
DELIVERABLES: PowerCenter manages and processes operational data loads, analysis data loads into data warehouses and data marts, reporting data loads for management and operational reporting, and compliance reporting data loads, as well as notification and other processing triggers via e-mail.
VENDOR SUPPORT: Informatica supports PowerCenter very well and has been responsive to ING's feedback on the product. Informatica's developers worked closely with ING to implement new functionality that was essential for the project.
DOCUMENTATION: PowerCenter documentation is complete and very easy to understand.
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