REVIEWER: Christine McClary, data manager and Deeprani Srinivasan, IT applications manager, National InstrumentsBACKGROUND: National Instruments transforms the way engineers and scientists around the world design, prototype and deploy systems for test, control and embedded design applications. Using NI’s open graphical programming software and modular hardware, customers at more than 30,000 companies annually simplify development, increase productivity and dramatically reduce time to market. From testing next-generation gaming systems to creating breakthrough medical devices, NI customers continuously develop innovative technologies that impact millions of people.PLATFORM: Initiate Master Data Service.PROBLEM SOLVED: The customer data integration project was launched in response to business issues resulting from duplicate and disparate customer data. This data comes into NI via various communication channels and business functions and is stored in various business applications. Couple NI’s insufficient capability to search for and identify customers with the variations that occur in names and addresses, and NI saw a constant stream of duplicate customer records. The duplication caused NI to not consistently provide the level of technical support customers deserved, resulting in customer dissatisfaction. Also, the productivity of the sales organization and their ability to collaborate on sales opportunities were hampered. To address these issues, NI implemented Initiate Organization and Initiate Consumer. Customer contact records from the Americas and Europe and user profiles from our Web site are loaded into the CDI hub in near real time utilizing service-oriented architecture. Using Initiate’s comparison algorithm, duplicate customer contacts are identified and linked together into linkage sets.PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: NI has implemented a new internal customer search mechanism that leverages Initiate’s probabilistic search-and-match capabilities.  NI has also implemented a 360-degree view of the customer that shows relevant data associated with all the contacts in a linkage set at the point of interaction with the customer. This eliminates the former hunting and pecking and ensures parties are working with the customer based on the same consistent view.  Performance of the new 360 degree application has a five times improvement. The productivity savings realized was measured at 30 percent improvement for the sales organization.  STRENGTHS: The greatest strength of the product is its powerful and configurable probabilistic search-and-match capabilities.  The new search finds even the most difficult contacts on the first search and achieves 99 percent accuracy (without false positives). The second greatest strength of the product is its fast performance.WEAKNESSES: While the denormalized data model provides excellent performance for search and match, it has made the development of the synchronization from various sources to the CDI hub more complex. Initiate’s limited capability to stripe by language or geography within a single global hub affected the quality of matching for our European customers.  However, we did arrive at an acceptable high level of quality for the European linkage sets.SELECTION CRITERIA: After a rigorous RFP process in which five products were rated against a set of vendor, technical and functional criteria, Initiate was chosen because of the probabilistic search and match capability, the expectation of speed to first implementation, strong positive recommendations from references, the technical strength of their sales team and the success of the pilot process.DELIVERABLES: Initiate’s product provides linkage sets that bring together NI’s duplicate and disparate contact  records, enabling the production of a full 360-degree view,  as well as powerful and fast search and match capabilities.VENDOR SUPPORT: Initiate earns an A+ on support throughout the relationship, from the proof of concept through post-implementation.  They did an excellent job of listening to NI’s challenges, proposing alternatives for resolution, articulating the limitations of their product, providing access to their core engineering group as needed and soliciting input for improvements to their products.  Most Initiate Systems personnel involved were very knowledgeable and had a strong customer service orientation.  DOCUMENTATION: The expectation was set by Initiate right from the start that customers cannot expect to implement the Initiate product without the assistance of consulting services.  That being said, the documentation provided by Initiate met NI’s needs and expectations.  It was relatively easy to understand but could not be classified as do-it-yourself documentation.Initiate Systems, Inc.200 W. Madison St., Suite 2300Chicago, IL  60606(312)

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