CATEGORY: Analytic Applications

REVIEWER: Craig Ketner, systems engineer for LendingTree.

BACKGROUND: Founded in 1996, LendingTree is the leading lending exchange that connects consumers, lenders and related service providers. The LendingTree Exchange is made up of more than 140 banks and brokers (lenders) and has facilitated nearly $18 billion in closed loans.

PLATFORMS: Windows NT 4.51 and SQL Server 7.0. We are planning to upgrade to Windows 2000 and SQL 2000 in the near future.

PROBLEM SOLVED: With multiple lending exchange services to thousands of customers, LendingTree must be able to collect massive amounts of Web-site visitor data in real time. This data helps LendingTree quickly understand how it can continually market products and services that suit its customers' needs and help the company meet its business goals.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Overall, Hit List from Accrue Software is performing well. As with all products, we have had some issues; but we have been able to work through them. We chose Hit List primarily because of its robust data collection capabilities. Because our business relies on the ability to meet the diverse needs of our customers in a timely matter, collecting accurate data that helps us make better business decisions is critical to our success. Moving forward, we will look to Accrue to develop the next generation of Internet analytics solutions.

STRENGTHS: LendingTree uses Hit List primarily as a data collector and not for built-in reporting. The product's strength is its breadth of data collection methods which enables us to collect Internet data any way we like ­ from network collection to Web server log files to cookies. In addition, the application's GUI is user-friendly and well-designed.

WEAKNESSES: Because we already had OLAP capabilities, we were not very concerned about reporting features; however, Accrue can improve the Web- based reporting capabilities of Accrue Hit List 4.6. Although the product has many reporting templates, only pre-defined static reports can be served via the Web for users who do not have access to the Hit List application. The data mining requirements are meant to enable users to report on the database in any number of ways while also being able to drill down on certain sections of a report, but we had to use other OLAP tools to accomplish this goal. Custom reporting using the client application GUI is better than static Web reports, but only administrators have access to that functionality in LendingTree's configuration. Accrue is currently addressing this concern.

SELECTION CRITERIA: After conducting an extensive vendor review in mid-2000, LendingTree choose Accrue because it had the most mature data collection capabilities on the market.

DELIVERABLES: As the number-one brand in the consumer online lending market with 59 percent national awareness, LendingTree is dedicated to better understanding and meeting the needs of its millions of customers. Since August 2000, LendingTree has used Accrue Hit List 4.6 to collect Internet data that helps the company continue to develop the same quality financial services that earmark the LendingTree name. In addition, Hit List has enabled LendingTree to capitalize on existing technologies, such as OLAP reporting tools, to create reports and conduct data mining by capturing the same Internet traffic data found in IIS log files and writing that data to a SQL Server database in an orderly database structure/schema.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Accrue's support has improved significantly in recent months, with more knowledgeable people and a Web-based support tool that allows customers to enter cases, get case reference numbers and check status. Historically, tier 1 technical support was insufficient; however, after surpassing tier 1 support, the upper-tier support has been very helpful.

DOCUMENTATION: Although the documentation serves the high-level product well, especially in terms of reporting, real-life challenges are always more complicated. We have been forced to rely on technical support to solve most issues.

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