REVIEWERS: Gerry Nach, vice president of applications development, and Robin LaPorte, senior business analyst, for Mesirow Financial.
BACKGROUND: Mesirow Financial is a diversified financial services firm headquartered in Chicago. Founded in 1937, Mesirow Financial is an employee-owned, private company with nearly 850 employees in 11 offices across the country. The firm is well capitalized with more than $100 million in capital, $15 billion in advisory or managed assets and $250 million in revenue. In the 65 years since the firm was established, Mesirow Financial has grown to become Chicago's largest independent insurance agency, a leading provider of investment management services, one of the top independent Chicago-based private equity firms and a premier real estate organization providing comprehensive solutions for complex real estate needs.
PLATFORMS: We run Datawatch|ES on Windows 2000 on a Compaq ProLiant DL580 server. Our investment services reports originate from Thomson Financials' BETA Systems securities data processing service, widely used by the brokerage industry to process securities orders and maintain accounts.
PROBLEM SOLVED: The BETA Systems reports are transmitted as print image files each night to our data centers and our heavy-duty IBM printers, which were printing as many as 5 million pages of paper reports each year. In order to eliminate much of that printing and paper report distribution, we now direct that nightly feed into Datawatch|ES, which uses that data to produce approximately 100 customized reports for our staff. They have self-service reporting according to their security clearance and can view the electronic content through a browser. In fact, we now provide more data than was in the original end user reports because it's easier to electronically extract and combine specific data with Datawatch|ES. With the old paper reports, in some instances, the only way to share some report data sets was to black out sensitive data within a larger report on a case-by-case basis. With Datawatch|ES, we no longer have that problem.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Datawatch|ES report models are created with Datawatch's Monarch Professional desktop application, and customized reports are delivered electronically by Datawatch|ES to staff. The staff can then view them through a Web browser and export specific data into Excel spreadsheets for other uses on an ad hoc basis. We also use Monarch Data Pump to extract specific data from Datawatch|ES and export those data sets to Access databases. The benefits of this content management system include better control over sensitive data, the ability to electronically manipulate and integrate data from different reports and data sources, and the ability to easily present the data the way users want to view and use it. We also realize the benefits of electronic reporting - far fewer printed reports and physical distribution, vastly easier electronic archiving and greater reporting flexibility overall.
STRENGTHS: We haven't found another technology that can match what Datawatch|ES does for us. It's a perfect fit for the BETA Systems Service Bureau feed because of its ability to take print image reports and allow us to really mine that data. It also delivers much more than a COLD solution, because we can electronically manipulate and integrate data from different reports and data sources.
WEAKNESSES: Very infrequently, maybe once or twice in a year, Thomson BETA Systems might change a report or a field within a report in the BETA Systems feed. Datawatch|ES doesn't automatically flag the change, though some of these changes can be addressed using Monarch's floating trap feature. However, most changes of this variety cannot be accounted for by this kind of technology. Essentially, these new reports require new models to be built.
SELECTION CRITERIA: All other products that we reviewed were more traditional COLD and Imaging products. Having already used Monarch's desktop tool to mine data from print image reports, we felt that the marriage of the two technologies gave us the best flexibility in both eliminating paper and the integration of data and systems.
DELIVERABLES: Datawatch|ES outputs include approximately 100 different report models for daily, weekly and monthly reports. We also use the annotations and discussion threads features to provide workflow functionality required by our compliance department when reviewing reports with our branch managers.
VENDOR SUPPORT: Datawatch's 4.0 version is much improved in the maturity and performance of the product compared to the initial 2.5 and 3.0 implementations. Likewise, as the product has gained market and momentum, Datawatch has improved its support staff and response.
DOCUMENTATION: Datawatch documentation is reasonably good, though sometimes there's a lag before new features are listed.
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