CATEGORY: Business Intelligence

REVIEWER: Eric Lofstrom, OLAP architect for Quicken Loans.

BACKGROUND: Quicken Loans is the nation's leading online lender and the 23rd largest retail mortgage lender in the country. The company expects to close nearly $15 billion in mortgage loans in 2003. Quicken Loans offers mortgage loans in all 50 states via Quickenloans.com, which has been named a "Best of the Web" mortgage site by Forbes, Money and PC magazines.

PLATFORMS: The solution is running on a Compaq DL360 server with Windows Advanced Server 2002, SQL Server 2000 and Analysis Services.

PROBLEM SOLVED: The ability to track and analyze data is essential to America's leading online lender. Before Quicken Loans partnered with ProClarity to refine its OLAP system, the company was playing catch-up in the race for accurate, timely information. Our bankers and managers really live off of their data. However, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. ­ when people were running reports as well as doing daily tasks ­ the performance of our production system was atrocious. We had no in-house analytical platform. If people wanted to compare June to July, they had to run the June report, run the July report, and then dump them into Excel or look at them side by side. Inefficiency like that cost us a lot of time and was fraught with potential error. In addition, we had six different definitions for some of our most important key performance indicators. The metrics team spent all of their time gathering data and none of their time actually analyzing it. Simply put, our reporting and analysis needs just weren't being met.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Because ProClarity is so easy to use, we found errors in our number-crunching process. For us, ROI is obvious. There are many instances when we've been able to save individuals 30 or more man-hours a month. With ProClarity, the metrics team now spends its time analyzing data instead of gathering it, reports are created in a matter of hours rather than weeks, and metrics and marketing teams are saving an estimated 350 man-hours per month. Additionally, what used to be a manual process for measuring the business is now automated. What would have normally taken three weeks now takes less than an hour.

STRENGTHS: ProClarity has three main strengths. Easy customization: controlling the degree of accessibility afforded each user is important to Quicken Loans. One cube can supply 20 different requests that will be viewed, in one form or another, by perhaps a thousand different people. Using ProClarity's different clients and/or ActiveX controls, I can present the information in a wide variety of formats. Ease of use: the user interface is the key. ProClarity has all the bells and whistles and looks pretty, but the most critical thing is that it's so easy to use. Flexibility: we know that as we get more sophisticated, ProClarity will grow right along with us.

WEAKNESSES: Quicken Loans would like to see improvements in the ProClarity product line in chart capabilities, printing functionality and customizability for the thin client (Web parts).

SELECTION CRITERIA: Two factors stood out about ProClarity: usability and expandability. ProClarity's interface is clean and easy to use. All we need is a three-hour training class to get the most basic user familiar with ProClarity. Expandability is the other key. From a programming standpoint, the different things I can do with ProClarity components give me a wide range of presentation options. Easy installation was another advantage. ProClarity was up and running right out of the box.

DELIVERABLES: With ProClarity, Quicken Loans is now on the same page. Everybody is now looking at the same thing, but I can also take a ProClarity page and put it in a dashboard that our bankers and executives can customize to meet their needs. I can copy and paste a URL into a frame on a dashboard and present as many as four different ProClarity views on one screen. It can also be refreshed once every 10, 30 or 60 minutes. It's amazing how much data we can pipe through our system. Without ProClarity, we'd still be measuring the business by hand. What we are doing in an hour would have taken three weeks. With ProClarity, we're able to deliver the main metrics of our business with speed and accuracy that was unthinkable even just two years ago.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Vendor support has been fantastic! ProClarity's consulting team is top notch.

DOCUMENTATION: Documentation is complete and easy to comprehend.

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