REVIEWER: Dan Bazuin, senior business intelligence analyst for Quixtar Inc.

BACKGROUND: Quixtar Inc. launched in 1999 with a business model it calls I-commerce, which combines the Internet, individuals, Quixtar's infrastructure and independent business ownership. Independent business owners (IBOs) earn income based on sales to new IBOs, members and clients they register at Members pay a fee to purchase products at special membership prices and earn credits toward premiums. Clients pay no fee but may shop on the Web site where they pay full retail on Quixtar's wide selection of exclusive and sourced products.

PLATFORMS: Intel-based hardware, Windows 2000 Advanced Server, Microsoft SQL Server data warehouse, Windows 98, 2000 and XP desktop clients.

PROBLEM SOLVED: With our multilevel compensation structure, Quixtar sought to measure sales volume, return volume, bonus awards and other vital data at the IBO and enterprise levels. Our corporate staff needed promotional analyses to determine effectiveness of promotional offerings, market basket analyses to gauge sales patterns and purchasing trends, and relationship analyses to examine membership and renewal trends. Quixtar's data warehouse consolidates data from disparate sources, including AS/400-based source systems. Data is also received from several countries, with data reported in local currencies. The MicroStrategy platform mitigates those complexities, providing a common basis for analysis, both ad hoc and standardized. The software had to be accessible to beginners, but powerful enough to support the requirements of advanced users.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Quixtar has three categories of users: those who run standard reports, ad hoc users and power users who create advanced analytics. MicroStrategy's platform provides a toolset to meet each user level. Users who perform standard or ad hoc analysis use MicroStrategy Web Professional, which gives them the ability to work with a results set. The data can be formatted and exported to Excel or PDF files. MicroStrategy's drilling capability is a powerful feature that enables users to initiate an analysis at a high level and drill down into transaction details. Quixtar's advanced users utilize MicroStrategy Desktop to create customized report objects including advanced metrics, prompts, filters, consolidations and custom groups.

STRENGTHS: MicroStrategy's strongest feature is its scalability to handle terabytes of data and accommodate thousands of users. Quixtar will not outgrow MicroStrategy technology. The administrative toolset is comprehensive and intuitive. Source system complexities are hidden from the business users; and analysis is performed through an intuitive, customizable interface with business names and descriptions for attributes and metrics. When users understand more clearly what they see, they become self-supporting. The platform contains several levels of security to ensure proper data access: user level security, security views and project access.

WEAKNESSES: A weakness of the product is the inability to edit SQL generated by Intelligence Server when a more efficient path may be available, meaning it may take longer to run some reports. Also, results are displayed in a grid with limited presentation formatting, unless one uses Web Professional. Results may require exporting and reformatting for formal reports or external distribution.

SELECTION CRITERIA: MicroStrategy 7i contains several features that put it ahead of the competition including: scalability of the platform to grow with the company and its needs, extensibility with the SDK and advanced analytics capabilities. It is the leader in Web deployment. It provides a complete toolset for enterprise analytics and a powerful desktop tool for analytics development.

DELIVERABLES: Quixtar's analysts generate more than 5,000 monthly reports, consisting of ad hoc analysis of promotions, market baskets, relationships, overall sales and cost-benefit ratios. The information is used to evaluate incentives for IBOs and corporate initiatives, develop marketing and promotional support programs, and evaluate sales trends and product penetrations. Because Quixtar's IT team uses analytical data to predict volume spikes on the company's computer systems at peak sales times, such as the end of the month, the IT team can make sure hardware and software can accommodate the increased demand.

VENDOR SUPPORT: MicroStrategy strives to understand Quixtar's needs and provides ongoing insight and guidance on projects. Quixtar's staff has attended training at MicroStrategy's Chicago facility, including advance reporting, administration and project architect classes. Customer satisfaction is a top priority throughout the organization.

DOCUMENTATION:The documentation is easy to use for product-specific guidance. MicroStrategy's online knowledge base is an outstanding source of up-to-date, detailed information regarding advanced topics.

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