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Strenuous Business Intelligence Workout Gets Fast Results at ABC Financial

  • May 01 2007, 1:00am EDT

REVIEWER: Jason Rose, enterprise reporting manager for ABC Financial Services.

BACKGROUND: ABC Financial Services is a provider of club-management solutions to more than 1,800 health and fitness clubs across the U.S. Since 1981, our company has helped club owners improve their management tactics and boost bottom-line profits. We handle every aspect of accounts receivable processing for our clients.

PLATFORMS: WebFOCUS consolidates DB2 data from our main billing systems, which reside on an IBM iSeries platform.

PROBLEM SOLVED: While ABC Financial is known for its efficient billing system, until recently our reporting capabilities were limited, making it difficult for club owners to extract specific information about enrollment trends, cash flow and campaign management scenarios. Our in-house programmers wrote report generator programs to create a series of static reports, but we had no consolidation. Our members had to manually combine data to get a complete picture of their businesses. We wanted more flexibility for visualizing and summarizing data.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: WebFOCUS's structured ad hoc reporting capabilities give club owners a snapshot of cash flow and customer churn metrics. Reports are highly parameterized, allowing them to select precisely the data they want. For example, if a club owner wants to review revenue from yoga or hip-hop classes over the previous three quarters, he or she can quickly select that information and display it in graphical or textual form, drilling down to see how each service contributes to the bottom line.

STRENGTHS: Thanks to its intuitive, self-service reporting capabilities, WebFOCUS satisfies the reporting needs of a wide range of users. Because it has been architected for efficient deployment via the Web, it's ideal for extending reporting capabilities to everyone who impacts the business. There is virtually no learning curve for accessing and receiving information.

WEAKNESSES: Our main challenge is getting users to adopt the new reporting system. Our self-service reporting environment requires users to take some initiative to obtain useful information. That said, the initial feedback from users has been very positive, and we have rolled out the self-service reporting environment to most of our 1,800 health clubs.

SELECTION CRITERIA: ABC Financial conducted a comprehensive comparison of BI tools before selecting WebFOCUS. We insisted on an easy solution that would not require in-depth training. WebFOCUS is very user friendly and easy to deploy. You don't need a programming background to use it. While our developers were attracted to the efficiency of the WebFOCUS reporting environment, our senior officers were impressed with Information Builders' participation during the sales and proof-of-concept process. Information Builders took the time to understand our needs and provided the right mix of training, consulting and mentoring to ensure our success.

DELIVERABLES: We wanted to give club owners the flexibility to slice and dice performance metrics, but we didn't want to burden users with a cumbersome reporting environment. I believe we have succeeded. Using the self-service reporting environment, club owners can select certain data, visualize it how they would like, choose the output format they prefer and even export data directly into Excel for further analysis. These customers have greater flexibility and unlimited potential for accessing many types of information. The software also saves time for our internal analysts, who are tasked with custom reporting. The reporting software works with our existing security architecture to authenticate users and control access to sensitive data. These users enjoy a broad range of reporting options, from specifying input criteria to selecting output formats.

VENDOR SUPPORT: We hired Information Builders Consulting to install the software, develop a BI dashboard with drill-down capabilities and create an initial batch of reports. It was a fast implementation cycle: in less than 90 days, our small development team completed the training classes, developed a Web-based reporting application, integrated WebFOCUS with our existing security architecture and created 60 new reports to monitor billing, collections, membership status, receivables and a host of other functions. We also conducted alpha and beta tests with some of our main customers.

DOCUMENTATION: The WebFOCUS documentation is comprehensive and easy to use, with online versions as well as printed manuals.

Information Builders Inc.
Two Penn Plaza
New York, NY 10121
(212) 736-4433

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