REVIEWER: John Folkerts, chief technology officer for Midwest Card Services.

BACKGROUND: Midwest Card Services (MCS), a subsidiary of Fishback Financial Corporation, is a fast-growing financial products servicing company with more than 400 employees. Started in 1998 in South Dakota, the company has diversified its services to offer telemarketing, ATM management, debit cards and specialized loan services. MCS now provides services to more than 200,000 clients.

PLATFORMS: Midwest Card Services runs Teradata V2R4 for Microsoft Windows 2000 on an NCR WorldMark 4850 server.

PROBLEM SOLVED: MCS had the technology in place to meet its business needs, but data was spread across multiple systems. There were common data sets in each system, but no easy or fast way to access one complete source of data across the company. MCS realized it needed a centralized system to accommodate rapid growth and give it the ability to provide the means to be more efficient in analyzing its operation and services to provide clients with the most up-to- date information possible on their portfolios. Being a relatively new and small company, it was critical for MCS to find a solution that provided the price-to- value relationship they were comfortable with, ease of administration and management, Windows OS flexibility and quick and productive implementation without strain on their internal development team.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Today MCS is loading data from multiple sources on a daily basis and providing daily operational and analytical reporting. No unscheduled outages have been experienced, and scheduled system shutdown and recovery tests and their results have been commendable every time. At present, the overall performance of the system has exceeded expectations.

STRENGTHS: Strengths include the performance advantages, technical strengths, price/value relationship, ease of administration, integrated hardware/software solution, professional services capabilities, product and company stability, scalability and a number of other factors combined with the opportunity to implement the systems with Windows 2000 in a field-test environment. NCR professionals assisted in the process to meet our aggressive timelines, thus little deliberation was needed regarding which data warehouse solution we would implement.

WEAKNESSES: MCS is pleased with the stability of the Teradata system. However, there are still some concepts and methodologies that are UNIX-like to Windows users and need explanation. Not all the tools and software add-on products have been ported; examples we are aware of include TeraBuilder and the Priority Scheduler Facility.

SELECTION CRITERIA: MCS determined it needed a data warehouse to bring together the data from its disparate systems and provide consistent decision-making capabilities across the company. In searching for a provider, the team wanted a platform that could grow as it grew, offer exceptional performance and power, and provide an easy to administer and use database ­ while running on a Windows platform. Teradata, a division of NCR Corporation, and its Teradata database fit the bill.

DELIVERABLES: The Teradata data warehouse gives department managers across the company access to operational reports which they're using to make more accurate, timely decisions to refine operations and make their areas more efficient. Portfolio managers can easily track the performance of underwriting criteria to enhance product profitability while providing clients with comprehensive reports on their portfolios.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Teradata provided a dedicated and knowledgeable team of resources to work with the MCS team to plan the implementation process for the warehouse solution. This involved an expansion on the business needs analysis, physical planing, environmental planning, technical infrastructure planning and data modeling design and analysis. Teradata customized training to fit MCS operational needs and worked side-by-side with the MCS team, allowing exceptional knowledge transfer.

DOCUMENTATION: Teradata for Windows 2000 documentation and training is available on the Web and is comprehensive and user-friendly.

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