BACKGROUND: A leading branded provider of on-line investing services, E*TRADE has established a popular destination Web site for self-directed investors. The company offers independent investors the convenience and control of automated stock, options and mutual funds order placement at low commission rates. In addition, E*TRADE has a suite of value-added products and services that can be personalized, including portfolio tracking, Java-based charting and quote applications, real-time stock quotes, Smart Alerts, market commentary and analysis, news, investor community areas and other information services.

PLATFORMS: The E*TRADE PatternWarehouse utilizes Oracle and Sybase databases running a Sun Microsystems Solaris data warehouse server.

PROBLEM SOLVED: As the competition for on-line Web-based financial services heats up, new technology is giving the leading service providers another winning edge. E*TRADE, the world's largest on-line brokerage service is using Information Discovery's Pattern Query Language to access a PatternWarehouse of prospect and customer behavior to fine-tune its marketing strategies. The E*TRADE PatternWarehouse provides business users with immediate access to knowledge of acquisition patterns, customer behavior, product usage affinities, life cycle, etc.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The PatternWarehouse provides business users with a gateway to knowledge that has been pre-distilled from data and is stored in a pattern-base. At the heart of the PatternWarehouse lies PQL ­ The Pattern Query Language ­ which is a pattern-oriented query language specifically designed to provide business users access to refined information (just as they use SQL query to access data). Using the PatternWarehouse knowledge discovery system, a user without a technical background can freely access patterns on the intranet using a point-and-click GUI and interact with the system for further drill down and analysis. The operation cycle is as follows: data mining is performed on weekly/monthly data in a SQL database, the discovered patterns are stored in a pattern-base, the patterns are incrementally combined and trend-analyzed periodically. Business users query and access the pre-mined pattern-base, not the database.

STRENGTHS: Information Discovery's unique PatternWarehouse technology has a variety of strengths such as instant turnaround time on follow-up questions ­ because patterns are just looked up, not recomputed each time. The entire database is analyzed, no sampling or extracts, to ensure that powerful and accurate patterns are found. Patterns are stored in a central repository which ensures that business users get uniform answers. No training is necessary to access the patterns ­ just a Web-browser interface. Reports are in plain English with graphs automatically generated on the intranet. Overall efficiency is improved by avoiding recomputations, and there is increased corporate information consistency and quality with condensed, readable knowledge that utilizes less disk space.

WEAKNESSES: While the industry is still getting familiar with the concept of data warehousing, it is sometimes difficult for the users to distinguish the differences between the infrastructure of a PatternWarehouse and a data warehouse. There is a need for a good top-level architecture within the company embarking on a data discovery project.

SELECTION CRITERIA: This product is unique because it uses refined patterns, rather than data. And, the Java-based Web access to patterns enables users to access patterns simply using a Web browser, so no technical or analytical know-how is required. Another unique functionality is the quick response time: the patterns are available for the users on demand and response to follow-up questions is almost instant.

DELIVERABLES: With the information stored in the PatternWarehouse, niche marketers can run fewer financial services ads with more effective acquisition and identify profitable customer segments to improve the acquisition process based on the ROI.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Information Discovery has skilled consultants who have been very supportive. We were very impressed with Information Discovery's commitment to our pattern discovery project.

DOCUMENTATION: The help files and instruction provided made this complex system easy for both business users and IT staff to operate.

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