REVIEWER: Chris Brady, chief information officer for Dealer Services Corp.
BACKGROUND: Dealer Services Corporation (DSC) is America’s largest independent inventory finance provider for used automobiles and other diversified products sold by independent and franchise dealers. DSC serves 9,000 dealer customers through 75 branch locations across the U.S.
PLATFORMS: Microsoft Windows, Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft .NET.
PROBLEM SOLVED: In 2008, just three years after the company’s establishment, one of the sharpest downturns in automotive history forced many dealers to shift their focus from selling new cars to selling used ones. The flurry of loan activity as dealers pushed to move their used car inventories put too much of a strain on our information systems, particularly on a reporting environment built on Microsoft Analysis Services and departmental Excel spreadsheets. This, in turn, made it difficult for management to predict how changing market conditions would affect DSC’s financial position, as well as that of its customers. Thanks in part to our predictive BI system, we saw the automotive downturn coming well in advance, giving managers time to adjust financial reserves, tighten lending standards and scrutinize each dealer’s inventory to minimize risk – both to itself and its customers.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: WebFOCUS from Information Builders generates a master report that combines data from all the pertinent business domains to help managers monitor weekly account activity. WebFOCUS ReportCaster automatically distributes the report to executives, vice presidents and regional managers. These people can easily drill down from the corporate to the branch level. Our field staff is constantly apprised of these metrics thanks to WebFOCUS Active Dashboard technology, which consolidates multiple reports into a single view for easy analysis. WebFOCUS Performance Management Framework (PMF) helps us forecast revenue based on the expected number of loans coming in from each dealer. We used PMF to create a predictive model that forecasts future activity based on each dealer’s past behavior, such as when a dealer will pay off its vehicles, when they will incur new fees and how many cars they will be adding to inventory. Dealer services also uses WebFOCUS RStat to create predictive models and deploy them as intuitive scoring applications. These applications permit employees to make decisions based on accurate, validated predictions.
STRENGTHS: WebFOCUS transforms enormous volumes of transaction data, generated as loans are initiated and maintained, into vital intelligence in the form of leading and lagging indicators. This insight helps us make better borrowing and lending decisions, and more accurately forecast future financial conditions for each dealer we serve.
WEAKNESSES: WebFOCUS is a very comprehensive environment, and thus it takes time to master its functionality. In our case, however, most of the challenges had to do with preparing the underlying data set from our existing SQL Server warehouses. In addition to accessing these warehouses, we created a data mart that underlies the PMF dashboard.
SELECTION CRITERIA: We were drawn to the sheer breadth of the WebFOCUS platform, including Active Reports, active dashboards and the various methods for creating and distributing reports. WebFOCUS can access our cubes, data warehouses, transactional stores, Excel spreadsheets and just about any other information we can think of. Active dashboards are browser-based and require no special software on the client. This means the field reps can access these dashboards from any computer, receive them as email attachments and even forward them to customers in the form of active PDF files that permit remote analysis.
DELIVERABLES: We are more profitable today because we know how much revenue we expect to generate. If we see factors that will cause trouble in six months, we can take action now. Being able to look ahead with confidence not only mitigates risk for dealer services, it also helps the company treat its customers fairly. By continually monitoring both leading and lagging indicators, we can detect patterns in our customers’ behavior and more confidently predict what may happen next.
VENDOR SUPPORT: In addition to having great technology, Information Builders is great to work with. If there is ever a problem, they want to hear about it, put in the effort to fix it, and get us back on track. I haven’t seen that from other vendors. Information Builders listens to us. That’s why we enjoy working with them.
DOCUMENTATION: In conjunction with the online forums and knowledge bases, the WebFOCUS documentation has been adequate for our needs.
WebFOCUS BI Environment including WebFOCUS Performance Management Framework and WebFOCUS RStat
Two Penn Plaza
New York, NY 10121
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