Implementing Databases In-house

At 6 pm Monday, the Signet Bank marketing
team gathers to review its new services proposal one last time before tomorrow’s weekly
management meeting. One analyst has finalized his plans for market testing a new personal
checking account. His confidence is high-a marked improvement from last year, when he
relied on an outside data provider for the most current consumer data to help determine
which banking services would meet customer’s demands. The marketing team often worried
that their ideas were based on outdated information, typically requiring several weeks to
retrieve data and then additional days to analyze it. With any luck, the team might
develop services before the competition.

Today, the same marketing team members are
more prepared than ever. They have earned respect of executive management and can make
effective decisions with the full support of Signet’s new in-house Silicon Graphics-Oracle
information system. The system updates customer profiles daily and provides more complete
information to the company’s marketers. It even gives the team daily results from the
hundreds of marketing initiatives that continuously occur. At Signet, success no longer
depends on luck.

A foundation of information-based
decision making
Signet Bank, a financial
services company, attributes its healthy business outlook to the implementation of
innovative information strategies enabled by Silicon Graphics and Oracle technologies.
Originally targeting banking products only in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington DC,
Signet began an aggressive national expansion in 1994. The development plan called for
commercial and consumer business growth through the establishment of new business sites,
the creation of alternative delivery channels, and the enhancement of technology,
including the company’s information management capabilities.

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While Signet has long been a
proponent of information-based decision making (IBDM), its managers quickly recognized
that a move into the competitive national arena required significant improvements to
existing data management systems and processes. Specifically, Signet marketers and
analysts needed better access to databases for marketing programs and analysis. Rick
Whittemore, MIS Manager for mass-market services, explains, “We take a scientific or
test approach to marketing. The database is used in the process. Marketing databases are
not new for us, but we needed to increase our capabilities. We needed to do more analysis
on expanded data and at the same time shorten turnaround times.” Whittemore sites the
previous problem with information turnaround time. “For years, we used an outside
vendor for maintaining our marketing information files. It took eight weeks to get access
to updates. That was no longer acceptable.” To deliver improved and expanded data
management services, Whittermore and his team investigated marketing applications from
software VARs. The ultimate selection was EDS’ dbIntellect Technologies, not only for the
critical software functionality (the transaction engine), but for the company’s expertise
in recommending and implementing a complete system solution.

Leading the search for high-performance
hardware, dbIntellect helped Signet evaluate various platforms, including products from
Hewlett-Packard, Silicon Graphics and Sun. “For our type of application, the
dbIntellect benchmarks pointed to the Silicon Graphics machines. They were scalable,
extensible and could meet processing needs” according to Whittemore. The Silicon
Graphics platforms, with optimized I/O throughput, also offered maximized performance for
the Oracle database that would manage the company’s large data warehouse.

Whittemore describes Signet’s new
capabilities. “Because of the Oracle/Silicon Graphics combination, the response time
for queries is much faster, even if we’re running a lot of simultaneous analysis on the
front end.” The Signet configuration includes a Silicon Graphics server as a front
end handling the statistical analysis software (SAS), and another Silicon Graphics server
back-end that hots the Oracle database. In addition to SAS and dbIntellect’s transaction
engine, the system software incorporates a range of data access tools for the Oracle
database.

The networked Silicon Graphics systems
accommodate more than 150 users, with 50 to 60% of users considered extremely active.
While maintaining a familiar user interface, the new system delivers quicker access and
data turnaround than previously possible. Updates that used to take two months are now
available weekly. “We have a more up-to-date database with more flexibility for
adding data and making changes. And we now do a better job of tracking program results.
It’s dramatically increased the overall productivity of our analysts,” Whittemore
says.

The Oracle marketing database application
running on Silicon Graphics servers offers a competitive edge to analysts developing
deposit, investment and credit products for the consumer side of Signet’s business.
Detailed forecasts and analyses of product performance in a dynamic business climate are
accomplished quickly, with reliable results. Signet is already planning to expand the
applications to more fully cover its credit card, mortgage and educational funding
services.

Whittemore believes that the breadth of
hardware and networking solutions from Silicon Graphics combines with Oracle software
provides novel approaches to marketing and business operations. He commends the EDS
dbIntellect Technologies, Signet, Oracle and Silicon Graphics team members for their joint
efforts. “From an end-user perspective, the project has gone extremely well- everyone
is very happy. Most importantly, the implementation of the marketing database system has
facilitated Signet’s corporate goals for national expansion. “To be a national
financial services player as a direct marketer, we needed to have much quicker turnaround
on our market campaigns, more flexibility and more control over the data. Having this kind
of database is essential- it is part of the cost of entry.” And has it improved
Signet’s competitive standing? Whitemore concludes by saying, “Yes, I think we’ve
done things that other people are just talking about. IT gives us better capabilities and
a better environment to develop intellectual capital.”

Courtesy: Silicon
Graphics

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