Each year, our sister publication Computer Dealer News hosts the Channel Elite Awards to recognize IT Solution Provider for their innovation, leadership, and commitment for creating value for their customers. As Canada’s leading IT channel publication, CDN invited solution providers to submit their best work to nine different categories for 2013’s awards. Here, we present the case studies these award nominees put forward to us. Find out who the big winners are on Sept. 11 when CDN presents them at the CEA Awards Gala.

Learn more about CDN’s Channel Elite Awards 2013

Nominee: International Financial Data Services from Toronto, Ontario

Cloud Solution description

International Financial Data Services (IFDS) worked with Information Builders, a leader in business intelligence (BI) and analytics solutions, to create IFDS Insight, a comprehensive customer-facing BI app for mutual fund companies, insurance carrier executives and sales officers. The app is a “sales intelligence” engine that compliments existing CRM systems, giving users an information advantage to make more informed business decisions that help them execute their sales strategy. IFDS Insight provides clients with access to fund sales, products, dealers and advisors, with the goal of improving every day decision-making. The app integrates CRM sales team data from IFDS customers, reduces manual data input and manipulation, and provides the ability to access specific details with just one click. IFDS Insight helps clients grow top-line revenue, improve the customer experience, and win new business.

What type of cloud architecture was deployed and how were these decisions made with security in mind?

IFDS implemented a private cloud infrastructure to host multiple applications. This infrastructure is stretched for resource allocation for multiple applications, including IFDS Insight. IFDS has a web layer that is distributed by geography in data centers in Toronto and in Basildon, England. IFDS implemented new storage and visualization frameworks for IFDS Insight. The company’s future plans include virtualization of the data center, and an active/active environment for its second data center in Markham, Ontario.

How does this solution push the boundaries of a typical cloud computing solution and qualify as innovative?

The IFDS Insight solution is a “sales intelligence” engine designed to both compliment a customer’s CRM and push CRM out as true business intelligence. IFDS set out to eliminate the need for third-party solution providers by providing BI tools that its clients could use for themselves with little guidance or preexisting knowledge base. The main solution includes multiple dashboards to relay capsule summaries of the previous day’s activity, such as top trade tickets and top dealers. IFDS utilized Information Builders’ WebFOCUS Active Technology to allow users to sort statistics and generate reports. Reporting tools also permit IFDS customers to analyze trends over time, drill into specific details with one click and improve information delivery to all different types of users. Access to the solution is secure with encrypted password protection, but allows the flexibility of access from any mobile environment. IFDS Insight builds a sophisticated, easy to use environment to give customers the best analysis through the cloud-based app.

Why was this type of cloud solution the right choice for this business case?

Choosing to make IFDS Insight a cloud-based app allowed customers to benefit from added flexibility and scope without compromising accessibility to the full business intelligence capabilities of the solution. The key for IFDS was to promote and support effective sales management. With the cloud, the breadth of information becomes increasingly larger than with traditional architectures. With more information available, companies benefit from increasingly effective analytics that can be drawn and pushed out to a customer base. Additionally, it allows more secure archiving for companies to access over time without sacrificing any information or IT people. Information Builders’ WebFOCUS solution base fosters a self-service approach that allows IFDS employees to redirect more time into driving revenue, giving support and managing processes.

How was the success of the system measured and what were the results?

IFDS clients needed better business intelligence solutions to combat overhead costs and the stagnant restrictions of traditional IT and business analytics. It was important to create a solution designed with the customer in mind that would truly drive better sales management. Before using IFDS Insight, a company might have incurred IT licensing and maintenance costs for report-writing software. Reports could not be scheduled and they required desktop access. Customers were required to learn a new skill set for complicated data streams. In addition, clients were forced to build reports themselves, and those reports were subject to the individual’s knowledge base of the program. With the IFDS Insight solution, companies can leverage significant investment in off-the-shelf sales reporting and dashboard metrics. IFDS also manages all aspects of the solution application in a secure data center with frequent security audits. Combined with Information Builders’ WebFOCUS tools, IFDS Insight offers a broad set of solutions ranging from dashboards to report generation that provide users of all levels within an organization. IFDS customers account for just below 25 percent of the mutual fund industry in Canada, and have benefited from great sales success in 2013. IFDS customers accounted for 41 percent of the industries net flows during the 2013 Canadian registered savings plan season (January thru March). Customers who use IFDS Insight have an intuitive interface to analyze which fund products are leading their sales, which distributors are selling their funds, and which financial advisors are their biggest supporters. Clients using IFDS Insight have an information advantage, which supports their phenomenal growth. IFDS Insight is used by executive management and sales teams, but also by product managers, who can review their mutual fund families’ daily sales activity.

How did the design and implementation of the solution break new ground for you as a solution provider?

Prior to IFDS Insight, IFDS could not offer any reporting solutions that could be accessed via the web, or formatted for use by mobile devices (tablets or smartphones). Many features and functions that have been historically deemed as consumer-oriented have migrated to the business-to-business world. Business users are also consumer shoppers when outside their office domains. As a result, business users have come to expect an “Amazon-like” experience with every online encounter. In this specific deployment, the online performance for IFDS customers (regardless of size) needed to match an “Amazon-like” experience. This required IFDS to think differently and create a specific data mart, and aggregation layers for IFDS Insight

How does the solution further your client’s green or environmentally friendly plans?

This solution can be accessed on any mobile device or environment. Therefore, clients can work remotely and still maintain the same level of connectivity, which helps reduce commuting related pollution. Reports are generated online and no longer require wasteful printed materials to inform customers of important information. Customers can essentially self-serve their business intelligence. In addition, by moving to a cloud-based platform, the need for maintenance and disposal of IT networking computer products can be significantly reduced.

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