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Zoot sees returns with reporting software

Time was when Zoot Enterprises' reporting involved writing lines of proprietary code and "faxing around tiny pieces of paper." The credit reporting specialist credits software from Crystal Decisions with changing all that.

To identify Bozeman, Mont.-based Zoot as a credit report bureau would be an oversimplification since the firm currently serves as an applications service provider (ASP) to seven of the top 10 banking companies in the U.S. Zoot supplies these businesses with everything from real-time credit scorecards for potential customers, to its Kairos online loan origination and application processing system. It lists American Express Co., Spiegel Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. among its clients.

Yet, several years ago Zoot felt it was falling behind technologically and that its system of providing reporting tools to banks had become inflexible and outdated. To help remedy the situation and build its current ASP model, Zoot officials turned to BI applications vendor Crystal Decisions Inc., Palo Alto, Calif., to provide an analytical engine for its offerings.

"The technology we were using to create customized reports for each bank was a programming language-based system that had become very arduous," said Duncan Moran, technical lead of the reporting department at Zoot. "To give customers insight into their reports we were writing thousands of lines of proprietary software code, which wasn't very practical."

In order to allow banks better visibility in their hosted reporting operations, Zoot deployed the BI vendor's Crystal Enterprise 8.0 and Crystal Reports software packages. The Crystal Enterprise 8.0 package is the Crystal Decisions' Web-based platform for reporting, analysis and information management. An 8.5 release of the offering is due out sometime later this year, company officials said. Crystal Reports is a content management, Web publishing and data integration tool set.

Moran said the result was happier customers who could get big picture information back faster and tailor their loan approval operations more easily. Eliminating the need to create new code allowed Zoot to reduce the time it took to build new reports for its customers from several months to only two hours.

Among the hard returns Zoot credits the Crystal Decisions software with providing are an estimated $85,000 in saved developer costs, $25,000 in reduced yearly IT maintenance expenditures and $28,000 in annual faxing costs. Moran said the company also increased its monthly customized report output from 25 to 150, adding that the soft returns on investment (ROI) were far more significant.

"The ability to have the customer interact through a Web interface that's easy to use is an advantage you don't need to be an analyst to understand," Moran said. "Before we were faxing around pieces of paper."

The biggest challenge in deploying the Crystal Decisions technology to customers was getting them to take advantage of the new functionality.

"These companies had always looked at reporting as a back-office process," Moran said. "We had to convince them to adopt a life-cycle approach to how they handled all the information we can now give them."

Among his employees, Moran said the challenge was getting people used to the technology's Windows-like environment as opposed to the programming system Zoot had used in the past.

Zoot declined to reveal just how much it invested in Crystal Decisions products. License fees start at $595 per seat for its Crystal Enterprise 8.0 platform.

Going forward, Moran said Zoot would look to expand customer-reporting capabilities so banks can get more detailed demographics about the kind of customers buying into its loan programs and why others choose one bank's products over another's.


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