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Case study: how BNZ prospered from 'self-service' Business Intelligence

13 Apr 2012

BNZ wanted faster, more flexible access to customer and transaction data so they could respond more quickly to market conditions. Their Business Intelligence (BI) specialists often needed up to a week to satisfy a data request, but their analysts said that was far too slow. So BNZ turned to Microsoft for BI tools that would let their analysts run reports themselves, giving them the fast data results they need.

Business Needs

As one of the biggest banking corporations in New Zealand, BNZ is a heavy consumer of data. Whenever BNZ develops a new product or marketing campaign, analysts dig into customer and transaction data to decide how it should be tailored. The faster the analysts can do their work, the faster the bank can craft an offering, enter the market, and get a return on its efforts.

BNZ’s previous solution used SAS and SAP BusinessObjects and Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2. Each product was useful, but none allowed the nontechnical analysts to explore large data sets and create new views of the data, or incorporate data that wasn’t already in the data warehouse.

According to Duane McLeod, senior architect of Business Intelligence at BNZ, "Every time our analysts wanted a data view, they had to request it from the BI team and wait for the view to be created.

"Often the users had additional questions, so they’d come back to BI with a new request, which may take a couple more days. In the end it might be several weeks before they got all the answers they wanted.”


In August 2011, BNZ became an early adopter of Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Enterprise, with rollout beginning in March 2012.

BNZ chose SQL Server 2012 Enterprise for its potential to create a self-service data analysis tool. Dave Thompson, head of Business Intelligence at BNZ, says, "Self-service is high on our agenda, and SQL Server 2012 looks like it will deliver on this front.”

The bank was also nominated and chosen to participate in the Microsoft SQL Server Rapid Deployment Programme (RDP).

"The RDP involves a select group of only 70 organisations worldwide, many of whom are Fortune 500 companies, so to have a kiwi company in the mix is fantastic,” says Bradley Borrows, acting Server and Tools Business Group lead for Microsoft New Zealand.

At the heart of the new solution is the SQL Server 2012 xVelocity in-memory analytics engine. xVelocity gives Microsoft Excel 2010 spreadsheet clients and other reporting tools fast access to data in SQL Server 2012 Analysis Services tabular models. These in-memory databases can import data from multiple sources, in multiple formats. Once imported, data can be enriched by adding calculated columns, relationships, key performance indicators, and hierarchies.

Other key technologies in the solution are the SQL Server 2012 Business Intelligence Semantic Model and the xVelocity memory-optimised columnstore index, which compress data and dramatically increase data processing speeds for common queries.


1. Powerful Self Service

Early tests indicate that SQL Server 2012 processes BNZ’s data queries 60 times faster than SQL Server 2008 R2. McLeod says, "The major advantage is that it empowers our analysts to get the data they want without being dependent on the BI team. The team provides solutions to 80 BI requests every week – SQL Server 2012 has the potential to cut that in half.”

2. Higher-Quality Insights

Self-service BI increases the bank’s ability to assess risks and opportunities by letting analysts answer questions as they occur. "Employees spend less time thinking about what data they want, completing data requests, and waiting for a response,” says McLeod. "Instead, they can spend more time validating their ideas and strategies by querying the massive data volumes.”

3. Faster Response to the Market

"With SQL Server 2012 and xVelocity, new ideas can be validated on the same day rather than weeks or months,” McLeod says. "This means we can respond quickly to changing markets, and unsuccessful campaigns can be pulled quickly, without further expenditure.”

SQL Server 2012 was released to the public earlier this month; go here for our story, or here to check out the official website. 

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