At the end of 2010, ING Lease made a decision to implement a data warehouse and a Business Intelligence solution due to growing internal and external reporting needs.

ING Lease Polska is one of the largest leasing companies on the Polish market. It offers small and medium-sized enterprises attractive financing options to purchase movable and real estate property.

As a member of the ING Group, the company possesses strong capital backing. In 2010, the company financed assets worth PLN 1358 billion, out of which movable property comprised 60 proc. and real estate 40 proc. ING Lease Polska has a 33 proc. market share and still remains the undisputed leader in real estate leasing. It has been operating in Poland since 1996 and currently employs over 100 people.

Four different IT systems

ING Lease’s business processes are supported by four specialist programs: S1, S2, S3 and S4 (working names, the client does not disclose real ones). S1 is a sales system expanded by a risk assessment module. It is used by sales representatives to prepare offers for clients and performs the role of a CRM system. Work in the S1 system terminates with the conclusion of an agreement with a client and the attribution of an individual contract number. Next, data about the client and contract are transferred to the main leasing system – S2, which provides comprehensive contract management functions from start to end or termination. S2 overlooks, amongst others, the setting of the repayment schedule, issuance of invoices and processing of payments. However, there is no invoice printout module. This process is performed in the S3 program, which is auxiliary to the S2 system and used only for the generation and printing of invoices on the basis of data from the S2 system. – The specificity of our operations necessitates such a solution. Our clients often request personalized invoices adjusted to their needs and tastes. S3 enables us to meet their expectations – says Dorota Zwolakowska, IT Manager at ING Lease.

The main ledger constitutes the S4 system, where data on account entries are exported from S2. The S4 system houses book entries from leasing operations as well as all of ING Lease’s internal operations.

Apart from the described systems, ING Lease also relies on Excel files that contain various additional data, such as dictionaries and asset classification according to GUS.

Difficult and arduous reporting

It’s not hard to imagine how complicated report preparation in such environment has been. Firstly, because each program contained a different set of data hence, it was important to remember where what type of data was and then connect it appropriately. – Let’s take as an example real estate leasing. S2 contains the repayment schedule, information on leasing type, the surface area, etc. but not information on real estate taxes, stored on the S4 system. When preparing reports on all property charges, we had to work in two systems: S2 and S4 – says Dorota Zwolakowska.

Moreover, report preparation required data connection from different programs that appeared in various formats. To overcome this problem, data was imported into Excel or Access programs where it was then processed with the use of complicated formulas or macros. –Obtainment of data and its consolidation plus preparation of reports on this basis was difficult and time-consuming. Just the process of data preparation and processing, which was carried out by a highly qualified specialist, took several hours. Then Excel needed another few hours to process such a large amount of data – says Dorota Zwolakowska. – We had very complex reporting systems using Excel however Excel had great difficulties with very big files – she adds.

There were also other disadvantages of using the solutions. Excel does not allow to set access rights, hence almost anyone from the authorized user group could view, delete or change data and reports. Besides, S2 does not store all historical data, which complicated reporting and often limited report creation possibilities. – The preparation of reports with the use of historical data required additional procedures. For example, all end-of-year reports were stored as full documents to enable us to access previous-year data, and if necessary we entered the needed data manually – says Dorota Zwolakowska. - However, that also wasn’t a good solution because only the most recent changes in the S2 system were saved. Information about earlier changes was no longer available.

Time for change

ING Lease’s reporting needs continued to grow and it was increasingly difficult to meet them. A decision was thus made to implement a data warehouse and a Business Intelligence solution.

A data warehouse and Business Intelligence solution at ING Lease Polska

- We considered three solutions. The first was a Business Intelligence system not based on OLAP technology but which would act as an overlay that recorded data for processing in the operating memory. Its advantage was that it wouldn’t necessitate any infrastructure however, its minus was that it drew on relatively ordered and homogenous data. The second solution was a mini data warehouse which would at first store the most important and thematically narrowed data and which we would gradually expand. The third solution was a full warehouse which would contain all data – and this is the option we chose – says Dorota Zwolakowska.

In terms of selection of the implementing company, ING Lease followed standard procedure firstly asking Microsoft and its partners for recommendations and then interviewing the chosen companies. It was Bonair that won. – Not only did Bonair present a good offer but its consultants also showed considerable knowledge in the presentation of the potential solutions which we intended to implement – says Ms. Zwolakowska.

Implementation benefits

  • Uniform, standardized and complete data in one place.
  • Easier and faster access to current data.
  • Substantial improvement in reporting in terms of speed as well as possibilities.
  • Access to historical data.
  • Improved security – possibility to define access rights.


Feeding the data warehouse

One of the requirements was for all data to be located on the server of a single database from which reports could be generated. – The reason for the creation of a data warehouse was to create a uniform reporting source for ING Lease that would integrate data from all sources and enable report creation. At the same time, we wanted to resolve a few problems related to our current systems that did not meet all client needs, such as access to historical data or the possibility to attribute authorization rights to users – says Dariusz Dulęba, Bonair’s project manager.

The data warehouse is fed with data from all four systems: S1, S2, S3 and S4. Each system has its own independent database. Two numbers are used to identify clients: S2 ID and GRID (Group ID). The S2 ID number is attributed in the operational department at the stage of conclusion of agreement. GRID on the other hand is issued at the request of an ING Lease employee sent to the headquarters in the Netherlands.

Implementation facts

What:
Data warehouse and Business Intelligence systems: Microsoft Reporting Services and ProClarity

Where:
ING Lease Polska, one of the largest leasing companies on the Polish market offering services to small and medium-sized enterprises. The company has a 33% market share in real estate leasing. It has been operating in Poland since 1996 and currently employs over 100 people.

When:
March – May 2010
– preparatory works including collection of requirements, analysis, definition of technical infrastructure

May – August 2010 – implementation including installation and configuration of software, creation of data warehouse feeding process, definition of the OLAP model, creation of reports and www (intranet) applications, definition of authorizations, solution tests, workshops on ProClarity and Reporting Services.

August – October 2010 – pilot implementation, training of administrators, installation of solution.

November 2010 – production start.


Dorota Zwolakowska
IT Manager at ING Lease

“It is already clear how much the data warehouse will improve the reporting process, in terms of speed as well as possibilities. A task that used to take several hours can now be done in just about a single click. It now takes only a dozen minutes to create a complex report. Before, it could even take as long as a dozen hours.”

- Challenge for us was data import from the S2 program, because ING Lease Polska has no direct access to the system. The system is installed on ING Lease servers at its headquarters and the Warsaw subsidiary uses it through a browser. Together with ING Lease Polska we created a custom-made solution through which data from S2 is exported – through Business Objects reports – to text files. And that’s how data, once cleansed, makes its way to the database – says Dariusz Dulęba.

The solution allows ING Lease to control how often data is refreshed, the scope of the data and it provides access to historical data. Bonair also created appropriate processes for downloading data for the other systems. This was not an easy task as each of the systems was bought from a different supplier and had fundamentally different data structures, based on different platforms. S1 relied on an Oracle database, S3 and S4 on an SQL Server 2008 whereas data for S4 came from approximately 20 databases that can be dynamically turned on and off in the process of feeding of the data warehouse.

It emerged during the implementation of the data warehouse that ING Lease was launching a new product for smaller clients – Standard Ticket Leasing (STL). – Unfortunately we couldn’t include the STL product in the data warehouse straight away since this would have significantly delayed the whole implementation project. We therefore decided to enter STL data in the data warehouse after the implementation and that’s what we’ve been doing since early 2011 – says Dorota Zwolakowska.

Challenges and difficulties

The implementation of the data warehouse was transparent for all ING Lease employees, apart from the IT department. It didn’t cause any changes in the daily work because management of the leasing process remained the same. – However, a small revolution happened for us. We now have a completely new work environment. We have to learn Reporting Services tools and learn how the data warehouse is organized – says Dorota Zwolakowska.

That’s why when asked about the biggest implementation challenge, Dorota Zwolakowska said it was the unfamiliarity with the new work environment. – I’m not talking just about new tools but about a change in the philosophy of data storage and its use. We still have a lot to learn to fully understand the database structure – says Dorota Zwolakowska. Another big challenge was the right organizational conception of data in the warehouse so that it could later be analyzed in various ways. – Although fortunately the database is not a closed solution and can always be expanded and changed – says Dorota Zwolakowska.

The implementation began in March and finished in October 2010. It was conducted in stages, which consisted mainly of: analysis, development of conception by Bonair and its execution, tests and training and pilot and final implementation. At the analysis stage, the project group was composed of 11 people since each business department wanted to present its reporting needs. ING Lease and Bonair appointed two people each as permanent members of the project team.

The data warehouse is fed with data from four systems, all with independent databases. Prior to entry in the data warehouse, data is standardized and cleansed. Data import from the S2 program takes place through Business Objects reports, which are exported to text files. The data warehouse and Business Intelligence software are used by two types of users: IT employees who prepare reports and end users who utilize reports. Users access reports through the Microsoft Reporting Services program. This is where permanent reports are created, accessible through a browser. The OLAP cube contains data from the S1 system and it can be used through ProClarity, whose reports serve ad-hoc analysis. All reports are stored on a single intranet page and various users can be attributed different authorization rights to access this information.

The client also had to develop its infrastructure to include a database server as well as a development environment, which it lacked before.

Safer and more secure with the new database

- The implementation has ensured easier and faster access to current data, which is now uniform and standardized and covers the whole company. It is also no longer a problem to create reports based on historical data, which was previously a complicated and at times an impossible task. All reports are kept on one page on the intranet and various users can be attributed different authorization rights to access this information. Also, if certain data needs to be corrected then this can be done in just one place now – says Dariusz Dulęba.

Dorota Zwolakowska also emphasizes improved security and easier access to reports in the data warehouse. – We couldn’t do that earlier because Excel did not enable definition of access rights and virtually anyone could view and even change reports. This was simply dangerous. Currently, given user groups have individual access to the data warehouse and departments only receive the reports which are of concern to them. Strictly authorized employees have access to manage, read and refresh reports now. Reports are generated in the Microsoft Reporting Services program and ING Lease will also additionally rely on ProClarity in the future. – We are just learning these tools for now, as a lot of things are still new to us. We had a couple of days of external training and we now have internal training. We also have to say goodbye to old habits and get used to new methods of report creation – says Dorota Zwolakowska. Ms. Zwolakowska tells us that all newly ordered reports are now created only through the data warehouse. - There will also be orders for external report creation although – she notes – this is no trivial matter and that’s probably why it’ll still take some time before the company can definitively stop using the old method of report preparation.

It was worth it

This is only the beginning of changes for ING Lease. – Our aim in the first stage of implementation was to order the data so that it is all stored on one database. That stage is now over. We are now facing a long period of new report creation – says Dorota Zwolakowska. People preparing reports, apart from being familiar with the tools, must also have knowledge about the report subjects and test and verify the result accuracy.

- It is already clear how much the data warehouse will improve the reporting process, in terms of speed as well as possibilities. A task that used to take several hours can now be done in just a single click. It now takes only a dozen minutes to create a complex report. Before, it could even take as long as a dozen hours – says Dorota Zwolakowska.

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