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Principal Enhances Market Research Capability

Seeking to optimize market research collaboration on cross-business unit initiatives, the Principal Financial Group has implemented Novintel's Viva Intelligence Plaza automated business intelligence platform.

Seeking to optimize market research collaboration on cross-business unit initiatives, the Principal Financial Group (Des Moines, Iowa; $195.2 billion in assets under management) has implemented Novintel's (Helsinki, Finland) Viva Intelligence Plaza automated business intelligence platform.

The Principal Financial Group's research managers have traditionally collaborated on projects for cross-business unit initiatives by gathering, analyzing, and reporting of market intelligence, and sharing it along with knowledge about the products, services and distribution models from business areas across the country, according to Kelsey Hare, business intelligence manager, Principal Financial Group. However, Principal lacked a central knowledge-sharing tool to facilitate that collaboration. According to Hare, researchers used e-mail to communicate industry news, market research and information regarding corporate initiatives; and they also used shared space on file servers to support cross-business unit research and data collection.

"This process made it difficult to effectively collaborate on research projects," says Hare.

To support the research managers' needs, in 2002 the Principal Financial Group formed a project team to investigate products that not only would act as a central data storage but also would have advanced indexing and search capabilities to improve information sharing and collaboration across the enterprise. "We wanted a program that would allow information to be accessible across the enterprise, and had the ability to handle multiple sources and formats such as XML feeds, Web crawls and e-mails," says Hare.

The project team evaluated 15 vendors and selected Novintel's Viva Intelligence Plaza in December of 2004. The vendor describes Viva Intelligence Plaza as a software solution that automates routine information searches and provides structure to business intelligence operations. The customizable application, which runs in a standard Microsoft server environment, provides a personalized Web interface with collaboration, search and e-mail alert features. "In addition to the Plaza meeting most requirements out of the box, Novintel showed the most willingness to collaborate on building the additional functionality we were looking for," says Hare.

In June 2004, Novintel installed the solution onto an ASP/SQL server in Helsinki, Finland where the vendor manages all of the IT support, the server and application, plus the vendor has an IT support office in Toronto. The software pulls in information from a wide variety of sources and processes it automatically into categories and information storage modules specific to the Principal Financial Group. It then delivers industry news, company news, research and department e-mail to end users based on their individual preferences, with advanced security features for different types of information intended for different audiences.

Principal ran pilots on the software in April 2005, and Novintel customized the product to the company's needs by giving the users the ability to e-mail into the application and also categorize information within it. The carrier went live with Novintel's software this month.

With the application Principal's researchers will have more time to focus on analysis and gain an overall picture of the competitive environment, according to Hare. "We will now have the ability to push information out of the application to the users so they can set their own criteria for an e-mail distribution, so that our key decision makers are never out of touch," she says.

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