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Scott Cohenford, director of business planning and analysis with RapidAdvance, talks about how his organization uses crystalreports.com.

Tell us about RapidAdvance.

RapidAdvance was founded in 2005 for the purpose of providing working capital for small businesses. We operate as a merchant cash advance company. What we do is purchase future credit card receivables from a merchant at a discount and provide funding for these merchants within five to ten business days. We have about 80 employees at the current moment in the U.S. We also have operations in the U.K. with another 15 or so employees. Currently we do about 140 million dollars a year in business.

Tell us about your competitive environment.

Our competitive environment consists of about six to ten large players that are doing north of 50 million dollars a year. There are also several dozen smaller competitors.

Tell us about your role with RapidAdvance.

As director of business planning and analysis, I’m responsible for all of the reporting and IT data-related functions of the company. That ranges across a number of things, including portfolio management, trend analysis, all of the reporting and data distribution for the company, as well as managing the sharing of information both internally and externally.

What drove you to consider crystalreports.com?

I was brought in [to RapidAdvance] in June of 2006. At the time, the company had a very manual environment. The business was managed largely in Excel. We lacked IT resources, and we were looking to take the business to the next level. Being a small business, we had a number of challenges and obstacles we had to overcome, both from a resource side and a financing side. I was tasked with finding a solution that was not only cost-effective and simple to use, but one that gave us the full feature set that any large business would have. So really, I was looking for something that was scalable, affordable, and highly customizable – and at the same time had a full range of features.

I found [Crystal Reports] while looking for top-end reporting solutions. We were looking heavily for automation as well and I came across a free trial. Within about two weeks, I was able to replicate all of the company’s reporting, manage it in an automated fashion, and distribute it to both internal and external users. At that point it was an easy decision to purchase.

Did you consider any alternative solutions?

I did – I looked at products like Oracle and Cognos and a couple of other reporting packages. It became very clear to me that without an IT background, these weren’t the types of products that could be easily manipulated and managed. [On the other hand, crystalreports.com] was really something that anyone who knows how to use a computer can customize and build security on and automate. It became very apparent that other options weren’t really available to us, given our constraints.

Describe the implementation experience.

Implementation was great. Through this free trial, it took me one week to take what the company had been doing for six to eight months and completely automate it – and make it 10 times better than it ever was. Having never heard of Crystal before, I was able to learn the platform, learn crystalreports.com, and recreate the business. It was a matter of hours to do an entire implementation, and full automation occurred within maybe a week and a half to two weeks.

Are employees satisfied with the system?

I have never had a complaint. It’s been regarded as one of the best elements of our business. We love the idea of being able to go online anywhere, rather than having to remote into a computer or be in the office. So I’d say they’re extremely satisfied, both internally and externally.

We’ve gone as far as to use crystalreports.com to distribute reports to hundreds of partner relationships in a competitive environment where typically they have no access to their information between when they submit deals and when we actually fund merchants. Now they have full visibility into all of their accounts through crystalreports.com. So it’s definitely been a high level of satisfaction.

What do you like most about crystalreports.com?

I love the ease of use and the ability to scale with the business. To go from a small company to grow over the years and have a solution that grows with you – and doesn’t require somebody with any expertise in IT – is a tremendous sell.

My particular background is in accounting and finance, and it took me 30 minutes to an hour to figure out how to build an entire reporting platform.

What changes has your organization experienced since you started using crystalreports.com?

The use of crystalreports.com sparked an interest in automating other aspects of the company. Once we realized how much lift you get by finding a solution that eliminates manual processes, it really made us reevaluate the entire business and look for other ways to automate and find new efficiencies in terms of the distribution of information.

Has crystalreports.com simplified your staff’s reporting and analytics tasks?

It’s simplified our tasks, but it’s [also] made our knowledge base far more advanced. So while we don’t have people committed to generating reports and distributing reports, we have [a better] ability to manage and analyze our data. Rather than looking at simple summaries, we have trend analysis, we have early warnings, we have forecasting tools – and all of these things are done in an automated fashion and distributed to everyone. Now you see individuals that have a reporting function are spending more time doing real analysis, rather than just compiling data.

How has crystalreports.com aligned with your established security policies?

Crystal Reports has actually tightened our security, in the sense that we have full control – even at the report level – as to who can see what information. Every single user has a different set of reports that are pertinent to what they do. crystalreports.com has allowed us to tailor a reporting package that’s customized to each individual user.

Describe the reporting capabilities of crystalreports.com.

If you have interest in deriving value from a piece of information, Crystal Reports will not only allow you to run a report on it, it’ll allow you to package it in a readable format and distribute it to the people that can gain value from it. It can really do just about anything you want when it comes to reporting on data.

What has been your experience with the reliability, accessibility, and scalability of crystalreports.com?

[It’s accessible] anywhere with Internet access. I’ve had almost no downtime in the three years we’ve been using the product. As far as scalability goes – you can put up an unlimited number of reports. As we grow, we just add new users, and as our reporting needs change, we just add new reports.

Tell us about the report scheduling and the types of reports that you use.

We have reports that cover all the different departmental functions of the company. We report on sales data, marketing data, underwriting data, and risk information – and then at a high level, we have a number of reports that support portfolio management. We also report, to outside parties, Salesforce data on lead status – the progress of deals that are submitted. All of these reports are a “one and done” scenario where you only have to build it once. We go into the scheduler, pick an interval that we want to send reports, set the schedule, and link it to crystalreports.com. At that point we can rest assured that the reports will be run when they’re supposed to. We’ve been using the scheduler for as long as we’ve had crystalreports.com – so, for three years. We have 800 reports that run every single day and a number that also refresh with live data on demand.

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