Case Study: Virgin adopts Business Intelligent software

Following hot on the heels of CRM, Business Intelligence is another strategy that allows companies to target their best customers...

Following hot on the heels of CRM, Business Intelligence is another strategy that allows companies to target their best customers from their databases

Now users can take advantage of a user-friendly business intelligent software tool which hides the complexity of interpreting data, Virgin Atlantic managers are no longer forced to pore over finished, and incomplete, reports derived from multiple operational sources to track customer activities and entitlements. In short, Virgin...

Atlantic's users are in control of their data.

Programmer productivity

Database neutrality

Impact analysis and reusability

Paul Phillips

( Hummingbird Genio, 1999

However, the delivery of a timely, user-driven reporting system was not initially seen as a simple task by Virgin Atlantic's MIS team. All of the core data about Virgin Atlantic's "Freeways" frequent-flyer program - the subject of management's reporting requirements in this case - is stored in the company's transaction system. This OLTP database, befitting its primary function, is optimised not for reporting and decision support, but for performance and transactional efficiency. Despite this challenge, the MIS team developed and implemented a data mart to meet management's reporting requirements and overcome the limitations of the OLTP system. Genio is designed to cut the "total throughput time" associated with moving data among various types of databases and decision-support systems (DSS). Part of the secret to Genio's throughput is its ability to extract multiple sets of data from disparate data sources (DB2, VSAM, and Oracle) simultaneously. To prepare the source data to be incorporated into Virgin Atlantic's data mart from which it is analysed, snapshots of the transactional system are first extracted and copied into an operational data store (ODS) or staging area. Then, through an intuitive, user-defined transformation process, Genio "reshapes" the transactional data into structures and values that are fed into a multidimensional database (MDDB) to facilitate management reporting. Not surprisingly, one of the primary reasons for employing a transformation engine is to save time when moving data from system to system, often by improving programmer productivity. Booth points out that "we could have gotten freelance programmers to do the work that Genio has done. But not only would that have been more expensive, it would have been more time-consuming, given the current skills shortage. Genio "populates the Essbase multidimensional databases that we use," says Jennifer Booth, MIS chief. "With Genio, we could place the operational data store into any database we wanted, in our case Oracle. Many of the other products we tested had proprietary repositories." Genio's database neutrality allows MIS shops to use their existing database skills when building warehouses or converting applications. "Another aspect of Genio that we find indispensable is impact analysis," says Booth. "If you make a change, if you delete a bit of code, Genio's interface highlights all parts of the process you are building that will be affected by that change." This helpful feature is complemented by Genio's maintainability, which is critical to Virgin Atlantic's MIS team, says Booth. "Each variable you create can be used in different scripts - which saves a great deal of time." Virgin is only one example of how Business Intelligence can make a manager's life easier and a business more profitable. The combination of ease-of-use, powerful, graphical manipulation tools, combined with the ability to manage data and integrate with existing repositories, explains why Business Intelligence is growing in popularity.

Read more on Business applications