Business Intelligence

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Tutorial – Concepts and Principles of BI

Objectives - On completion of this tutorial, you should be able to: 1. understand the importance of a data warehouse
2. identify strategic advantages that an organization can derive from a data warehouse

Case : Continental Airlines Flies High with its Real-time Data Warehouse

As Business Intelligence (BI) becomes a critical component of daily operations, real-time data warehouses (DW) that provide end users with rapid updates and alerts generated from transactional systems are increasingly being deployed. Real-time data warehousing and BI, supporting its aggressive Go Forward business plan, have helped Continental Airlines alter its industry status from “worst to first” and then from “first to favourite”. Continental Airlines is a leader in real-time BI. In 2004, Continental won the Data Warehousing Institute’s Best Practices and Leadership Award.

Big Problems
Continental Airlines was founded in 1934, with a single-engine Lockheed aircraft in the Southwestern U.S. As of 2006, Continental (Houston) is the fifth largest airline in the United States and the seventh largest in the world. Continental has the broadest global route network of any U.S. airline, with more than 2,300 daily departures to more than 227 destinations.

Back in 1994, Continental was in deep financial trouble. It had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection twice and was heading for its third, and probably final, bankruptcy. Ticket sales were hurting because performance on factors that are important to customers was dismal, including a low percentage of on-time departures, frequent baggage arrival problems, and too many customers turned away due to overbooking.

Solution
The revival of Continental began in 1994, when Gordon Bethune became CEO and initiated the Go Forward plan, which consisted of four interrelated parts to be implemented simultaneously. Bethune targeted the need to improve customer-valued performance measures by better understanding customer needs as well as customer perceptions of the value of services that were and could be offered. Financial management practices were also targeted for a significant overhaul. As early as 1998, the airline had separate databases for marketing and operations, all hosted and managed by outside vendors. Processing queries and instigating marketing programs to its high-value customers were time-consuming and ineffective. In addition, information that the workforce needed to make quick decisions was simply not available. In 1999, Continental chose to integrate its marketing, IT, revenue, and operational data sources into a single, in-house, enterprise data warehouse (EDW). The data warehouse provided a variety of early, major benefits.

As soon as Continental returned to profitability and ranked first in the airline industry in many performance metrics, Bethune and his management team raised the bar by escalating the vision. Instead of just performing best, they wanted Continental to be their customers’ favourite airline. The Go Forward plan established more actionable ways to move from first to favourite among customers. Technology became increasingly critical for supporting these new initiatives. In the early days, having access to historical, integrated information was sufficient. This produced substantial strategic value. But it became increasingly imperative for the data warehouse to provide real-time, actionable information to support enterprise-wise tactical decision making and business processes.

Luckily, the warehouse team had expected and arranged for the real-time shift. From the very beginning, the team had created an architecture to handle real-time data feeds into the warehouse, extracts of data from legacy systems into the warehouse, and tactical queries to the warehouse that required almost immediate response times. In 2001, real-time data became available from the warehouse, and the amount stored grew rapidly....
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