For more than a decade after its launch in 1984, Clearnet Communications, Inc. focused on building itself into Canada's biggest provider of two-way radio services known as specialized mobile radio (SMR) for commercial fleets. It succeeded spectacularly. But in 1996, when it also committed to making a run at the country's burgeoning digital wireless market, Clearnet found its internal business information systems weren't providing a clear enough picture of corporate trends to stay competitive.
Pairing versions of Cognos' Impromptu query and reporting software tool with its PowerPlay Web, for multidimensional analysis of corporate data or OLAP (online analytical processing) would give Clearnet the ability to develop up-to-the-moment trend analyses of their customers, prospects and the industry at large. First, it had to build (around the Cognos tools) a data warehouse to consolidate various company databases. They did and it worked. In fact, Clearnet said the business intelligence capabilities emerging from the data warehouse and the Cognos tools were a contributer to the company's staggering sextupling in size over the past three years a gain of almost 400,000 new clients.
Clearnet's all-digital, all-business wireless "mike" network started in 1996 and now covers Canada's largest population center, the Ontario-Quebec nexus and British Columbia as well as Alberta late in 1999. For the first time in Canada, digital radio, mobile digital phone, text messaging, paging and Internet access could be integrated through a single handset operating on a single network. Meanwhile, Clearnet was licensed to offer next generation wireless personal communications service (PCS) to the consumer market, provoking an unparalleled level of competition to the Canadian wireless marketplace.
Through this period of high-flying subscriber growth, Clearnet has managed to keep the amount of churn or client turnover to world-class low levels. Contributing to this success is the company's ability to shape subscription models based on accurate analysis of ongoing buying habits.
Such analysis would have been difficult for Clearnet before the data warehouse and Cognos. Data including vital sales, marketing and financial information just was not structured in a way that enabled accurate analysis. Clearnet ran SQL data queries against OLTP, Oracle-based source systems which were not designed for reporting needs. In fact, report queries were such a strain they often would slow production systems. An internal decision support team was created to investigate how to upgrade the system to make it reliable, easy to use and able to grow with the company. Consideration started with the search for a powerful front-end solution.
From the get-go, Clearnet recognized that the project's success hinged on the superiority of the front-end tools. After careful evaluation of a number of business intelligence solutions, the Cognos pair were chosen for their scalability, ease of use and functionality. Clearnet then spent three months implementing an Oracle database on an HP-UX server to store financial, customer, service, inventory, logistic, commission and demographic data. Data was migrated from disparate sources into the data warehouse so users anywhere in the company could share a single source and the same view of the business one version of the truth, as it were.
From their Web browsers, Clearnet users now can flex PowerPlay to drill down, slice and dice, rank, compare and explore data in multiple graphic displays. PowerPlay summarizes and presents corporate data the way users understand their business (i.e., units shipped on time, per city, sales per branch by region, etc.). Impromptu gives the Clearnet IT staff complete control of database access, security and network impact yet allows non-technical users to create their own ad hoc queries and reports in a familiar Windows-based environment. Users can switch between PowerPlay and Impromptu between summary information and detail with a mouse click.
Guided by Cognos PowerPlay Web and Impromptu, approximately 120 Clearnet users analysts, directors and executives now turn their accumulating data into useful information. What once took days or weeks to query, report and then analyze now can take minutes "speed-of-thought" analysis. This ease and speed of access, combined with the ability to view data multidimensionally, means users can spot trends as they occur, enabling proactive decision making.
For example, Clearnet's marketing group can look at demographic data in correlation with customers leaving the network. Able to view current customer trends, marketing now is better equipped to preempt customer loss as well as identify the most profitable segments of its customer base. Understanding this means marketing can target initiatives to increase customer satisfaction, market share and annual revenue or determine which products deliver the most return.
Looking further ahead, Clearnet can use such knowledge to help map its future. What already is clear is that, as the company continues to grow, business intelligence will be an integral factor in the Clearnet success story.
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