CATEGORY: Data Integration

REVIEWER: Glen Mac Donell, manager of data management and analysis for AAA Travel.

BACKGROUND: Since it began nearly a century ago, AAA and its Canadian affiliate, CAA, have grown into North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization. The North American leader in leisure travel, AAA Travel and CAA work with airlines, hotels, car rental firms, tour companies and cruise lines to send their 45 million members to destinations worldwide.

PLATFORMS: Compaq ProLiant DL 380 R01, Windows 2000, SQL/Server 7.0.

PROBLEM SOLVED: At the AAA National Office near Orlando, Cognos DecisionStream is at work to unify the data from 120 different AAA information sources. With more than 1,100 locations operated by 80 clubs across the United States and Canada, AAA Travel collects enormous volumes of transaction data. AAA Travel is using Cognos DecisionStream to extract data from existing disparate data sources. Our previous data consolidation process didn't offer the kind of analysis capabilities that we required. Because we were using a third-party supplier, any additions to the data integration process took a lot of time to manage and additions were an onerous process. Since implementing this solution, the savings in staff time is almost the equivalent of an additional staff person. With less time spent consolidating, my staff has more time to focus on business analysis and forecasting.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Using Cognos Series 7 managed reporting and data analysis in conjunction with Cognos DecisionStream, the data management and analysis group at the AAA National Office is now able to better analyze data to determine market trends, run comparative analysis by location, date or season, and track sales. They are then able to quickly build reports and distribute them over the AAA intranet to the association leadership and staff. This system was jointly designed and implemented by Sky Solutions. In the future, we are actively looking at the collaboration and performance metrics management offered by Cognos Metrics Manager. This will offer our decision- makers a means to manage our performance through performance scorecards and work within a tailor-made portal environment to view only those metrics that pertain to their areas of responsibility.

STRENGTHS: We strongly believe we are only scratching the surface of what is possible with Cognos DecisionStream and Cognos Series 7 overall. Cognos DecisionStream is an incredibly powerful data integration tool, offering an ease of administration and automation that allows our staff to accommodate rapid changes in our business. Today we are using Cognos DecisionStream in conjunction with Cognos Series 7 analysis to give our business users access to a unified view of our information, to view 100,000-foot trends in our business and drill down easily to individual record sets. The combination of Cognos DecisionStream and Cognos Series 7 business intelligence overall has taken us several steps forward with using technology for better business performance management.

WEAKNESSES: The Cognos solution is a very robust one. There is a tremendous amount of automation within the system, and we strongly feel that even more could be added – especially when it comes to adding in new data sources.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We were looking for an end-to-end business intelligence solution. Cognos clearly has the most functionally complete solution on the market. It became readily apparently that Cognos DecisionStream is a marketing-leading data integration solution.

DELIVERABLES: This business intelligence solution is used by the travel data management department, with reports and analysis shared with association leadership. The next phase will be to create customized data cubes for deployment to club senior management and other product stakeholders.

VENDOR SUPPORT: The support we received pre- and post-implementation was exemplary. Sky Solutions, the premier solutions partner of Cognos, really took the time to understand our business needs. While the project was more complex at the outset than both parties realized, the end result was a successful project completed within our budget parameters. There were never any surprises with Sky or the Cognos solution.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation was very easy to understand. In fact, our key team members who do most of the hands-on work with Cognos DecisionStream do not have an IT background. After a few days of training, they were ready to go.

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