I recently had the opportunity to be a judge for The Data Warehousing Institute's overall Best Practice awards for data warehousing. Congratulations to all the nominees, especially the winner – Harrah's Entertainment, also the winner of the CRM data warehousing category. Indeed, CRM-ready data warehouses were very prevalent among the best practice programs.

Most data warehouse programs can learn a lot from these programs that are leading the field. Each excelled in a certain area such as meta data, ERP sourcing, teamwork or data quality, but there were commonalities across these best practice programs. Beyond the usual, well-understood tickets to entry in data warehousing today, I've pulled out four non-obvious themes prevalent throughout these best practices programs.

  1. They take a program approach to data warehousing. As discussed in last month's column, the program approach to data warehousing involves a multipurpose data warehouse architecture with cross-functionally agreed subject areas with common tools and processes throughout. Management at The Sherwin-Williams Company uses the data warehouse "single version of the truth" to obtain a consistent view of performance and evaluate the improvements required to gain market share. Sherwin-Williams, through the data warehouse, is able to merge sales information across divisional boundaries and manage its major accounts as single entities.

    DaimlerChrysler Financial Services has also established their data warehouse as their single version of the truth. Alliance Blue Cross Blue Shield supports a wide variety of business uses ranging from product pricing and cost-trend analysis to disease studies and regulatory reporting. At Ultramar Diamond Shamrock, although they have implemented SAP's Business Information Warehouse (BW), they do not limit their data warehouse to SAP data. Instead, BW is an integral part of an overarching enterprise data warehouse architecture.

    SBC Communications' data warehouse is instrumental in integrating disparate data from the companies SBC acquires by giving the company one enterprise view. Their warehouse is used for managing customer portfolio choices, market segmentation, campaign management, competitive analysis, calling card usage, financial information and for identifying new markets.

  2. Most target and measure business value. It is extremely powerful when the budget cycle comes around to be able to articulate verified ROI in the millions of dollars as DaimlerChrysler Financial Services does. Or how about Harrah's internal rate of return (IRR) of 60 percent for the overall customer relationship management (CRM) program, of which the data warehouse is an integral component? The Sherwin-Williams data warehouse merited mention in their annual report. GE Capital Fleet Services expects to save $1.6 million in printing and postage costs directly resulting from their data warehouse program.

  3. The business is highly involved in the program. This may be one of those well-known items; however, these programs, with their high levels of business integration, prove that much of the knowledge isn't making it to implementation. At DaimlerChrysler Financial Services, the data warehouse committee, with representatives from different business units, partners with IT to launch new subject areas. Each business unit takes ownership of the formulas used to compute the different measures they use.

    At Alliance, business teams work with the technical teams to identify key data elements which are subject to quality measurements and tolerances. At Capital One, the business completely owns the meta data, and data stewardship is spread throughout the organization.

  4. Most are focused on value to or from the customer. These data warehouses support customer intimacy – the most effective way of competing in business today. Active Research, Inc. enables e- commerce consumers to determine the ideal product to buy across a large number of product categories. Harrah's solution analyzes hundreds of customer attributes to determine each customer's preferences, predict what future services they could use, likelihood to visit, predicted spending opportunities, opportunities for cross-selling and more. They have the only system in the industry to recognize and reward customers on a national basis.

    A GE Capital Fleet Services' customer can drill down to see who drives the most miles or what garages service problematic cars. They receive personalized maintenance reminders from the warehouse.

Other overall trends observed included having parties external to the company as users of the data warehouse, all Web-based access and intra-day data currency.
Why not make a resolution for 2001 to do your part to ensure your data warehouse program is effectively managing these four key areas and make your data warehouse a best practice program? Studying best practice programs in your industry is one means of understanding the possibilities and identifying the gaps for your program.

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