REVIEWER: Mary Anne Rayfield, chief information officer for AAA Carolinas.

BACKGROUND: An affiliate of the American Automobile Association, AAA Carolinas is a not-for-profit organization serving over 1.3 million North Carolina and South Carolina members with travel, financial, insurance and auto-related services. This organization has 700 employees in 26 offices covering four distinct lines of business.

PLATFORMS: Microsoft SQL Server on NT also accessing databases on AS/400.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Facing increasing competition, AAA Carolinas needed to implement a robust, yet easy-to-use business intelligence (BI) solution for decision-makers throughout the organization. The BI solution provided seamless access to a newly built data warehouse, integrating data from four distinct transaction systems (travel, membership, insurance, Web). End users are now easily creating queries and reports on their own. Prior to this initiative, data and reports were generated from OLTP data by the IT staff and delivered to users either in Microsoft Excel pivot tables or reports generated from SQL queries.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The Brio Enterprise Decision Warehouse is used to access, analyze and report on data contained in a 15- gigabyte warehouse of customer data ranging from travel reservation history, membership history and insurance product sales to Web clickstream data. The IT staff, business managers and executives regularly access the warehouse to prepare and distribute analyses and reports. We have Web-based and client/server environments to allow users in 26 offices across two states equal access to data. The Brio Broadcast Server is used to schedule large, complex queries and reports to run overnight so users have their results when they arrive in the morning. An unplanned use of the Brio solution is that 50 percent of the queries access transactional data in addition to warehouse data. Brio makes that task surprisingly simple. A single query accesses all the required databases and combines results into one report for further analysis and distribution. Another use of Brio is to test and refine the data warehouse. Brio gathers data from both the warehouse and operational systems to see if data is loading accurately. This feature has saved countless hours and allowed the warehouse to go into production sooner than expected.

STRENGTHS: Quick deployment and ease of use allowed AAA Carolinas to quickly use analyses to improve decision making, increase revenue and attain a faster payback on the data warehouse project. Decision-makers are now able to minimize the risk of making new decisions by basing them on real-time use of dynamic analytics.

WEAKNESSES: It takes longer to access reports from the Web clients than with a client/server connection. In some cases, special securities and data aggregation need to be administered through the database rather than the tool.

SELECTION CRITERIA: AAA Carolinas wanted seamless access to a newly built, large data warehouse. Brio was selected based on the strength of its Web-based solution, ease of use for both IT staff and business managers, the "pivot" function which allows rows and columns to be instantaneously swapped with one movement of the mouse and the speed with which it can be deployed.

DELIVERABLES: In addition to standard reports built and distributed by the IT staff, business users regularly access the data warehouse to conduct their own analysis and build their own reports. The end result is empowered business decision-makers with the ability to make quick, fact-based decisions.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Brio's Professional Services was integral in performing the initial installation, training the IT staff and writing initial queries and reports. In just one week, AAA Carolinas was completely functional with Brio.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation was easy to understand, and Brio's Computer Based Training courses were very useful in advancing the IT team's Brio proficiency and training of end users.

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