The Brussels Airport Terminal Company (BATC) manages the international airport in Brussels, Belgium, which serves over 15 million passengers. BATC was charged with building and operating a new terminal, integrating 150 companies that work at the airport, including 85 airlines and meeting all of their different information systems and technology needs.

Implementation Summary

The Brussels Airport IT management team's challenge was to tightly integrate terminal operations to meet increased demand resulting from this new terminal. To accomplish this, BATC created a single source for operational data, incorporating all of the processes within the terminal. This data source integrates and distributes timely information to and from each operation, including flight, passenger and baggage coordination. The data source ensures airport resources are used optimally, such as sharing check-in desks between different airlines. Also, it enables different airlines to access their own dedicated information for check-in counters, boarding gates and ticketing areas as well as update the system with any changes. In addition, it gives security officials, customs, state police and private airport security access to the data they require.

With the new terminal and the new systems, BATC has been able to capture and analyze actual aircraft movements, manage the manpower and equipment of the airport more efficiently and reduce the paper flow across all airport users. Additionally, management and operational staff are now able to quickly access this information resulting in improved service to customers. The result is a well-managed terminal with timely, accurate, controlled information flowing among users through secure channels.

BATC also wanted terminal managers to be able to monitor, benchmark and review their operations. They added a data warehouse that archives all central database information from this single data source. They are using databases from Oracle and Sybase of approximately 4 or 5GB in size, with about 13 million records. This database matches some of the criteria for a data warehouse, such as denormalized data and historical data in a query-only format, but has some unique customizations as well. For example, data replication occurs on-line. The database is accessed via BATC's Ethernet TCP/IP network. It resides on a Sun Ultra Enterprise server.

BATC still had one remaining issue--how to increase end-user access to information. In a traditional end-user environment, the end user defines his query without understanding the technical impact of his choices. Conversely, the IT specialist would implement the user's specifications without knowing the decision the user would take based on the information. BATC needed a tool that would hide the technical complexity of the database so that power users could query it directly and understand the impact of their choices on the results received.

BATC also found that their most experienced Sybase DBA was spending a significant part of his time generating queries for end users. The IT staff discovered that analyzing the long-awaited query results always led the user to ask additional questions and make additional report requests. As a result they determined that the goal of a query and reporting tool would be to allow the end user to get the information they needed while letting the database experts focus on their job--managing the information flow for the airport.

Because the end-user tool needs were so critical, BATC conducted a very thorough investigation of the products available. BATC evaluated four query and reporting products. The evaluation consisted of a one-week test pilot against their own data. They selected Brio Enterprise from Brio Technology.

What Benefits Does This Technology Provide?

BATC found Brio Enterprise to be very versatile, flexible and less dependent on IT personnel. Other products required a mandatory semantic layer, with predefined objects. BATC wanted the control to be in the hands of the user. With BrioQuery, the query, analysis and reporting tool within Brio Enterprise, the user can add new objects and queries very quickly. BATC was able to affordably implement Brio with their existing internal resources. They wanted to keep the complexity of the implementation limited to the resources they had available.

Paola Petré, data manager for BATC, explained that the evolution of their data warehouse and BrioQuery really contained two aspects. "First, you need to discover the tool. Second, you need to discover the database. We found learning the tool to be very fast, very user friendly. What takes time is discovering the optimal way to use the repository. IT needs to review and test complex queries," says Petré.

For users who do not want to get involved with the extraction of data, predefined queries based on their needs are developed, explains Petré. "Brio enables us to distinguish between the production and analysis of data." BATC's operational staff was able to discover the contents of the database without going through the IT team.

The Internet is changing the way BATC delivers information. BATC plans to have their intranet in production by September. In addition, "We want to expand our intranet to include an extranet," explains Petré. "We handle a lot of data, which is of common interest for the whole airport community. With Brio.Insight we could distribute the information to handlers, airlines, the police, customs control, tax free shops, maintenance and cleaning."

Practical Advice

The first lesson BATC learned during this process was that they had overestimated the quality of the data. Because the nature of their business is so time critical--daily operations, passengers, aircraft movement--they realized they needed to increase the quality of the data distributed for decision making.

BATC also discovered that their database staff was spending more time than previously thought servicing end-user demands for data. Thus, an end-user tool that allowed users of all levels to work directly with the data was needed--one that didn't require extensive IT intervention before, during and after deployment. One of the reasons they chose Brio's product was that it could be quickly deployed within the framework of BATC's limited internal resources.

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