Together e-commerce and data warehousing are forming the backbone of information technology in the new millennium. Companies are learning that e- commerce, customer relationship management and the supply chain optimized for e- commerce are critical success factors for business in the new millennium. These applications are demanding integration of independent applications. The most powerful solution is the integration of a variety of technologies forming the enterprise information architecture built around a customer-centric business model. Components that enable enterprise application integration (EAI) include e-commerce; extraction, transformation and transport; and linkages to operational data stores and warehouses. The e-commerce layer supports the delivery channels of the business; the extraction, transformation and transport layer collects real-time information. Operational data stores and data warehouses provide the intelligent backbone that keeps track of customer preference, product production levels and customer service proactive initiatives. Linkages to these data stores optimize the key performance processes of the business and enable optimal customer service.

Customers now have electronic access to their financial portfolios, can plan their travel and order their groceries when and where they want; but now that they are getting that electronic access, customers want customized service as well. To remain at the forefront of technology and be successful in the new millennium, organizations must invest in intelligent e-commerce solutions that provide the service customers demand. In order to provide service via e-commerce solutions, organizations must be able to provide information based on complete customer profiles. Therefore, companies also are being forced to share information with their vendors ­ the sole objective being the enhancement of their value proposition to their customers.

Information supporting customer-focused processes resides in independent business applications that speak different languages. For example, the information a travel agent requires to service a customer resides in reservation systems, real-time airline flight information databases, customer profile systems and information sources from a variety of vendors. Data warehouses supporting EAI enable the flow of information across business units and applications that put intelligent e-commerce into action. To provide Web-based customer service, all this information must come together to point the customer to the services that they prefer: are they leisure or business travelers; do they travel domestically or internationally; do they fly first class or economy; do they want to be notified via cell phone or beeper when their flights are delayed; do they make their reservations personally or through their executive assistant? All of these choices will dictate the level of service and the preference of the customer, saving the customer time, increasing their loyalty and saving the travel agency money by offering the right level of customer service based on the profile of the customer. The data warehouse is the backbone of this architecture. It consolidates the historical information with continuous monitoring and adaptation for changes in preferences and usage. By building customer profiling software agents into the warehouse, messages can be sent to the delivery channel ­ either Web sites or customer service representatives ­ informing them of special handling. To completely support the process, real-time information must be assembled from a variety of reservation systems and airline flight databases. The information to support the customer service transaction, either proactive or reactive in nature, is then presented to the Web-enabled delivery channel via messaging software that collects the information from the warehouse and other applications. Information is consolidated based on business rules, and then sophisticated e-commerce solutions access the customer-centric source to deliver appropriate information to customers through a seamless interface ­ in other words, "one-stop shopping."

This integrated architecture also makes it easier for information technology departments to use alternative applications in the future without the headache of not being able to consolidate and analyze their customer data. The architecture, by nature, is open, allowing for future expandability and integration. Electronic commerce supported by customer-centric data warehousing can improve efficiency and save organizations time and money while simultaneously providing better service to their customers. The buying process is simplified ­ not only are customers satisfied with the ability to make purchases any time and from anywhere, companies benefit from what is essentially a 24-hour work day. The integration of the financial and operational applications coupled with data warehouses linked to delivery channel applications will eventually enable vendors to cut down on the human interaction and streamline the process. The benefits will show up on the bottom line in saved resource time and money and, most importantly, customer satisfaction and loyalty.

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