PLATFORMS: DSS Server: Windows NT 4.0. Data warehouse: NCR 3600/5100.

BACKGROUND: AAFES (Army and Air Force Exchange Service) is a $6.9 billion global retail business providing quality merchandise and services at uniformly low prices to active duty military, Guard and Reserve members, military retirees and family members in the United States, Europe and the Pacific.

PROBLEM SOLVED: DSS Server enables AAFES to conduct strategic marketing and promotional programs to more effectively target our retail catalog customers. The data mart functionality in DSS Server enabled us to generate mail lists for direct mail campaigns based on a complex set of marketing criteria. The efficiency and ease with which even novice end users can produce such large lists and perform customer demographics analysis have had a valuable and strategic impact on our business which helped us better meet our customers' needs and determine the overall effectiveness of our sales promotions.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: DSS Server allows us to use one integrated architecture to create very large sophisticated data marts directly against our data warehouse using familiar business terminology. Data mart tables are created via a user-friendly wizard and can be customized using the pre/post-SQL feature. Also, the scheduling capability of DSS Server can be leveraged to automate the creation and updating of the data marts.

STRENGTHS: DSS Server wide ranging schema and rich multidimensional model support allow us to build very sophisticated and specific data marts. AAFES has a 13-million customer information database from which direct mail campaign files are generated based on very complex conditions such as customer response, season and item criteria.

The use of MicroStrategy's intuitive, reusable and powerful report building objects via a user-friendly wizard greatly simplifies the data mart creation. A whole spectrum of users, from power users to administrators, can now easily create their own customized data marts. DSS Server also allows for the creation of very large tables in the data mart. This is especially beneficial in applications such as direct mail campaigns, where mailing lists with 100,000 or more customers are required for effective campaigning. Further, the entire process of data mart creation and updates can be automated using the scheduling feature of DSS Server.

WEAKNESSES: The ability for even end users to create data marts is a great resource for IT shops looking to empower all of their users but some caution should be excercised, particularly when the users are not very computer savvy.

SELECTION CRITERIA: The IS and end-user community at AAFES evaluated various tools. We were looking for a tool that provided a user-friendly and powerful environment for the creation of reports and data marts. In particular, the primary factors behind our choice were intuitiveness, complex data mart creation, scalability and an integrated architecture. Further, the technology is scalable to a large user-population, massive databases, large data marts and a wide range of user skills. Also, we could leverage our existing infrastructure and investments.

DELIVERABLES: DSS Server has allowed AAFES to save money and to better market its products to its customers faster. Application of the data mart functionality has streamlined our marketing processes and is helping us maintain our premier position in the marketplace.

VENDOR SUPPORT: We received excellent pre-sales, production and post-production support.

DOCUMENTATION: The manuals and on-line help for DSS Server are very helpful. We recommend MicroStrategy's training to supplement the documentation and promote further understanding among our users.

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