The airline that began by dusting cotton crops in 1924 now carries more passengers than any other airline in the world ­ more than 106 million passengers last year alone. With nearly $15 billion in revenue last year, 74,000 employees worldwide and 2,600 flights a day to destinations around the world, Delta Air Lines believes that superior customer service is behind its most recent successes and will be its defining, competitive focus for years to come.

The Challenge

In a fiercely competitive, mature industry, Delta strives to find ways to get closer to the customer, differentiate itself in the marketplace and reduce costs. But with as many as 27 standalone data marts in its IT environment, Delta found that retrieving consistent information across systems was a challenge.

Without a single version of the truth, Delta's existing data mart strategy made decision making more difficult. To take advantage of the operational and customer data it collected, Delta knew that users needed easy access to enterprise business information.

The Solution

Delta had the data it needed within its systems. However, it was fragmented across various functional areas, and users weren't able to obtain an enterprise view of the business. The airline quickly set out to develop an enterprise-wide strategy to address its information needs.

Delta's data warehouse uses the NCR Tera-data database running on the NCR WorldMark 5150 massively parallel processing platform. Delta currently has two terabytes of data with capacity for five terabytes on EMC DASD.

With NCR's help, Delta consolidated the 27 data marts into a centralized data warehouse to gain a single version of accurate data across the organization. Delta's user community routinely asks challenging questions against this detailed data using Brio Technology's analytic tools and SAS tools. This approach allows Delta to rapidly optimize cross-organizational business opportunities that lead to improved levels of service to their customers and improved profitability to its shareholders.

The Benefits

By providing users with access to detail information, NCR's Teradata-based solution is uncovering a world of benefits for the airline. Delta's users now have increased confidence in the quality of information they can access and a speed of response that was not previously possible.

In its previous computing environment, a typical information request submitted to the technology team would sometimes take weeks for a response. Now, users get most answers within minutes. High-quality data that is readily available means users are able to make much more accurate and timely business decisions.

Targeting Each Customer

Delta uses the data warehouse to improve its understanding of sales and distribution channels ­ how passengers buy tickets (i.e., through travel agencies, over the phone or via the Internet). By understanding that mix and how changes in areas such as advertising, ticketing practices and incentives can influence how passengers purchase tickets, Delta can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its marketing and operations. Previously, Delta used a sampling of ticket sales to gather this information. With the data warehouse, Delta now can use a 100 percent sample to get a much more accurate assessment of its sales channels to determine the best way to sell to customers.

Customer Relationship Management

Delta is developing a strategy for customer relationship management (CRM) that will tie in to all of the touchpoints on the customer "travel ribbon," from making a reservation to going to the airport and checking bags, to boarding a flight, being in-flight and, finally, the post-airport experience. The goal will be to integrate real time analytical decision support capabilities directly with customer interactions.

As customer information, e-commerce and CRM become more tightly intertwined, Delta sees the data warehouse becoming more central to all they do.

Delta's Data Warehousing Principles for Success

The success of Delta Air Lines' data warehouse is built upon three key principles:

Enterprise Approach. The enterprise approach of Delta's data warehouse strategy is its core principle. The enterprise approach has several advantages ­ most importantly, the ability to deliver a single source of the truth to business users.

Easy Access to a Broad Set of Users. Delta Technology, Delta Air Lines' information technology subsidiary, has provided access to the data warehouse through the Web using the Brio query tool as its standard.

Development Strategy. A foundation of Delta Technology's development strategy is to complete all work within 60-day periods. Typically, the first phase of work involves populating the warehouse with transaction or detail level information and training users on Brio. In subsequent phases, summaries and canned reports are developed to place on top of the detail information.

Delta's data warehouse uses the NCR Teradata database running on the NCR WorldMark 5150 massively parallel processing platform.

NCR's flagship data warehousing software is its Teradata database, widely regarded by industry analysts and proven in industry benchmarks to be the best at handling large amounts of data and superior in its ability to grow in size without performance issues.

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