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OSC Sharpens its Competitive Edge with Firstlogic's Information Quality Suite

  • April 01 2001, 1:00am EST
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CATEGORY: Data Quality

REVIEWER: LeRoy A. Bova, Jr., technical administrator for the Marketing Information Division of Orlando Sentinel Communications.

BACKGROUND: Orlando Sentinel Communications (OSC) keeps nearly one million central Floridians informed of local, state, national and international news on a daily basis via its flagship newspaper, the Orlando Sentinel, along with several niche publications and online news services. In addition, OSC is a partner with Time Warner Communications in Orlando's 24-hour local news channel, Central Florida News 13 (CFN 13).

PLATFORMS: OSC runs Firstlogic's Information Quality Suite on Microsoft Windows NT and IBM AIX. OSC's data warehouse runs on an 8- processor IBM RS/6000 running Oracle7.3, using the Cognos and MarketInfo front- end tools to support our 100-user population.

PROBLEM SOLVED: OSC had been outsourcing its database marketing efforts as well as the management of its subscriber and customer data. We had no group directly responsible for the data that was being loaded into the data warehouse, which created problems – ­ unnecessary expenses, slow turnaround times and questionable extraction qualities. The result was less than optimal direct marketing programs due in large part to duplicate, inaccurate and non-standardized customer data. We wanted to build an internal data warehouse that wasn't infected with bad or duplicate customer data ­ not an easy job when customer information flows into the OSC enterprise from myriad sources: phone, mail, the Sentinel Web site and one-on-one sales contacts. Compounding the problem, OSC's circulation, advertising and direct marketing departments all maintain separate customer databases. In addition, OSC purchases data such as demographic profiles, lists of new residents in the area and competitive media data which shows when and where businesses advertise. These data sources can also contain duplicate, inaccurate and non-standardized customer data.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: For OSC, Firstlogic software matches and consolidates multiple sources of customer data into one household view used throughout the enterprise. Customer data is received from the multiple enterprise entry points in the form of ASCII flat files. These files are sent through Firstlogic's information quality modules, which cleanse and standardize customer information and match the files based on OSC-defined business rules to define households. The matches identified within the multiple files determine the level the data gets loaded. The output from the files is "normalized" into the correct layout for the Oracle update tables: the individual update table, household update table and address table.

STRENGTHS: The ability to seamlessly match and consolidate multiple sources of customer data into one household view for the enterprise is very compelling for us. In addition, the ability to generate detailed job summary reports is important.

WEAKNESSES: OSC's sophisticated householding techniques sometimes require multiple passes to achieve desired results. Multilevel householding capabilities are included in the spring release and will enhance the suite's overall functionality.

SELECTION CRITERIA: OSC chose Firstlogic software over other products because of its user interface and complete suite of tools. The software runs on our NT and AIX platforms and uses a simplified GUI.

DELIVERABLES: Firstlogic information quality tools helped OSC sharpen its competitive edge by matching and standardizing customer information into our data warehouse from several data sources. The result –­ a clean customer data warehouse containing accurate and complete customer profiles used throughout the enterprise. Specifically, Firstlogic information quality tools dramatically reduced the processing time for OSC's subscriber merges ­ from four days to four hours. Duplicates that were manually loaded into the warehouse are now standardized, matched and loaded into the warehouse automatically. Firstlogic software helped OSC's Teleservices Department increase its sales-to-contact ratio by 15 percent. The Sentinel Direct has increased its revenue by 40 percent by providing newspaper advertisers with targeted mailing lists for direct mail campaigns that support newspaper display ads. Producing such a high level of quality data has differentiated Sentinel Direct from other list providers, generating greater sales. Finally, OSC has saved about $750,000 annually since it internalized the warehouse.

VENDOR SUPPORT: We consider our relationship with Firstlogic to be more of a partnership than a customer/vendor relationship. When we call the customer support line, the call is always returned the same day. They have contributed greatly to the success of our data warehouse project.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is comprehensive and easy to read, although we rarely need to refer to it.

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