WhiteLight Proteus Data Management ToolsREVIEWER: Keith Ronald, application support manager for British Gas Trading.

BACKGROUND: British Gas Trading is the United Kingdom's (UK) largest energy supplier. The company was originally a government-operated organization providing gas to the 18 million plus households in the UK. In the mid 1990s, the company was privatized, and the market deregulated over an 18-month period beginning in 1996. The Competition Data Warehouse was implemented to monitor this deregulation process and to provide ongoing customer churn data. The project was implemented originally with Pyramid Systems (hardware and reporting tools) and WhiteLight Technology (consulting and data management tools).

PLATFORMS: All UNIX, originally Pyramid Systems followed by Digital Alpha and now Sequent. Throughout, the database has been Oracle.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Our initial challenge was to monitor the deregulation process, a government requirement. Once deregulation was complete, our needs expanded to include customer churn, profiling, winbacks and other data. To meet these needs, the Competition Data Warehouse takes data from billing and supply systems and applies external data. Building and analyzing this data provides us with the means to perform significant analysis, driving our competitive advantage. Additionally, The Competition Data Warehouse is used as a source of information covering credit management. These many and complex data management processes led us to a build-versus-buy decision. That is, why use scarce IT resources to write data management programs when a tool can be used to generate such programs - and be self-documenting. This has meant lower build costs and substantially lower maintenance costs.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The proteus product set is made up of three tools, data extraction (proteus:xg), transformation and load (proteus:tg) and a relational OLAP population tool (proteus:rg). We do not use the extraction tool but do extensively use both the transformation and load tool, and the relational OLAP tool. With these tools we generate COBOL and UNIX scripts, and Oracle PL/SQL. These proteus-generated data processes are used to merge, cleanse and transform data within our process warehouse. The proteus relational OLAP tool then takes this data and populates the star schema we use for most of the reporting. These population processes are a combination of monthly processes, all customer accounts and daily processes for leavers and winbacks.

STRENGTHS: WhiteLight Technology has been involved from the beginning of the project, providing data warehousing consulting from analysis of requirements to design and support. Our R-OLAP database was originally designed to support MicroStrategy reporting and has been modified for Business Objects. The proteus tools can generate specific code to populate both of these schemas.

WEAKNESSES: We have migrated the database from different hardware platforms. Although all UNIX, they have propriety extensions and hardware-specific pre-compilers and compilers. This has meant porting the data management COBOL source code generated by proteus and recompiling in the new environment. Although this only takes a matter of days, is an extra activity which we are not sure other tools require.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We selected Pyramid and WhiteLight Technology because of their overall data warehouse knowledge and experience.

DELIVERABLES: The Competition Data Warehouse produces a number of reports covering areas of customer churn and the profiling of leavers and winbacks. Specifically in the area of data management, we have a series of error, exception and warning reports and e-mails, with questionable data being written to error files for further analysis.

VENDOR SUPPORT: WhiteLight Technology has supported us very well throughout the project. They provide us with ongoing third-level support for the data warehouse, provide data analysis, and undertake design changes and enhancements.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is detailed to a level which enables us to perform first- and second-level support.

proteus data management tools
WhiteLight Technology Ltd.
Clonskeagh House
Russell Road
Shepperton, Surrey TW17 9HS
+44 (0) 1932-246252

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