Don't under estimate the role extranets can play in a successful data warehousing venture, according to Barbara Wixom, who spoke Wednesday to seminar attendees at TDWI World Conference – Spring 2001 in Washington, D.C. "A data warehouse extranet provides information and reports that cement relationships with customers and suppliers," Wixom says. "It gives external users secure access to internal information, including account shipping, performance and other data on an individual and aggregated basis." A Web-enabled data warehouse is essential for customers and suppliers, Wixom says. However, as companies begin working on their extranet strategy, they must keep in mind and solve problems relating to security, scalability, training, monetary and integration issues. For instance, GE Capital Fleet Services was having problems with an outdated paper process when dealing with suppliers, customers, managers and drivers. It was taking the company up to 14 weeks to distribute selector packets to drivers and then follow-up and monitor the process. It was also taking about eight days to place vehicle orders with manufacturers. But with an extranet linked to the data warehouse, GE's new Web-enabled reporting system can accept immediate order confirmation and has eliminated 40 percent of driver calls. "The application brings the data to any number of users without incremental costs," says John Schmitz, e-business project manager for GE Capital Fleet Services.

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