COMMENT: In The Field
Locate and Use BIBy Ian Abramson
Leveraging your existing data—and Oracle’s capabilities—lets everybody win.
With this, my first column in Oracle Magazine as the new president of the Independent Oracle Users Group (IOUG), both the group and I move into a new era—I into this leadership role and the organization into a future with challenges both known and unknown. Ari Kaplan, our previous president, leaves a legacy of solid service to the user community, growing the IOUG to new and unprecedented heights. I want to continue the organization’s growth and vision, and I look forward to identifying and meeting new challenges with our membership.
The ability to meet challenges depends on making good decisions—which in turn depends on having good information. Today, the most valuable resource many organizations have is their data assets. The information that you collect to run your business is rich with valuable insight into your business processes, your customers, and your growth opportunities. Still, our data and databases can be an underused—or even untapped—resource.
The Power of Business Intelligence
One way to better leverage the information that we have is to use the power of business intelligence (BI) and data warehousing. As a consultant, I’ve encountered many businesses that employ little or no business reporting, let alone any kind of business analytics. These organizations are at a competitive disadvantage—and many do realize that they need more information.
One problem that my team worked on involved hospital patient care in Ontario, Canada. Information about cancer patients—diagnoses, treatments, and outcomes—was widely distributed across all the facilities the patients had visited and was inaccessible from different facilities. This led to incomplete analyses when physicians and nurses at one facility did not have immediate access to what the patient had experienced at another facility. The solution that we created (using Oracle Database) collects information from all of the treatment facilities. Hospital groups can now identify issues within the system, improve performance, and speed treatments. In addition, the same information is available to the public in summarized form, helping people to make better decisions, such as whether going to a hospital in Ottawa for immediate treatment is better than waiting in Toronto.
Of course, healthcare is not the only industry that can take advantage of BI technologies. Highly competitive industries such as telecommunications really see the economic advantages of leveraging data. I recently analyzed two telecom providers using their data in very different ways, with the goal of seeing how their systems could be improved. One company, in the early stages of the data adoption lifecycle, collects statistics about customers, primarily so its marketing department can focus on improving the customer experience and sell products. While this company successfully integrates its data from various lines of business into a single repository, it lacks the depth needed to provide true analysis of its business practices.
The second organization does the same basic customer analysis, but it also addresses its business practices. In near real time, this company can evaluate the cost of a wireless call while the call is occurring. By using historical patterns and costs for each routing method, business analysts can identify the most cost-effective way to route a call through the company’s system. Implementing such call routing has saved millions of dollars, as well as keeping charges down for customers. The lesson? Create an information system that leverages your data to improve your efficiency—and your bottom line.
The Functionality Is Out There
Recently, a customer of mine was thinking of spending a quarter of a million dollars on a new extract, transform, and load (ETL) tool. Even though this customer is a pure Oracle installation, managers were considering other vendors for their ETL strategy. I pointed out that Oracle Warehouse Builder could provide all the functionality they need; the managers there weren’t aware that this functionality existed within the licensed Oracle products they were using. Thus, Oracle Warehouse Builder was a much more cost-effective solution than looking at other vendors’ products.
Staying on top of what new Oracle functionality there is—and what it can do for you—isn’t necessarily easy, but it’s critical to keep your skills current and to sharpen your organization’s competitive edge. One way to do that is through the experience and expertise of the members of the IOUG.
IOUG President Ian Abramson (firstname.lastname@example.org) lives in Toronto.