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Winners: Best Practices Awards 2006

TDWI Best Practices Award 2006

TDWI’s Best Practices Awards recognize organizations for developing and implementing world-class business intelligence and data warehousing solutions. Here are summaries of the winning solutions for 2006. For more information, visit



1-800 CONTACTS is the world’s largest supplier of contact lenses. No one is more likely to have a customer’s exact prescription in stock and ready to ship than 1-800 CONTACTS. The company is dedicated to providing excellent customer service. Orders are placed by phone or via the Web ( Company headquarters are located in Draper, UT.

In April 2005, the foundation of a new data warehouse was laid and an order activity data mart was completed. This met the basic needs of senior management and key analysts by giving them a consistent view of daily performance, but it did little to leverage the available information to improve daily performance in the call center.

A project was proposed to create a performance dashboard that the agents would be able to see continually, providing them with the information necessary to change behaviors and increase performance. Monthly incentive bonuses would be tied to agents’ performance based on a combination of performance measures: closing ratio, average order size, productivity, and quality score. Using relative indices instead of actual values provided an equitable way to compare all agents.

In the deployed solution, a dashboard of gauges and charts shows agents how they are performing in each of the scoring categories. The data is updated every 15 minutes. The dashboard not only shows them how they are performing for the current day, but also compares them to their own performance month-to-date, to the call center averages, to the other members of their team, and to the goals that they set for themselves. The gauges, charts, and indicators give them a quick visualization of their performance without requiring them to page through reports or spreadsheets.

Using indexing of actual scores, where only the agents that worked the same minutes were compared to each other, created a level playing field for comparison. Giving the agents their detailed performance information, in a timely way and in an easy-to-read dashboard, not only established a competitive environment, but also empowered them with the information they needed to improve.


BNSF Railway, Inc.

A subsidiary of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation (NYSE:BNI), BNSF Railway Company operates one of the largest railroad networks in North America, with 32,000 route miles covering 28 states and two Canadian provinces. The railway is among the world’s top transporters of intermodal traffic, moves more grain than any other American railroad, transports the components of many of the products we depend on daily, and hauls enough low-sulphur coal to generate about 10 percent of the electricity produced in the U.S. BNSF is an industry leader, Web-enabling a variety of customer transactions at

As part of BNSF’s ongoing commitment to operational excellence, the company successfully launched its corporate dashboard in 2005 to provide real-time views of critical operating measures for BNSF’s management team. The dashboard accelerates the research process, allowing users to understand information more quickly and enhancing the departments’ ability to make informed decisions.

Key to the dashboard’s effectiveness is its automated reporting on 40+ significant operational measures. These measures are color-coded to allow viewers a quick assessment of trends and current status. From crew starts to locomotive velocity, from safety measures to revenue and on-time performance, the dashboard has the streamlined ability to drill down into critical operating measures and provide comparisons against historical views. This process is essential to managers’ understanding of past performance and their ability to take subsequent action. By displaying clear, factual information, BNSF’s corporate dashboard tool assists management in the day-to-day operations of the railroad.

The dashboard demonstrates creative methods of visualization, a “map of the market” view. Users can view the daily performance of BNSF’s railroad activities, including safety, train statistics, fuel, car cycle, revenue units, crew starts, and car inventory, among others. On the same screen, there is a geographic display map in which users can select a specific location to obtain detailed information regarding activities at a given locale on BNSF’s railroad network.



In 2005, International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) had more than 329,000 employees worldwide and revenues of $91.1 billion. While IBM produces and delivers computer hardware and software services, IBM is also an innovation company.

IBM’s Enterprise Business Information (EBI) initiative began in 2002 with a focus on customer information, sales reporting, and governance responsibilities for customer data. Over the course of the next four years, the organization gained data responsibilities in many data areas (ordering, offerings, sales knowledge, business partners, software products, analytics, and enterprise data warehouses) while expanding data governance, first for IBM’s supply chain organization and then for the complete enterprise.

With all of these information management responsibilities in a company as large and complex as IBM came the need for more encompassing data governance and stewardship leadership. IBM’s solution was an EBI center of excellence (COE). The EBI COE provides the foundation for the CIO’s strategic imperatives by recognizing information as an asset and enabling internal transformation through processes, methods, roles, and services, thus building an integrated business information environment.

The EBI COE components are intentionally aligned with the senior executive processes and management teams controlling the direction of all enterprise initiatives and projects. This has elevated the “information health” of enterprise initiatives and projects, ensuring the quality of IBM’s enterprise data. The company’s ability to integrate data into information and knowledge for business use bears directly into the funding decisions as IBM’s transformation activities advance.

From a data governance perspective, the initial components of the EBI COE system (information management framework components, IM management system, and IM stewardship programs) have institutionalized themselves within IBM. The stewardship programs have raised information quality focus across all executives in the business information value chains. The momentum established with these early EBI COE components is carrying forward with an ever-increasing number of EBI COE service requests.

While the EBI COE is still considered a relatively new effort, there have already been tangible savings realized. In the ETL aspects alone, a 20 percent cost avoidance for every $1 million project is being realized through the use of EBI COE services and use of EBI COE common corporate software.


Royal Bank of Canada


Royal Bank of Canada is Canada’s largest bank as measured by market capitalization and assets, and is one of North America’s leading diversified financial services companies. RBC provides personal and commercial banking services, wealth management, investment banking, insurance, and transaction processing services to more than 14 million clients in 30 countries.

As it grew and diversified, RBC accumulated vast amounts of customer and transactional data in divisional product and operating systems. By the mid-1990s, the need for data became a paramount requirement to the firm’s marketing, customer service, and risk management areas. Business units began building single-purpose data marts for reporting and analysis.

Data architects within RBC’s enterprise information management (EIM) group realized that an enterprise data management solution was essential to provide a unified view of the business and its customers, as well as to control costs, eliminate redundancy and duplication, ensure consistent representation, and improve business agility.

With support from executive management, the EIM group undertook a long-range, incremental program of infrastructure development, beginning with the creation of a staging environment to support data transformation and quality control. This allowed them to impose data management standards and quality control processes at the earliest possible moment, while extracting maximum value and performance from existing data mart investments.

Eventually a small-scale warehouse was implemented to support marketing operations, demonstrate the utility of a common repository, and build support for a true enterprise facility. In 2000 that support was realized, and a major data warehouse/ data mart consolidation effort was launched based on the NCR/Teradata platform. Since that time, growth and development have been continuous.

The enterprise data warehouse architecture was designed from the outset to enable scalability, reliability, flexibility, and adaptability over the long term. In particular, the EIM team took a disciplined approach to data structure definition, providing an integrated data and semantic layer that enables efficient management and fast, cost-effective reuse of data. The EDW currently executes more than a million queries and up to 25,000 ETL batch processes every month. It houses more than 30 terabytes of business data, and supports more than 33,000 users.


Broward County Public Schools


Broward County Public Schools, in Florida, is the sixth-largest school district in the U.S., with a unique urban/suburban mix of students. It is the largest fully accredited district. The county’s 108 offices and 281 schools are home to more than 270,200 pre-kindergarten through twelfth-grade students, 75,000 adult education students, and more than 41,900 employees, of which more than 17,000 are teachers. With a budget for the 2004/05 school year of $4.14 billion, the Broward County School Board must be run as any large company would.

The Broward School District built a data warehouse, deployed a BI solution, and staffed a supporting organization that resembles a market-driven company in the private sector. The data warehouse reporting system has dramatically changed the way Broward educates students and propels them to achieve, far beyond what was previously thought to be attainable. Data and reports permeate nearly every aspect of state reporting, monitoring, class management, test score improvement, and student counseling.

Broward County’s robust data warehouse and reporting solution have become the backbone of all data and reporting activities at Broward. Thanks to the Web-based reporting, all users now have quick and easy access to data. With many different types of computers, the Web-based reporting environment is ideal for schools and for users who have varying levels of technical proficiency.

The symptoms of the lack of data and reports were painful to district employees and very expensive for the district. Now, warehouse data is used throughout the district for a wide variety of reporting and student assistance uses, including:

  • Grades
  • Attendance monitoring
  • Exceptional student tracking
  • Standardized test score monitoring
  • Student health records
  • Teacher/class composition
  • Staff certification
  • Student discipline tracking
  • Curriculum planning based on test score performance
  • State reports on high school student absenteeism
  • State-required reporting on a number of different criteria

Nationwide Insurance


Nationwide is one of the largest insurance and financial services companies in the world, with more than $157 billion in statutory assets. Core businesses include domestic property and casualty insurance, life insurance and retirement savings, asset management, and strategic investments. Nationwide provides a full range of products and financial services from auto, fire, life, health, and commercial insurance to administrative services, annuities, mutual funds, and retirement plans.

Over several decades, the Nationwide Finance division had implemented more than 100 legacy applications across dozens of lines of business, functional units, subsidiary companies, and geographic locations. As a result, the finance division grappled with problems common to the large enterprise—inconsistent data, poor visibility, and subpar data governance and reporting capabilities.

Nationwide Finance’s implementation of an enterprise data warehouse has unleashed a profound business impact across all aspects of its operations. In production since October 2005, the enterprise data warehouse is at the heart of a revamped finance data infrastructure called FOCUS (Faster, Online, Customer-driven, User-friendly, Streamlined) that has redefined the role and operating model of Nationwide’s core finance functions, processes, and systems. Standard data definitions and well-defined data governance are common across the FOCUS platform.

The enterprise data warehouse and MDM platform are enhancing the finance organization’s ability to grow value for the various businesses at Nationwide. There is now one authoritative source of consistent, accurate enterprise finance data. All data is clearly defined across the enterprise so each business unit and the three major information systems (ERP general ledger, EPM, and data warehouse) use the same data definitions. Updates are consistent and transparent to all business units, and the data warehouse is supplying the consistent information needed to enable effective decision making across the enterprise. Management has easy access to relevant and timely information and can compare results across the enterprise with confidence and minimal manual intervention. Through FOCUS, Nationwide is reinventing the way finance services are performed and delivered to the enterprise.


Pannon GSM

Pannon GSM, a wholly owned subsidiary of Norway’s Telenor ASA, holds a share of more than 34 percent in the Hungarian mobile telecom market. Hungary’s mobile telecom market has a penetration ratio of 87.5 percent, so Pannon GSM focuses heavily on customer retention and loyalty, churn management, and revenue protection. That means it needs the ability to mine customer and product data to predict behavior and reach each customer on an individual basis.

Pannon had operated with disparate systems and reporting sources that provided slow, inconsistent data; no common business language across departments; and no ability to automate marketing processes such as campaign management. Campaigns had to be done manually, and campaign responses could not be handled by the existing systems. In 2000, Pannon implemented a Teradata warehouse to serve as a single source of consistent, accurate data.

Pannon now has one fully integrated enterprise data warehouse. The data warehouse integrates such information as sales, call detail records, customer data, billing and payment, events, customer interactions, external sources, and network performance. More than 150 business users from across the company access the system.

The data warehouse is the foundation that supports a 360-degree view of the customer as the point of integration for 1 to 10 years of historical data for all customer, channel, and network data. The development of a common language for BI data means that data from disparate sources can be easily integrated into the data warehouse with the assurance that it’s one common, accurate set of information. Users now have fast access to consistent, near-real-time data to create complex reports and do sophisticated analyses.

Pannon’s data warehouse provided the foundation for implementing advanced data mining and predictive analytics. Those capabilities are delivering business value such as significant churn reduction, exceptional customer response rates through highly targeted campaigns, reduced fraud that saves millions, and much more. These capabilities are keeping Pannon a step ahead of the competition in the saturated Hungarian mobile telecom market.


AmerisourceBergen Specialty Group


As a key division for AmerisourceBergen Corp. (NYSE: ABC), ABSG works with manufacturers to improve their product launches and expand their markets, ensuring that provider organizations receive the specialty products they need and give physicians the resources for their practices. There are eight divisions within the Specialty Group, and they have combined to lift the company to phenomenal heights. Two words have become the mantra for ABSG employees in 2006: “knowledge driven.” In an industry where competition can win business based on price alone, ABSG is betting that being knowledge driven will separate them from competitors. All indicators show that the strategy is working.

Just as the heart pumps blood to all the vital parts of the body, the ABSG enterprise business intelligence team provides critical data to all systems in the organization. For example, the Rebate Analysis and Pricing Program (RAPP) allows ABSG to launch pinpoint attacks on competitors’ weak spots. A Web site enables customers to log in and see their existing contracts, the price for each item, and even enables customers to maximize rebates. For the CRM system, the EBI team developed near-real-time data feeds to support key alert functionality.

ABSG ships 90 percent of its products the same day its customers place their orders. To manage this, the EBI team provides a dashboard at each of the ABSG distribution centers. A near-real-time dashboard projected on a screen in the warehouse provides visibility into the progress of delivered orders as well as the individual performances of the warehouse workforce. In fact, the lowest-performing worker increased his productivity to become the best worker once the dashboard was displayed.

At less than a terabyte of data and a single source, the ABSG environment may appear to be simple. But the environment has been simplified by design so that the team can continue to rapidly provide incremental value. The ABSG EBI team has measured its success not on the technology behind the solution, but rather the end results of what it has offered to the business.



International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) manufactures and sells computer hardware, software, and services. With over 325,000 employees worldwide and revenues of $91 billion (figures from 2005), IBM is the largest information technology company in the world.

In late 1997, IBM’s sales and distribution organization launched a business intelligence initiative under the project name of EDGE (Enabling Decisions for Global Execution). The EDGE system consolidates and feeds information regarding sales leads, order load, financials, and fulfillment into a consolidated picture of key business performance metrics on EDGE dashboards for senior IBM executives and managers. These elements of IBM business activity provide a snapshot of key indicators of the sales pipeline, order progression, revenue attainment, customer service, and delivery, and are used throughout IBM’s management system. EDGE dashboards make these indicators viewable by business unit, by product, and by geography. In other words, EDGE dashboards provide concise, consolidated views of a wide variety of data—including unstructured and semi-structured data.

Before EDGE dashboards were established, IBM’s leadership team was often confronted with different versions of reality when reviewing their business performance. Precious time was frequently spent debating whose facts were correct rather than addressing fundamental business issues such as potential revenue shortfalls and competitive situations.

Today, EDGE dashboards help IBM executives identify shortfalls in the sales pipeline and projected revenue early in the quarter, sometimes before the quarter officially begins—when early action can be taken to address them. By understanding the root causes of systemic issues, executives can put programs, incentives, or customer offerings in place soon enough to impact the current quarter results.

Modifications and enhancements to the EDGE dashboards can be made in a matter of minutes or hours, providing the ability to respond quickly to executives’ needs. Continual, steady deployment of new functions and new content has allowed EDGE to deliver small, frequent victories—and maintain the strong executive support that has been key to its success over the last nine years.




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