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CASE STUDY - Information as a Service Delivers Consistent Information for Business Intelligence

Commentary by Sean T. Crowley, Market Management, IBM Information Integration Solutions, IBM Software Group

For any retailer, sustaining growth requires ongoing innovation. At one of North America’s largest retailers, enriching category and item planning and streamlining product introductions help the company get new products to market more quickly. Real-time visibility to sales and order status, in-store kiosks, and service desk enhancements help improve the customer experience and further differentiate their brand. New efficiencies in managing stock and collaborative forecasting and replenishment help ensure that the products customers want are readily available on store shelves. In order to succeed in these efforts, they needed a solid foundation that provides accurate information wherever and whenever it’s needed.

Complexity Hampers Progress

However, with multiple disparate applications and multiple platforms, databases, data entry points, and transaction processing protocols, business and IT staff were concerned with the accessibility and accuracy of information.

For each new application, developers had to write code to share information between applications and supporting data sources. Even off-the-shelf applications often needed to be customized. And each time application changes were made or new software versions released, the code would need to be rewritten. These processes were time-consuming and expensive and slowed the company’s ability to sense and respond to market opportunities.

Additionally, different applications often pulled and updated data to and from different sources. It meant the existence of multiple versions of key reference, customer, and vendor information. Executives worried that the lack of consistent data could affect certification and legal reporting processes as well as the overall accuracy of decision making based on their business intelligence applications.

Information as a Service

To enable change and gain greater value from its raw business data, company executives focused their IT teams on creating information services that could be readily available to any process, person, and application as needed.

In order to achieve its desired result, the company leveraged a service-oriented architecture upon which applications would be autonomous from information sources and would not share any database directly. Knowledge of interconnections would be removed from both the source application and the target data source and would be stored centrally.

By looking at information as a service and decoupling it from the actual applications, the company could simplify operations, more quickly adapt to change, and better leverage their existing investments.

Increased Responsiveness with Information on Demand

IBM Information Integration software is at the heart of this company’s information initiative and enables them to respond more quickly to market needs and more rapidly identify new opportunities.

For example, with IBM Information Server software, the IT staff has created more than 100 reusable integration objects and interfaces to enable the collection, integration, and transformation of data. These components can be plugged into new applications to enable them to share information with any of the company’s database subsystems and existing applications.

As a result, the company has been able to reduce the time and cost of developing new applications and take advantage of existing legacy applications when creating new Webbased services.

Cost-Effective Delivery of Accurate, Timely Information

Through the use of IBM Information on Demand technology, the company can now deliver information as a service, making it available to those who need it, when they need it.

On the IT side, application development and integration at this company is dramatically faster than the industry average. The retailer has been able to reduce its application development time dedicated to integration by up to 85 percent, with integration-related development requiring between 3 percent and 6 percent of developers’ time.

On the business side, faster development means faster time to market with new services and more time available to focus on higher-value tasks. Additionally, with access to real-time data, business staff can gain greater insight from existing information and reduce the risks that come with using outof- date, inconsistent, or bad information for decision making and reporting.

This article originally appeared in the issue of .

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