Data warehousing industry set to take off

Corporate America's focus on customer relationship management and electronic-commerce applications will spark a boom in the data warehousing industry later this year and next, officials at MicroStrategy said at its CIO Summit here.

Officials at the Vienna, Virginia-based decision-support software vendor said demands for more intelligent uses of corporate data will drive development of more sophisticated data warehouses and allow companies to use information as a competitive differentiator. An array of technologies, such as broadcasting and personalisation, will be used to leverage assets.

"The complexity of data warehouses is going up," said Sanju Bansal, chief operating officer at MicroStrategy. "As a result, the OLAP (online analytical processing) and business intelligence markets will take off in the middle of this year and next year."

One of the top trends Bansal pointed to in his presentation was that corporations will have more control to send information to users over a variety of media, from e-mail to pagers. For example, a marketing analyst could have a report sent via e-mail every Friday at 3 p.m., rather than having to query the database and find the appropriate numbers. This summer, MicroStrategy will release an upgrade to its DSS Broadcast product that includes a wizard that will let users build their own updates.

As IT departments shift their role from supporting business units toward meeting customer needs, companies will build data warehouses around customer information, such as payment history and billing information, rather than products. This means that companies need to employ more complex schemas than they are now.

"Data warehousing is a piece of the IT industry that's come of age, primarily because there are so many customer-centric opportunities today," said Frank R. Caccamo, CIO and corporate vice president of Reynolds & Reynolds, in Dayton, Ohio.

But building e-commerce applications that leverage customer information to offer promotions based on past buying patterns, for example, presents a host of confidentiality issues that are very difficult to resolve.

MicroStrategy's Bansal said that IT professionals can help allay privacy concerns by categorising information one level up from actual customer personal details and giving customers something in exchange for giving up their personal data.

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