AAA to analyze travel data of popular destinations

The American Automobile Association (AAA) wants to sort and analyze its customer data to cut better travel and hotel deals for its members.

"We've always had more data than we knew what to do with," said Glen Mac Donell, manager of data management and analysis at AAA's national offices in Washington. "The difference is how to track it."

For years, he said, the 81 independent AAA and Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) clubs have kept customer information through three business-intelligence software products from Cognos. The three products were linked to the national office by a third-party, custom-built application, but the technology couldn't track all of the information.

"They didn't work well together. The way it was extracted and built data queues, [the previous, proprietary system] didn't really get all the information that we would normally get," Mac Donell said.

The automobile association offers travel, insurance, financial and emergency road services to almost 44 million members in North America. The group's travel arm -- AAA Travel -- and CAA provide information about and services for airlines, hotels, car-rental firms, tour companies and cruise lines.

Using an integration technology from a Cognos partner, Sky Solutions LLC in Saddle Brook, N.J., the association can track how many members it books for a specific hotel and provide data on which locations and properties are the most popular. Mac Donell said AAA wants to use the data to negotiate better rates from hotels and tourist services for its members. The data will also help the association determine where to put its promotional efforts, based on where the most members go.

"We can do it ourselves [with Cognos],"Mac Donell says. "It's so much more flexible. Before, we had to bring in a contractor to make major port changes."

Reports generated from Cognos' Impromptu, PowerPlay and DecisionStream software will eventually be posted on the association's intranet.

Mac Donell and a few colleagues run the business analysis, while the 100-person-plus IT department runs the server.

Previously, AAA outsourced its server and server maintenance, but now it has the server in-house, which makes changes and maintenance easier and cheaper, according to Mac Donell. After Sky Solutions did the initial implementation, it "handed the keys over" to AAA, Mac Donell said, and let him and his colleagues configure the data-analysis queries themselves.

The rollout was completed a month ago, and Mac Donell said he expects the association will be using the data to negotiate better rates for members by the end of the year.

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