FedEx launches global business-intelligence application

While other IT workers will be vacationing, some employees at Memphis-based Federal Express Corp. will use the summer months to test a new global business-intelligence project.

The company is investing US$250,000 in a project it calls ISIS (international strategic information system) that will extend business-intelligence applications via the Internet across the supply chain to the company's 75 delivery agents in 150 countries.

Currently in the preliminary testing phase, the shipping firm will invite end users to try the system in August and expects to launch the project by early September, according to Joe Namie, global service program administrator at FedEx.

Using WebFocus as the front-end query tool, Namie plans to integrate several legacy systems, such as sales, marketing and inventory and store them on an Oracle relational database.

FedEx already uses WebFocus, a business-intelligence product from New York-based Information Builders Inc., and the database. Namie's goal is to connect "separate islands of information," he said last week at the Information Builders User Conference here.

Agents who are trained and contracted by FedEx to make local deliveries will be able to access country-specific delivery information using a virtual private network, said Namie. For instance, an agent in Mumbai, India, could see how much shipping business the company does in a particular industry. Having that information will also help FedEx management work with local agents to meet revenue goals.

Currently, agents receive printed reports of sales data and other delivery information - if at all. And because the different types of data reside in different systems, the information isn't tied together in a way that can help FedEx make business decisions, said Namie.

"The scope [of the project] is pretty impressive," said Henry Morris, a vice president at IDC in Framingham, Mass. "It's unusual to deliver reports to a worldwide distributed population" that includes as many countries as FedEx does.

Companies that are considering similar projects need to realize that the work will have to be customized and much of it homegrown, because "there is not a packaged solution for distributed worldwide delivery" of business-intelligence applications, Morris said.

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