Microsoft uses ‘return on people’ to measure good BI

TORONTO – While many corporate enterprises strive to get return on investment in business intelligence projects, a Microsoft executive offers another metric: return on people.

Speaking at the two-day Intelligent Data Warehousing conference Tuesday, Microsoft Canada solutions marketing manager Darren Massel told the audience at least two-thirds of a company’s value is based upon intangible assets, rather than financial performance. Chief among those assets is the knowledge of their employees, and their ability to turn the insights gained from the business intelligence (BI) locked inside data warehouses into actionable items.

“”You’re really turning on the lights for them,”” he said, acknowledging that most enterprise companies have been too busy struggling with integrating data to accomplish this goal. “”Most companies haven’t found those nuggets of information that can fundamentally change their business.””

Massel emphasized the potential for predictive analysis and trending that advanced BI can offer users, pointing out that software exists to make this possible today.

Dennis Birk, an executive with Toronto-based Microsoft reseller T4G Ltd., used Rogers Communications as an example of a customer which has succeeded in deriving value from BI and data warehousing tools. T4G worked with Rogers’ Call Centre and Voice Technology Group, integrating Voice Brite and Nuance into a pure speech recognition application for Rogers’ pre-paid phone customers.

BI, Birk said, played a critical role for Rogers as it upgraded its infrastructure, which included SQL Server 6.5 text reports that users downloaded via FTP. “”When you’re trying something new, you’ve got to monitor it closely,”” he said, adding that in Rogers’ case, code quality issues were complicating the reporting process and delivering different, sometimes contradictory information. “”No one could agree on what the truth was.””

T4G created an architecture for Rogers that pulled the business logic back into the data tier, turning the middleware into a Web service that allowed power users, regular users and administrators to obtain similar information with different methods. This was a vast improvement over the previous system, Birk said, which was slow to respond and required considerable maintenance. Birk said the Rogers database would hold 300GB once it is fully populated.

Birk demonstrated ways by which Rogers employees would be able to drill down or slice and dice various pieces of the data warehouse. For example, users could isolate how many calls came from a specific province, and what features of Rogers’ service generated those calls. “”The big benefit is they have no idea of the complexity of what they’re asking for,”” he said. “”They’re just pointing and clicking.””

These sorts of insights will help enterprise companies offer better, more personalized services, Massel said — even at companies like Microsoft.

“”The marketing manager that I report into is always telling us, ‘I don’t want to do any more of this vanilla marketing,'”” he said. “”Hopefully in the future you won’t see those sorts of generic mail pieces from us.””

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