MicroStrategy Broadcasts Data to Enterprise

Most companies do data warehousing the same way. They move their transactional data to a server, then attack that stored data with a host of query, analysis and mining tools to glean information about their business from it. Companies have different methods and analyze their data at different levels, but the paradigm is the same – they go to the data, which otherwise remains static.

MicroStrategy’s new DSS Broadcaster is trying to shift that passive paradigm with its new concept of “active data warehousing” – bringing the data warehouse to the end user wherever they may be and delivering to them whatever information they may need.

“There’s a shift in the whole paradigm from passive to active data warehousing,” says Rob Trenkamp, product manager for DSS Broadcaster. “It’s not rocket science to come up with it, in fact it’s almost pretty obvious. Rather than have people check on the information they need from the system, we’re delivering it to them.”

DSS Broadcaster delivers text or numeric analyses tailored to the information a user needs. These analyses are delivered via e-mail, fax, pager or mobile phone. Users get specific, customized reports delivered directly to them on a specified time or event schedule.

It’s the same concept as push technology, which delivers pre-selected Internet content directly to users’ desktops, but was much maligned in the industry as a resource hog and never really lived up to expectations.

“It’s very much the same concept, but with push technology, you need a PC and you have to install one of the push vendor’s products on it and you need a high-level network connection,” says Trenkamp. “So in terms of environment, you need a fancy computer and a fast network connection. DSS Broadcaster can go out to a $150 fax machine. So all you need is a phone line.

“And we’re not talking about getting sports scores or weather reports. We’re talking about valuable business information from your data warehouse.”

Liz Shahnam, senior research analyst for the Meta Group’s Application Delivery Strategies division, says DSS Broadcaster is an “information mall”, part of a trend in improving content distribution from data warehouses.

“It’s not changing data warehousing so much as it is recognizing a trend – that without managing the content distribution, you’ll have chaos resulting from the proliferation of end users accessing into the data warehouse,” Shahnam says.

DSS Broadcaster runs on a Windows NT server where it leverages MicroStrategy’s DSS Server relational database. The data feeding this ROLAP server can come from multiple sources, including DB2/400. Broadcaster features a personalization engine to ensure that users receive only the information they need in the format they desire, whether in a dynamically generated e-mail message or in a faxed spreadsheet of market data. Users can subscribe to regular reports or receive event-triggered alerts when a business condition arises that needs their immediate attention.

This has several applications. A supermarket manager may receive e-mail alerts listing what products aren’t selling well. The manager can then hyperlink from that e-mail to MicroStrategy’s DSS Web tool for further details and interactive analysis. Different reports can be generated for different store locations from the same data warehouse. A telephone company may send a weekly fax report of 800 number usage statistics to a corporate customer. A warehouse manager may get a low inventory alert over a beeper.

“A 7-11 doesn’t have a $300,000 computer connection, but it does have a fax machine so we can use that mechanism to deliver information to the store manager automatically,” says Trenkamp. “We’re going to a large set of people and making information as consumable as possible."

Allied Signal Corp., the Rumford, R.I.-based manufacturer of such well-known auto parts as Fram filters, Bendix brakes and Autolite spark plugs, uses DSS Broadcaster for its sales force and its materials planning group. The company has an AS/400-based order entry system feeding an Oracle data warehouse, which in turn feeds DSS Broadcaster.

Reports and alerts go out via e-mail, keeping the sales force apprised of their customers’ orders and the materials planning group aware of the companies’ inventory situation.

For the sales force, DSS Broadcaster generates different reports for each sales rep, about 400 in all, each with an embedded spreadsheet and a hyperlink back to the database.

“The sales force gets information concerning their customer base or segment of the business,” says Robert Halsall, project leader at Allied Signal. “They don’t have to plow through hundreds of reports and look at data that doesn’t have any bearing on their business.

“They get a summary of the type of information they need. They know if and when there’s a problem filling someone’s order and are able to communicate with the customers about that. It’s a customer relations tool.”

Meanwhile, the materials planning group has a better fix on the company’s inventory to prevent those problems from ever happening. Those employees get a morning e-mail report detailing inventory status of different products. They get e-mailed alerts if there’s a spike in ordering that depletes the stocks of any products.

“It’s fully automated, just sitting there waiting for them when they come in every morning,” says Halsall. “And it only takes a couple minutes to get them when before it would take them four days to find out that information.”