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Software // Enterprise Applications
09:40 AM
Rick Whiting
Rick Whiting

Data Transformation

A massive data warehouse helps the U.S. Postal Service become a lean, customer-focused business

In just four years, the U.S. Postal Service has assembled one of the world's largest data warehouses, a 32-terabyte system that's helping the agency transform into a lean, customer-focused business.

The size of the data warehouse has increased greatly--the volume of stored data has tripled in the last year alone, says Robert Otto, a Postal Service VP and chief technology officer. That cuts in half the traditional "maturity model" of six to nine years for a data warehouse to reach such a size. "Two years ago, we weren't even on the map in terms of data warehousing," Otto says.

Stored data volume has increased, VP Otto says.

Stored data volume has increased, VP Otto says.
The Postal Service uses the massive system to analyze many areas of its business, including sales at individual post offices, the use of manpower and transportation resources, and the efficiency of mail-processing facilities, all with an eye toward improving customer service and boosting productivity. The data warehouse is based on hardware and software from NCR Corp.'s Teradata division; the first applications using the system went live in March 2001.

Today, the data warehouse collects logistical information from mail-processing facilities, package-tracking data, air-transportation information, and data within the Postal Service's Oracle financial, SAP human-resources, and Siebel Systems customer-relationship-management applications. Still, IT managers have connected only about 65% of the data sources they plan to, says George Wright, the agency's manager of finance and administration systems.

The system also collects retail data from 37,000 post offices every night and provides post-office managers with reports about the previous day's sales. Managers also use the data warehouse to analyze how often post-office customers use the automated postal centers installed in 2,500 post offices; another 3,000 automated centers are on tap.

The data warehouse generates about 20,000 reports for 1,800 users every day; that's expected to grow to 60,000 reports for more than 5,000 users, says Wayne Grimes, customer-care operations manager. Software from MicroStrategy Inc. provides the system's reporting and analysis capabilities.

The data warehouse provides the Postal Service with unprecedented visibility into its finances and operations. While it used to take three to four months to close the books at the end of each fiscal year, this last year it took less than five weeks, Wright says. And he expects to reduce that even further this year.

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