Alaska Airlines looks at data creatively

At Seattle-based Alaska Airlines, end users in the marketing and planning departments are hoping their new data warehousing project will give them some pleasant surprises.

The airline is building a data warehouse with Brio Enterprise 6.0, from Palo Alto, Calif.-based Brio Technologies Inc., that will bring together data from Informix and Oracle servers as well as legacy MVS data. That data can then be melded with information from Access and Excel applications resident on a user's PC.

Working from PCs on an NT network, marketers and planners will create charts and graphs of data, hoping to spot trends. This information would then help them to develop programs to attract more passengers among other things, said Nancy Colbert, database administrator at the airline.

"One of the cool things about Brio is that you can pull back a set of data and then play with it," she said. "We're expecting a lot of serendipitous discoveries. You develop a train of thought, and you can follow it down and not have to wait for a programmer or a power user. We think some people who are further removed from the data will be playing with this [warehouse to] discover relationships and come up with ideas."

The data warehousing project is still new, but it is a vast improvement over the old system where MVS data was transferred to a Focus database on a VM mainframe. Users then basically ran queries to get canned reports; if they wanted graphs, they had to import the report into Excel.

In the future, Colbert envisions creating a "cockpit" of reports and charts, which would allow airline executives to take off on flights of data fancy.

"Executives would come in and there would be something in front of them -- perhaps different graphs," said Colbert. "They could click on one and drill down. [They could then] click on it again and go deeper into the data. They could do 'What if' playing with the reports interactively and graphically."

-- Rich Seeley

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.