RETAILER NEED FOR DATA WAREHOUSING GROWING

NEW YORK -- Information technology executives need to prepare for the "data explosion" that will be ignited with growing use of data warehouses for decision support.Barry Wilderman, vice president of application delivery strategy services at Meta Group, Stamford, Conn., said as companies strive to better understand their customers' preferences and purchasing patterns, the demand for information intensifies,

NEW YORK -- Information technology executives need to prepare for the "data explosion" that will be ignited with growing use of data warehouses for decision support.

Barry Wilderman, vice president of application delivery strategy services at Meta Group, Stamford, Conn., said as companies strive to better understand their customers' preferences and purchasing patterns, the demand for information intensifies, especially among end users in marketing.

"Information technology needs to play a critical role because with end users, there has been a level of anarchy," he said, noting some end users take it upon themselves to build data bases that serve their department's particular needs without regard to impact on and integration with the entire organization.

"IT needs to create a new role, an 'IT ambassador' who is IT-savvy and aligned with end users, but still reports to IT," he said during an executive briefing sponsored here by Red Brick Systems, Los Gatos, Calif., last month.

He stressed the importance of working closely with end users in the organization, who may be ambitious and proficient with today's desktop technology but who "get bored with things like backup and recovery" and other essential maintenance responsibilities.

Strong alliances between information systems and end users accessing decision support and executive information systems is vital to a successful program, he said.

"If we are going to empower the end user to make a decision, we have to make that decision real: close the loop" and populate the data warehouse with information about the decisions made.

Wilderman, who provides consulting services to Giant Food, Landover, Md., and other major chains, said one of his clients is loading information weekly to a data warehouse that's swelled to 150 gigabytes.

"Marketing first said they wanted weekly data. Then they said, 'O.K., I want daily data.' Then, 'That's O.K. but now I want to look at the market basket to see what's in the cart -- and I want to know who is pushing the cart.'

"What's occurring in retail is an inevitable explosion of data," he said.

The proliferation of data, if managed poorly and not secured, can have grave consequences and will challenge information technology departments to select computing platforms and choose the best tools. The growth in World Wide Web applications complicates the decision process.

"We're beginning to see a mania for the web and we think that's a mistake" to buy into too quickly because the technology is still too immature. "It's your challenge, as IT, to build applications somewhere between web-based and traditional client server," Wilderman said.