Intelligence on the fly

GCN Insider | Trends & technologies that affect the way government does IT

How do you know when you need a data warehouse and some business intelligence software? When the request for reports come in so fast that they outpace your ability to query the databases and tabulate the results.

'The kind of reporting we wanted only came when we had the data warehouse in place,' said Ray Russo, director of business enterprise solutions for the Food and Drug Administration's Office of the Chief Information Officer.

To aggregate data on its 10,000 personnel, the agency set up a data warehouse that would use current data from multiple personnel databases and store historical data by pay period. With this data in one location, the agency could produce a wide variety of reports and other deliverables.

Some of the reports are canned, meaning they were created once and can be called up when needed. But the agency also generated many unique requests, ones that called 'for any and every type of data element' available, Russo said. Such reports might concern average employee age and other Equal Opportunity Employment data, the number of employees eligible to retire, the number of full- or part-time employees, or the number of employees at each location.

FDA was using Oracle Forms and Reports to query the data, but found standalone business intelligence software to be best suited for this sort of sophisticated ad hoc querying. The agency used tools from Business Objects Inc. of San Jose, Calif., to generate reports under an enterprise agreement. The agency is now upgrading to the Business Objects XI Release 2 platform.

Such business intelligence software can have 'very powerful report generation capabilities,' Russo said. 'If you know what you're doing, you can go in there and create any sort of report you need.' In addition to the personnel databases, the agency also deploys business intelligence software to generate reports against its databases holding information on adverse events, regulatory compliance and financial data.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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