Feds share data warehousing wealth

The Internal Revenue Service, the Labor Department and the U.S. Transportation Command are exploring how data warehousing projects can aid their missions, and all three agencies shared their experiences Tuesday at The Data Warehousing Institute's spring conference in Washington, D.C.

A data warehouse is a repository of information from multiple sources that is structured for querying and reporting information ranging from financial reports to personal data.

The IRS has been using data warehouses since 1994 for compliance research and, later, for compliance enforcement, said Bob Albicker, deputy associate commissioner for systems integration at the IRS.

As part of its overall modernization program, the agency is working on an enterprise data warehousing system that would tie together its previous efforts. The IRS received funding approval from the Senate Appropriations Committee last week and is hoping to get the same from the House side this week, Albicker said.

The initial $8 million the IRS receives will be used to purchase commercial off-the-shelf solutions and form a design strategy, he said. The first iteration of the system is expected in early 2003

"Today, there's 6 to 8 terabytes of data in the existing data warehouses, and when fully done, there should be 25 to 30 terabytes of information," Albicker said. "The database itself will probably be two times that size" and will help the IRS achieve its knowledge management, customer relationship management and other strategic goals.

Lee Jones, director of financial systems at Labor, said his agency demonstrated a data warehousing proof of concept on April 30 for a financial data store to modernize its financial system. The current system gets the job done but is badly outdated and difficult for users to navigate. The department will test the financial data store in August and expects it to be operational by October, he said.

Transcom is responsible for the nation's defense transportation requirements. The agency is moving toward a business decision support system — a data warehouse for its vast corporate data environment, which includes material ranging from flight information to product tracking to financial data, said Army Maj. Charles Ames, the project leader.

"I feel data warehousing was the only way the transportation command was getting out of this mess," which includes data from more 200 systems, only about 25 of which are owned by Transcom, Ames said.

The first release of the data warehouse should be delivered in October, with a second iteration due in January 2002 and enhancements delivered every 90 to 120 days after that, Ames said.

All three agencies agreed on certain criteria that must be met in order for a data warehousing project to succeed, including:

* The need to show a return on investment early in the program.

* Getting support from executive leadership and communicating that down through mid-level managers and users.

* Linking the business strategy to the technology.

* Ensuring timely and accurate data migration, cleansing and access.

* Proper training of the workforce on using vast amounts of data.

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