Thursday, March 29, 2007

My DW success story

Data warehousing does have an influence on the society.

This one I noted in Finland after having created a DW for the Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners (in Finnish MTK). See the chart below (FYI, texts are in Finnish).

In 2005, timber price (fir, pine) was less than 48 €/m3. After reports and charts (such as the one above) were published on the web in the end of 2005, log prices have risen more than 20% soon breaking up 60 €/m3.

What happened? Before the system was published 300,000 (three hundred thousand) Finnish forest owners were in bad market situation against three giant pulp mill companies that buy most of timber. By voluntarily sharing price information the forest owners as well as their local associations became more aware about the market. (There was also other factors increasing log price such as a change in forest taxation, but that's another story.)

Technically, the data is extracted from the databases of 150 timber associations around the country (each association decides how often). If a forest owner uses the local association to sell timber (40% of cases), the data is later on loaded into a central database (we use our own ETL tool JobRunner for that). Finally, the Voyant OLAP tool made it possible to publish the information clearly on MTK's website.

By the way, the three pulp mill companies are now in court accused of controlling log prices against antitrust laws (more information here). Will there emerge a new timber purchasing cartel in Finland some day? Because of the DW, I doubt.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Hello world

While I soon start to work in Affecto, one of the largest business intelligence companies in Northern Europe, it's a good moment to start blogging about BI.

About my background, I have 16 years of history in business intelligence. All these years I've been in the developer side, creating an OLAP tool Voyant. I'm proud to tell that the software has been appreciated by customers for its ease of use and productivity, nevertheless it has not gained a big success.

Data visualization is one of my key interests, so my goal is to include an image or two in every posting. The next one is a dashboard I once made to express Voyant's elegant customizable web interface (click here for an online web demo).

For those of you being technically interested, Voyant relies on lightweight Java applets in the browser environment (three applets in the example above). The Server version delivers data between database and applets. The Designer and Analyst desktop versions are for specifying report objects and their interaction.

Outside of data visualization (and Voyant), I'll plan to write about good and bad sides of those OLAP/BI tools I'll be working with as a consultant during the following months.

I hope my BI background will help me see and write about business intelligence in a fresh way.