Stefano Sappino is responsible for the customer relationship management program and is director of the Information Management Department at Poste Italiane.
Data insights help Poste Italiane shift its focus from products to customers, generating new revenues.
Throughout Italy, the local post office is the hub of modern life. Whether a consumer wants to mail a letter, buy a mobile phone, apply for a mortgage or purchase insurance, the place to go is a branch office of Poste Italiane. In addition to being Italy’s national postal service provider, Poste Italiane is one of the largest financial operators in the nation. Poste Vita—its insurance division—is the country’s top life insurance provider, according to a 2007 ranking. Poste Italiane is also the largest Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO). All told, the organization boasted 17.1 billion euros in revenue in 2007. The company is organized into highly specialized business units that, until recently, operated almost independently, supported by separate information systems, data marts and business intelligence (BI) tools.
“We needed to quickly bring our businesses together and move from a product-centric approach to a customer-focused culture,” explains Stefano Sappino, who is responsible for the company’s customer relationship management (CRM) program and is director of the Information Management Department. “Only by working as one enterprise—with integrated processes, technology systems and data—could we position ourselves for continued growth.”
Express route to customer insight
Supporting this unified vision required a centralized strategy for collecting, storing and using data: an enterprise data warehouse (EDW). “It was an ambitious project to integrate the data from so many divisions into an EDW,” says Sappino. “But we viewed the EDW as a necessity—the only way to combine the corporate data together in a meaningful way.”
Sappino’s team began by consolidating data from a variety of divisions into the EDW. The next step was to generate new insight from this wealth of information. Accordingly, Poste Italiane launched a CRM initiative to better understand its 31 million named customers.
“In the past, we had a different customer database for every business division,” says Sappino. “A customer who banked, bought a mobile phone and shipped with us had three distinct records, all with different data. Individual managers had a different view of customer transactions and requirements, and it was difficult for employees to access and use data created in other divisions.”
"The EDW is now the heart of our information system. Users are getting the current, accurate information they need."
The Poste Italiane team leveraged the EDW to create an integrated customer record that shows relationship and transaction history. Having a single, complete record gives employees access to customer data—regardless of where it originated—and helps them provide optimum service.
“By using the data warehouse and CRM, we brought together all of the data from our large and diverse customer community,” says Sappino. “And we were able to start and accomplish the process and cultural changes required by the new market needs. Now, all groups share a single point of view on product, customer and employee data, with current, accurate and timely information to support decision making.”
"We have a treasure in the EDW,” Sappino says. “We update the data daily, and it continually grows."
Benvenuto, cultural change
Today, the EDW is an integral component of Poste Italiane’s ongoing success. As the company continues to grow—adding 2 million new customers in 2007 alone—the solution expands accordingly. Transactional and operational data is collected from the various areas of the organization, then normalized and stored in the EDW. Master data management is handled in the Corporate Informatics Database (abbreviated to BIC, in Italian) where centralized records are stored and updated for each customer and product.
New roles were assigned to consistently maintain master data during the information life cycle, such as the definition of new products. Poste Italiane employs a data stewardship program in which each division designates one person to be in charge of data quality and data decisions. Data stewards ensure the correct use of data at a local level—inside their own organizational unit—as well as at the corporate level.
Aggregated data is passed to an information layer that supports various BI tools, including those from MicroStrategy; SAP BusinessObjects; and Cognos, an IBM company. Internal customers apply these tools in concert with a growing roster of applications for such needs as CRM, customer analysis and human resources. Together, the EDW and BI tools provide Poste Italiane employees—from analysts to front-line workers—the information they need to make decisions that support the company’s new customer-centric culture.
“The EDW is now the heart of our information system,” says Sappino. “Users are getting the current, accurate information they need to support routine decision making. And the more that they get, the more information they want the EDW to provide.”
Information in action
Poste Italiane also receives data from other Italian public authorities, such as tax and licensing agencies. By linking to the systems of these government departments through Web services, BIC facilitates real-time customer qualification.
For example, when someone wants to buy a mobile phone, an employee accesses the EDW to double-check the buyer’s name and address. Qualified buyers can receive immediate authorization. Uncertified individuals can be refused service, helping reduce fraud and deter identify theft.
One positive outcome of this program has been greater cooperation from the various groups in sharing data with the rest of the company. “Because each division is represented on EDW and data quality issues, the businesses have become more comfortable with the idea of seeing their data as a corporate asset that can help us achieve our customer satisfaction goals,” says Sappino. “We built the bridges our company needed to talk a common language, and the business units realized the walls that surrounded them were not a protection but an obstacle to development.”
A strong foundation
Building on this success, Poste Italiane’s IT team will deploy new tools and programs to help drive enhanced analysis data to employees. An EDW analytics engine is in development for release in 2009. This project will support additional integration with BI and analytics products, as well as data mining tools from SAS and SPSS. To enhance the postal data already in the system, the team is working to make geospatial data available to customers through the EDW.
"Now, all groups share a single point of view on product, customer and employee data, with current, accurate and timely information to support decision making."
The team hopes to consolidate the original data marts into the EDW later in 2009. “We want to be able to show top management that we can not only bring new levels of information and decision support to the organization, but also that we can deliver reduced costs and increased efficiencies,” says Sappino. In addition to enabling consistent information integration, data mart consolidation is bringing cost savings by allowing the company to shut down unnecessary departmental systems.
Post Italiane is now able to use customer information, in accordance with Italy’s strict privacy regulations, to create customer targets of interest for other companies. This endeavor will further enhance revenues. “This is a service project that we were able to do in only weeks because of the data warehouse from Teradata,” says Sappino. “Our EDW is changing from an analysis and reporting technology to a business-generating system.”
The EDW can also support new product launches and marketing initiatives, based on integrated information and the application of data mining techniques. Geospatial and customer data integration can enhance analysis in order to optimize asset allocation, maximize resource utilization and drive investments in commercial networks.
As the old data marts are retired and the source systems become even more integrated, Poste Italiane continues to move toward active data warehousing. The EDW is ready to enable active access for operational users and systems, allowing them to execute faster, smarter decisions that benefit the business. However, the impact on source systems must be considered and addressed in order to enable an active load and real-time link between the EDW and enterprise applications.
The Poste Italiane EDW has matured to the point of becoming truly active now and enabled the company to align strategies with operational execution.
Stamp of approval
The value of Poste Italiane’s EDW is clear. From faster access to high-quality, integrated customer data to more effective decision making, the solution has had a positive impact. “We have a treasure in the EDW,” says Sappino. “We update the data daily, and it continually grows.”
Teradata technology and services have contributed to Poste Italiane’s EDW success. “Our company processes huge numbers of records simultaneously,” says Sappino. “Teradata is able to handle this workload with the appropriate kind of processing speed and performance we need.”
What’s more, a large team of Teradata Professional Services personnel worked extensively on the company’s EDW initiative, bringing technical expertise that helped Poste Italiane achieve its vision for a more customer-centric culture. “We consider Teradata professionals a part of our family,” says Sappino, “and an important factor for the continuing success of the company.”