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Customer knowledge has become more important than ever in the face of today's rapidly evolving e-society. But for many companies, the problem with traditional analytic applications is the length of time they take to implement. Every day the organization waits for full deployment of an analytics application is a day the organization potentially loses out on valuable customer information.

Digital Archaeology's applications aim to end that waiting game by offering analytics tools that take just days- -even hours- -to implement. "Current technologies have not been able to keep pace with the speed of business," says Digital Archaeology CEO David Frankland.

The suite can instantly link disparate data sources without predefined data structures or types- -the key to the system's rapid deployment capabilities. It works through Digital Archaeology's patent-pending X-Set architecture. Based on extended set theory, X-Set follows the pattern of the modern CPU- -processing bytes in sequence- -and offers the ability to process large data sets without the need to create and maintain explicit data structures. "That architecture allows us to eliminate the need to predefine schema or data types or worry about any other kind of legacy systems," Frankland says.

The company's Discovery Suite is an analytical applications development platform that is supported on Microsoft Windows NT and Unix operating systems. The system acts as a knowledge finder, and its components include the following:

• Digital Archaeology Server, an adaptive, self-optimizing database into which data can be instantly loaded from a variety of sources, including operational and legacy data and third-party providers

• Digital Explorer, a query and mining tool that uses a graphical "drag and drop" interface to give users with little or no technical skills advanced analytical capabilities

• netDiscovery Explorer, a customizable Web-based query tool that gives corporate users access to Discovery Suite and enables "Drill Anywhere" analysis so that users can examine data in any direction

• Digital Archeology Report Server, which automatically schedules recurring or off-hour report generation activities in printed or HTML page format

• Digital Activator, which gives IT specialists, system integrators and consultants a set of data quality and transformation extensions useful in the development of large-scale data warehouse solutions

Digital Archaeology also offers c-Discovery, a Web-based analytical application that links e-commerce data with customer information from all channels. Described as Discovery Suite's knowledge distribution tool, c-Discovery can be customized to an organization's business rules and adds another layer onto Discovery Suite's analytical abilities.

Put together, the system allows e-businesses to identify, maintain and improve customer relationships across all channels. "We offer a comprehensive, just-in-time view of customer behavior and preferences not only across e-commerce channels but across traditional or any other touchpoint," Frankland says. "We believe it's important if you're doing any kind of customer analysis to have the ability to look at the whole customer view. Any point the customer touches in the organization should be included in that view."

c-Discovery delivers in-depth, integrated customer behavior analysis, including segmentation, demographics, shopping and purchase behavior and advertising and promotion effectiveness.

The benefits of the system, Frankland says, are speed of implementation, depth of analysis and flexibility. Discovery Suite-based applications can adapt instantly to changes in the business environment. "Businesses are changing very quickly," Frankland says, "we believe the applications themselves need to be able to adapt dynamically with those changes."

iTravel is an Overland Park, Kan.-based online business travel provider that has been using Discovery Suite and c-Discovery for about two months. In searching for a way to manage data systems better, a problem the organization discovered "was that we had all our data on various databases and it was impossible to bring it all together," says Fred Cornwell, iTravel's vice president of finance. "One of the things we were looking at originally was creating a huge data warehouse where all the information would be on one huge relational database. But in the process of researching that, we discovered a better solution that was much faster and more efficient was to buy Digital Archaeology."

The suite of programs now allows iTravel to analyze its customer data, but also to keep its business partners apprised of organizational data, as well as share key metrics with all players in the organization. Business partners and others can log on to a Web page specifically created by Digital Archaeology and track iTravel's key metrics on a real-time basis, Cornwell says, as well as mine data.

"Digital Archaeology provided us with really two things," he says. "Number one, it allowed us to data-mine on various databases with different data structures and to bring that information together and analyze it, and it also allowed us to put a completely different spin on the data."

iTravel, for instance, was curious about its enrollment of new customers, Cornwell says. After 30 years in the business, the company had many records on customer enrollment, but putting together a comprehensive plan that would have rated the organization's current performance versus that of a couple of years ago would have required a "small army" of workers and a lot of time, he says. With Digital Archaeology's capabilities, the task was performed in minutes.

The software is helping highlight areas within iTravel that could use improvement, Cornwell says, and the system is easy to use.

Implementation was a "day or two," Cornwell says. "Within a week we had people up and running on it, and six weeks later, we're experts."

He expects a "huge return on investment" from the system. "It's going to take me from needing a small army of people to do data-mining to where just a couple of individuals are going to be able to scale the organization," he says. "And more importantly, versus the actual ROI on the software, it's going to refocus me as a manger toward the most important things in the organization.

"I would say the ROI is going to ultimately be exponential."

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