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Fly the CRM skies

User stories from the knowledge front A new customer relationship management system will help United Airlines manage customer and flight information across the organization.

The new CRM system is part of an enterprisewide data warehouse that will eventually manage more than six terabytes of data. To give that figure some perspective, the Library of Congress is said to have eight terabytes, according to a recent press release from IBM. The enterprisewide implementation involves use of IBM's DB2 database software on its eServer Cluster 1600 servers.

Business intelligence capabilities in the new CRM system will identify trends in passenger flight destinations so the airline can coordinate and plan flight routes more effectively. Furthermore, the system will increase efficiency in managing bookings and enable one-on-one CRM.

IBM recently completed the first phase of the deployment, integrating customer and operations data representing more than one terabyte of information. That data is then leveraged from the reservation centers and United.com, and used by thousands of United Airlines employees to manage customer accounts and to improve operations and planning.

For example, airline employees can search through data to view and examine such variables as a customer's most frequently traveled routes or type of travel--business or pleasure—for more personalized offers and promotions. Prior to implementation of the solution, United could not have easily combined huge streams of knowledge from different systems.

Says Eric Dean, CIO for United Airlines, "We were confident that IBM could deliver a complete, integrated solution that could scale to meet our infrastructure demands. When we're finished, we will be well positioned as the carrier to provide more efficient operations and responsive customer policies."

Future plans for the system include adding data from call centers, airport ticketing counters and flight kiosks, along with other operational and planning centers. The company expects that the DB2 data warehouse will exceed six terabytes of information within 18 months. United expects full payback from its investment in one to two years.

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