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Verizon modernizes the Yellow Pages with Oracle BI

Verizon is turning to Oracle's new BI 10g to help transfer its successful Yellow Pages business online.

SAN FRANCISCO -- The future of the Yellow Pages is unclear, admits Peter Johnson, director of decision support systems at Verizon Communication Inc.'s information services group.

Johnson himself doesn't use the Yellow Pages as much as he once did to find a phone number and address. Like Johnson, Verizon's customers are turning to online sources for the information, and the company would like to steer them to its SuperPages Web site.

Making the electronic side work to be as profitable as the print side is where the trick is and that begs for all kinds of analysis.
Peter Johnson,
director of decision support systemsVerizon Communication Inc.

The New York-based company is turning to Oracle Corp. to help it find some clarity.

Oracle unveiled Business Intelligence 10g at its OpenWorld users conference this week. The product, now offered independently from the application server, provides query, reporting and analysis, dashboards, data integration and BI application development.

Verizon began using the beta version of Business Intelligence 10g to replace a legacy Oracle Express application it inherited from the merger of Bell Atlantic, Nynex and GTE, Johnson said.

Johnson manages a group of analysts and support teams that gathers customer, sales, marketing, distribution and publishing data for the entire company. The data is used to perform analytics and produce reports for Verizon's executives who then use that information to make decisions.

"A lot of our customers are trading in their print product," Johnson said. "Making the electronic side work to be as profitable as the print side is where the trick is and that begs for all kinds of analysis."

Verizon chose Oracle several years ago to streamline its disparate systems. Consolidation in the telecommunications industry in the '90s left Verizon with multiple systems, and it was difficult to combine the information to perform the right analysis, Johnson said.

While bundling the BI tools and adding functionality to its Discoverer product is a positive step forward for Oracle, it is unclear what the software vendor plans to do with its development suite or its warehouse builder products, which perform similar BI functions, said Mike Schiff, vice president of data warehousing and business intelligence at Sterling, Va.-based Current Analysis.

"This opens up the BI tools to Oracle database shops that don't use the application server and that is positive," Schiff said. "But Oracle hasn't released pricing on the product, and they aren't letting us know what they're doing with their other BI tools."

As a beta customer, Verizon is testing all of the functionality in Business Intelligence 10g. Johnson said he's been impressed with the product, emphasizing the use of Oracle's BI Beans feature and the update to Oracle Discoverer, which adds query, reporting and analysis with dashboard features for end users.

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BI Beans allows developers to build custom business intelligence applications that use Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) functionality in the Oracle database. BI Beans is integrated into Oracle JDeveloper and enables developers to write in calculation builders, graphs and cross tabs.

"With the BI Beans interface and the other tools available, we're able to give information to analysts who can sit down for a couple of hours and answer a lot of questions," Johnson said. "In one session they can easily serve themselves with 25 or 30 questions answered."

The analysis has resulted in some changes to Verizon's strategy. The company restructured its SuperPages.com Web site to give advertisers the option of signing up for Web-search ad campaigns through provider FindWhat.com.

At the same time, the company formed a partnership with eBay and launched new shopping tools on the Web site.

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