Costco Travel: Improving reporting systems and practices
Costco Travel is a privately held subsidiary of Costco Wholesale that offers savings and extra value on vacation packages, cruises, car rentals, and more to Costco members. It was founded in 2000 and has an estimated $40 million in annual revenues according to Owler.com.
Costco Travel was facing a challenge with their reporting that we often see with large companies that have deployed on-premises solutions throughout the years. Although these solutions are often well suited to achieve the goals of a particular group or division, their scope (i.e. solving for the business challenges facing the organization) and deployment timeline creates challenges as data integration and consistency become critical for the business. Additionally, on-premises infrastructure is typically time consuming and costly to update, frequently resulting in environments running on outdated hardware that can impair performance.
In the situation facing Costco Travel, data was frequently inconsistent, resulting in errors in their reports. The errors were byproducts of their databases being siloed by department, resulting in an inability for them to support reporting requirements across departments. This, in turn, necessitated manual data entry, resulting in a great number of errors on their reports. Not only this, but the on-premises infrastructure being leveraged by Costco Travel hadn’t been updated in some time, resulting in a performance significantly below what was possible in the cloud.
Neal Analytics worked with Costco Travel to understand their reporting requirements. As a result, Neal built a modern data warehouse and analysis service on top of Costco Travel’s existing system, designed to leverage existing data and provide Costco with superior data lineage
To achieve data lineage and enabled Costco Travel to gain better insights into where data came from, Neal executed physical and logical data mapping, as well as fact and dimension mapping between Costco Travel’s numerous systems and databases. This, in turn, enabled different services and systems running in the data warehouse to know where all the data resided and how to interpret it. This ensured reporting was consistent regardless where the data came from. Neal also developed ETL jobs to help Costco Travel quickly move data into more appropriate databases, and leveraged SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) to create reports.
By building an enterprise data warehouse on top of their existing system, Costco Travel was able to extend their databases’ functionality and improve the accuracy of their reports while updating much of their outdated hardware, such as IBM AS/400 server racks. As this solution was built as an overlay to existing systems, rather than migrating everything to a new system, it accelerated the solution development and decreased porting risks as well as day-to-day business disruption.
The data warehouse also enabled Costco Travel to pull data from every department and produce reports in a fraction of the time previously required.
The improved accuracy, timeliness, and granularity of Costco Travel’s reporting also helped them gain insights that lead to operational improvements, significantly improved analytics capabilities, and more accurate financial reporting. The modern data warehousing system also enabled Costco Travel to more easily identify errors and issues in a timelier manner, including issues like customers who may be delinquent on payments.