EDC helps Canadian exporters with BI

Last year, Canadian businesses did $45.4 billion in export and domestic sales, up 13 per cent over 2003. Much of this business would not be possible without the assistance of the Export Development Canada (EDC), a Canadian financial institution providing trade financing services to Canadian exporters.

To provide better financial, business and other market and export services to clients, EDC in 2001 rolled out a data warehouse and business intelligence strategy to consolidate its data-marts and databases, and to run more advanced business intelligence analytics.

“For the last 25 years, we dabbled in developing some small data-marts to do some research and development and to determine business needs,” said Jim Dorrance, manager of data warehousing with EDC in Ottawa. “In 2001, we came to the realization that we had better develop a strategy (as) we were building little data-marts and they were becoming stovepipes…So we decided to step back and develop a data warehouse strategy.”

EDC Data-marts are aggregations of financial, service and export information about world-wide markets broken down into particular subject areas, markets and business sectors. These data-marts include small- and mid-sized exporters, advanced technology and manufacturing, telecom and agricultural and food. The information in these data might include important financial information such as the kinds of accounts-receivable programs available to a business looking to export or the exposure risks in various overseas markets.

To create these data-marts, EDC first moved its five separate databases, including databases from Oracle Corp. and Sybase Inc., onto a Microsoft Corp. SQL database thereby ensuring the integrity of the data and making it easier to access. “We had a lot more experience with SQL and we wanted to have a fully normalized database,” said Dorrance.

When the database portion was in place, EDC added on top a set of SAS business intelligence systems allowing for the information in the database to be parsed and examined in ways that made sense to EDC’s clients. These SAS components include Base SAS, a programming language for data access, transformation and reporting, SAS Enterprise Guide, a business analytics solution, and SAS Data Warehousing for bringing the data and information together from the database.

With these analytic tools in place, EDC could do a much finer examination of its data and break it down to reflect more accurately the specifics of different business queries and processes. Take for example the idea of risk exposure in the area of insurance and loans. Exposure in each is different and a company looking to do business overseas needs to know those differences and the risks involved depending on the business environment where the export business is likely to be working in. With the analytic tools able to access a single database, it can supply answers to such questions more quickly and accurately to the data-mart a client is using.

As well, the system lets EDC created a set of corporate result measures to see how well it is meeting the organization’s business goals and meeting the needs of its clients. While owned by the Canadian government, EDC operates in a manner like a private institution.

“We report to the board monthly on what the corporate position is with respect to commercial obligators over a certain limit, countries or industry sector,” said Arthur Pelletier, director of client services with EDC in Ottawa. “(Corporate results) are a series of measures that track EDC’s performance against customer satisfaction, against business in developing countries, number of transactions and business volume.”

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