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RESOURCES CATEGORY: Data / Analysis

PREDICTif Solutions to Present at Oracle OpenWorld 2015

EVN

oracle

 

PREDICTif Solutions, a Houston-based technology consulting firm, today announces its upcoming presentation at Oracle OpenWorld 2015. The conference, held from October 25 to 29 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, CA, will be a premier event for business and IT professionals to learn about Oracle technologies through the interactions with Oracle and its business partners. PREDICTif’s CEO, Jeff Huang, VP of Global Sales, Karl Harrocks and OEID Practice Lead, Jimmy Philip will represent PREDICTif at the conference, meeting customers and Oracle colleagues.“This year we are very excited to have two of our customers, Wilsonart and Cox Automotive, speak on our behalf and share with our customers and partners their successes with PREDICTif. The Wilsonart story is featured on the September issue of Oracle Profit magazine, describing the incredible journey that Wilsonart and PREDICTif travelled together to build a fully integrated EPM, BI and Big Data solution” said Huang.

“PREDICTif has built a lot of successes in our three core practices, EPM, BI and Information Discovery/Big Data last couple of years.” , said Harrocks, “We are excited to leverage this platform to share our extensive experience in Oracle cloud offerings and Big Data Discovery. Whether we’re sharing our knowledge or learning from others, it’s our continuous goal to grow as a thought leader in the age of Big Data and bring this advantage to our customers.”

High-Value Health Check to Enhance Existing BI Solutions

NWS

PREDICTif Delivered a High-Value Health Check to Enhance Existing BI Solutions and Develop a Master BI Implementation Plan

CUSTOMER:

A leading Oil and Gas Equipment services company.

REQUIRED CAPABILITIES

  • Remedied performance and instability issues existed with the BI applications
  • Delivered a master Implementation roadmap for an enterprise BI and FPM architecture

CHALLENGES

The customer has over 25 subsidiaries, many acquired through acquisition. Each subsidiary had built out its own business intelligence (BI) and finance performance management (FPM) solutions using a myriad of BI and FPM products. As one of the leading global equipment service and pipeline construction companies, the customer faced numerous challenges related to instability, inconsistency and slow performance of BI applications. In preparation for the opportunities and demands of becoming part of a publicly held company, the customer needed to expand its BI and FPM architecture beyond the business unit level.  Before further expansion could take place, the customer needed to consolidate their division level BI and FPM initiatives as well as map out a strategy and roadmap to establish an enterprise BI architecture. The existing BI systems presented numerous deficiencies in terms of people, process and infrastructure:

  • All its business units had their own BI and FPM technologies, support teams and project initiatives without an enterprise level governance and standard;
  • There was no single version of truth in terms of data on the enterprise level which rendered the enterprise level reporting and financial consolidation inaccurate and labor intensive;
  • The existing BI infrastructure contained a myriad of technologies and products making support and maintenance difficult and cost of ownership extremely high; and
  • Lack of a BI competency center rendered uneven quality of delivered BI applications that resulted in slow performance and instability.

SCOPE                      

Conducted a health check to identify areas of risks and opportunities, recommend remedial measures, and produce a master implementation plan and a roadmap to build an enterprise level BI architecture.

  • Examined existing BI infrastructure and organizations in terms of people, process and infrastructure to discover areas of risks and opportunities, and more importantly, produce a list of actionable recommendations to improve the overall BI strategy and execution;
  • Reviewed the existing architecture, configurations and codes;
  • Identified bottlenecks that were causing slow performance and instability;
  • Aligned business objectives and priorities with BI initiatives;
  • Created organizational philosophy and culture to support an enterprise BI strategy; and
  • Developed a master implementation plan and roadmap for an enterprise level BI architecture.

SOLUTION

PREDICTif Solutions was engaged to provide a 2-week health check. PREDICTif’s senior architects reviewed the existing BI infrastructure, made recommendations for improvement and delivered a master implementation plan for rolling out BI to the entire enterprise.

Based on PREDICTif’s standard health check agenda and customer priorities, PREDICTif and the customer created a detailed agenda before the engagement. The agenda addressed both tactical and strategic aspects of the customers business. The tactical aspects were to analyze the existing BI solutions to identify areas of risk and opportunity as well as provide recommendations on both. The strategic aspect was to understand the customer’s business priorities and deliver an enterprise BI implementation plan.

The two week agenda was filled with workshops, interviews and document reviews during which, PREDICTif’s architects met customer’s personnel from numerous areas of the business to discuss business objectives, current BI architecture and business user concerns. Conversations focused on areas such as data quality, data governance, data modeling, report requirement gathering processes, architecture, support/maintenance and technology best practices. The architects also discussed future plans, business initiatives, short term and long term business goals as well as technological direction in the BI and FPM arena.

The PREDICTif resources combined our own set of BI and FPM best practices and standards with information gathered from the discussions in order to produce a  set of documents:

  • The tactical health check deliverable is in the form of a Microsoft Word document and a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation both of which outlined areas of opportunity, improvement and identified risks as well as the necessary steps to mitigate those risks.
    • In this case, the PREDICTif architects discovered that the BI architecture was not designed appropriately for the increased number of users and business cases which caused significant degradation of performance and stability;
    • The customer did not have a well defined data governance process that was accepted by all business units. It resulted in poor data and metadata modeling as well as an overall lack of data quality and transparency;
    • The architects made recommendations to improve the Bi architecture in terms of performance and stability; and
    • The architects applied PREDICTif developed and tailor-made data governance and data modeling best practices to the customer’s business and IT environment.
  • A master BI implementation plan and roadmap was delivered in order to consolidate the dispersed BI architecture as well as establish an enterprise level BI infrastructure.
    • The implementation plan entailed a multi-phased project plan that detailed the sequence of activities, dependencies and high-level estimate of effort as well as timelines;
    • It illustrated a 18-month BI architecture evolution through the phases of implementation;
    • The roadmap also considered the trend and best-in-class BI technologies; and
    • The implementation plan included the steps to establish an enterprise level BI competency center and governance process.

RESULTS

PREDICTif delivered considerable value to the customer’s return on the software and IT infrastructure investment. The health check’s findings and recommendations significantly improved both the performance and the stability of the customer’s existing BI architecture. The implementation plan provided a clear roadmap to establish an enterprise level, world class BI architecture.

  • The improvement decreased the rendering time of a complex report from an average of 6 min to less than 30 seconds, greatly increasing the productivity;
  • The upgrade and addition of hardware and software instance increased the overall uptime from 95% to that of 99% which was a requirement of the business;
  • The customer completed all three phases of PREDICTif’s recommended implementation plan and the overall BI initiatives continue to gain adoption and approval from the business use population.

Scalable financial reporting solution for healthcare management

NWS

PREDICTif delivered a scalable financial reporting solution for a leading health management services and equipment company

CUSTOMER:

A leading health management and diagnostic services and equipment company.

REQUIRED CAPABILITIES

  • Financial consolidation and reporting
  • Interactive analysis
  • Forecasting and Budgeting
  • Cognos TM1 Web

CHALLENGES

As one of the leading construction multimedia companies, this customer is faced with the following challenges: inefficient central financial reports, reliance on manual inputs, and cumbersome Excel intensive reporting tool. With financial data coming from 8 different data sources, a central reporting tool to consolidate all the reports is needed. The business is presented in six platforms and each platform gets the data from its own data source.

The chart of accounts is compiled from a string with over 20 characters.  The accounts dimension hierarchy was set up in such a way as to hinder reporting leading to miss interpretation of data and errors in reports.  Each of the six platforms has their own chart of accounts and reporting method making it difficult to consolidate in a single tool. Therefore, a lot of manual methods are involved in creating reports.   Heavy reliance on Microsoft Excel to input budgeting data is present.  As a Solution, PREDICTif Solutions proposes an end to end solution to centralize the financial reporting system to provide budgeting and forecasting for the organization.

SCOPE

  • The objective of the project was to deliver a solution that leveraged TM1’s in-memory OLAP capabilities and simplified the monthly financial consolidation and reporting process.
  • Centralized, efficient and ease of use access application which can reduce preparation time. Instead of spending time on preparing reports, users can now focus on analyzing data.
  • Instill ‘one version of the truth’ consolidation reporting system that can be applied to six platforms
  • Provide a proficient budgeting and forecasting web based process that allows users to input data at the line item level.
  • Give ability to end users to build and analyze reports without reliance on IT or the Accounting department

SOLUTIONS

After evaluating several world class solutions, IBM Cognos TM1 was selected for a number of reasons – one of them being that IBM Cognos TM1 provides a real-time approach to consolidating, viewing, and editing enormous volumes of multidimensional data.

PREDICTif was engaged to provide an end-to-end solution delivering 25 Cubes with dimensions ranging from 5 to 15 in order to provide Financials and Assumptions models. Changes in financial forecasts, assumption metrics and indirect expenses were made via customizable Excel templates as well as directly through the TM1 interface.   Reports created both in TM1 and Excel were readily accessible through the web with no additional effort.

  • PREDICTif Solutions was able to create a set of multidimensional cubes utilizing OLAP technology that can dynamically slice and dice through data sources.
  • Design a user-friendly excel input templates which can access through TM1 web. The cubes support consolidation and reporting of both budgeting and forecasting data as well as allocation.
  • An automated data extraction using by TI processes (ETL) tool that can update multi dimensional cubes from 8 different data sources.
  • Users can use dimension editor as primary method to maintain or update dimensions that are not from the source system
  • Setting up different instances for security purposes and separate the finance consolidation modules, budgeting applications and compensation modules will be given access by corporate controller.
  • Substantially reduce time spend on creating monthly financial reports. Reports are easily access and produce with little or no reliance on the accounting and IT department.
  • Provide a real-time consolidation reports and offer an automated tool for producing annual budget and monthly forecast process.
  • Eliminate manual effort and errors of gathering data from multiple reports, spreadsheet and data sources
  • Provide power users training and knowledge transfer to the client so they will be able to build additional reports, budget templates and forecasting procedures out of the cubes.

RESULTS

PREDICTif solutions delivered measurable results to the client.  Now the client is able to provide “one version of the truth” in their reporting system.  Customers can now use the centralized financial reporting cube to analyze data across six platforms and they now have an automated ETL process to update dimensions and cubes from 8 different data sources.  The TM1 web based input budgeting and forecasting system also allows users across the enterprise system to input data at the line item level.  The application significantly speeds up the budgeting and forecasting process and empowers users to create or modify input templates without IT department influence.

  • With the deployment of the TM1 solution, the number of hours spent generating consolidated financial statements were reduced considerably, allowing more time for analysis;
  • Multiple disparate business units were brought together under one streamlined reporting process with a standardized company-wide output;
  • The finance group supported and upgraded the solution and the accompanying infrastructure through its own staff, without dependence on the IT support; and
  • Consolidated financial reports have obtained further reach as a result of the use of TM1 web.

EPM Success for Geophysical Survey Company

NWS

PREDICTif  successfully assists major geophysical survey company to select the right Enterprise Performance Management product for its financial reporting and analysis needs

CUSTOMER:

A leading seismic data-acquisition imaging and software systems company who assists petroleum exploration companies to identify and measure subsurface geological structures.

REQUIRED CAPABILITIES

  • Financial consolidation and reporting
  • Interactive analysis
  • Forecasting and Budgeting
  • Oracle Hyperion Planning, Essbase, Financial Reporting, Financial Data Management

CHALLENGES

The Customer used an out-dated solution that was under-utilized and deficient in terms of data mining and planning automation. As a result, the business was heavily dependent upon IT for both support of its existing solution and development of new functionality when the enterprise required. The software deployed was also 2 major versions behind that of the publicly released version and had run out of vendor support. Significant growth in its Solutions business units served as a catalyst to replace its manual, error-prone, labor intensive financial reporting and planning solution with a more automated, streamlined and efficient one.

The company, comprised of multiple legal entities that span the globe, was challenged with having to manage all of its financial operations in a single, multicurrency environment. It also had needs to transform individual financial plans from a group of entities into a single, consolidated corporate level plan.  All this made the existing solution severely limiting in terms of the ability to predict its revenue and costs for each of its business units.

SCOPE

Needing objective and unbiased professional advice on various EPM solutions on the market, the Customer engaged with PREDICTif who led a rigorous product selection process to ensure that they procured the right EPM product for its current and future needs. The overall goal was to assist the Customer in identifying an EPM product that met its current and future business needs:

  • Integrate seamlessly with its main ERP solution (Infor’s Syteline), its existing Microsoft SQL Server based data warehouse and miscellaneous data sources;
  • Upgrade its antiquated and unsupported EPM architecture to a modern and sustainable one;
  • Automate and streamline its financial reporting and planning processes eliminating manual, redundant and time-consuming steps;
  • Enable drill-downs and what-if analysis for gaining insight and better financial plans;
  • Establish a single version of the truth and generate accurate/ up-to-date reports;
  • Leverage both web and Excel as available interfaces for ad-hoc analysis, interactive report authoring and viewing;
  • Offer an easy-to-learn and easy-to use tool that enables the business to achieve self-sufficiency; and
  • Ensure long term, advantageous total cost of ownership.

 

SOLUTION

PREDICTif led a systematic product selection process leveraging its extensive experience with EPM solutions, vertical specific evaluation criteria and its own, proprietary production selection templates to ensure a thorough evaluation was undertaken. PREDICTif led the preparation of the PoC, the coordination of the vendors and finally, the short-listing and evaluation/selection of vendors who best addressed Customer’s business requirements.

Over the course of the evaluation, PREDICTif:

  • Assisted the Customer in its identification of the appropriate use cases that addressed all critical business needs;
  • Prepared the use case documentation and accompanying data;
  • Worked with Customer personnel in order to facilitate software vendors’ involvement in the PoC;
  • Supported the Customer as needed throughout their participation in the evaluation process;
  • Administered the different software vendors’ PoC’s and validated their results;
  • Incorporated PREDICTif’s proprietary software evaluation process and compared/contrasted its weighted scoring criteria against that of the differing, competing vendor technologies;
  • Led vendor’ demos and meetings in an effort to contribute towards the information gathering process;
  • Provided cost estimates for license and implementation costs; and
  • Produced a high level roadmap and long term implementation plan for each technology so that the Customer understood not only the current state, but also the future vision of the chosen technology.

The PoC was conducted in parallel by three vendors over the course of a two-week period.  We aggregated all the gathered information and then, used PREDICTif’s weighted software selection criteria to contrast that against the Customer’s business objectives to render an option on a best of breed solution.

After evaluating several leading vendors, Oracle Hyperion/Essbase was selected for a number of reasons:

  • Oracle Hyperion Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) software meets the key business requirements, enables the automation of planning and reporting processes and powers the finance team to perform data mining and ad-hoc analysis;
  • Oracle Hyperion is easy to use, easy to implement and easy to support/maintain;
  • It is a cost effective, high return investment, conducive to quick wins, resulting in lower total cost of ownership;
  • It establishes a solid platform for future reporting and analysis needs; and
  • Oracle utilizes updated and modern technologies, presents a strategic product development roadmap and enjoys both financial as well as organizational stability.

RESULTS

Post product selection, the Customer negotiated with Oracle and ultimately procured the Hyperion product stack including Essbase, Hyperion Financial Reporting, Hyperion Planning and Financial Data Manager (FDM). Utilizing the acquired Oracle stack of products, the PREDICTif team successfully implemented and replaced the customer’s outdated solution with that of a new one fully automating countless functions and in the process, eliminating nearly half of the Excel worksheets it previously utilized resulting in increased productivity. Additionally, PREDICTif:

  • Upgraded the customer’s financial reporting and analysis architecture to a modern and fully supported technology;
  • Increased the architectures performance resulting in a more robust and stable environment;
  • Eliminated a multitude of manual, error-prone and time-consuming steps resulting in a more efficient and accurate financial analysis and reporting process;
  • Delivered to the business users the ability to do ad-hoc analysis and create their own reports;
  • Delivered a solution to the business that the customer personnel were able to support and maintain without significant IT support or involvement; and
  • Provided the business a solution that resulted in a significant return on investment.

JB Poindexter makes substantial hardware cost savings thanks to IBM Cognos Express

NWS

With help from IBM Cognos Express and PREDICTif Solutions, JB Poindexter and Co. was able to upgrade, consolidate, and standardize their diverse reporting systems, saving at least $50,000-75,000 a year in hardware costs, and increasing productivity by 100-125%.

CUSTOMER:

J.B. Poindexter & Co., Inc. is a privately held diversified manufacturing company with operating subsidiaries engaged in the production of commercial van bodies, step-vans, funeral coaches, limousines, mid-sized buses, pick-up truck bed enclosures and tonneau covers, precision machined components and expandable foam plastics.

The company operates with a decentralized management and operating structure. Subsidiaries have complete operational, financial and administrative responsibility, with professional and executive management support provided by the corporate staff.

“The highly knowledgeable consultants at PREDICTif understand business intelligence. That’s why they recommended IBM Cognos technology to fit our business needs, technology that we are very happy with. IBM Cognos is intuitive, can be owned and managed by the business, and has amazing reporting, planning, and dashboard features. It also happens to be one of the best bargains on the market.”

Jay Krishnamurthy Vice President-IT, J.B. Poindexter and Co.

CHALLENGES

J.B. Poindexter & Co. has grown significantly in the last few years, acquiring six separate business units. As each unit maintained its own staff, product lines, customers, as well as its own ERP system, reporting processes were difficult to manage. The business and corporate units had limited visibility into crucial arenas, such as performance at plant levels, costs, margins, overhead, material savings, etc. Due to the nature of their sustainable growth, they lacked consistency in information and standardization processes.

In addition, the information reporting and planning processes that were in place were antiquated. With manual and laborious systems in place that included spreadsheet formatting, crucial business information was often inconsistent and difficult to come by in a timely manner.

J.B. Poindexter & Co. needed away to upgrade their system into an automated, consolidated, and standardized. That way, corporate and business units would be able to quickly and easily view crucial information at both a detailed and broad level, allowing them to manage effectively and respond to any potential problems or risks immediately.

APPROACH

  • Leverage PREDICTif’s recognized experience and expertise to implement a business intelligence solution tailored to JB Poindexter and CO.’s needs.
  • Purchase multiple IBM Cognos Express modules.
  • Consolidate, standardize, and automate reporting and forecasting processes across all distinct business and corporate units.

RESULTS

  • Implementing IBM Cognos and PREDICTif services, provided end users with an intuitive budgeting, forecasting, and reporting solution with BI capabilities.
  • Created a system of easy-to-understand dashboards that automatically provide critical information across all business units, allowing management and corporate to assess performance and risk in a timely manner.
  • Implemented a cost-effective solution, saving $50-75,000 a year in hardware costs alone.
  • Eliminated the need for report builders by empowering end users with an easy-to-use system.
  • Allowed IT staff to focus on IT needs instead of spending several hours a day loading data and fixing reporting issues.
  • Increased productivity by 100-125%.
  • Reduced time to deliver manual reports by well over 200%.

BENEFITS AT A GLANCE

  • Upgrade and consolidate budgeting, forecasting, and reporting systems into one easy-to-use solution, IBM Cognos Express.
  • Using IBM Cognos Express, significantly reduce manual reporting from the separate business units by over 200%.
  • Generate consolidated, standardized reports that include product line costs and margins, fast and efficiently to make better business decisions.
  • Create easy-to-use reporting dashboards across all business units and corporate units, so that all levels of management can assess performance and risk in real time.
  • Increased productivity by 100-125%.
  • Employ PREDICTif Solutions  consultants to install a cost-effective solution, and even complete phase one of the project early and on-budget.
  • Leverage PREDICTif’s proven expertise to build a solution specifically tailored to J.B. Poindexter’s needs.

PREDICTif help find an enterprise dashboard & scorecard solution for energy company

NWS

A global integrated energy company seeks PREDICTif’s help to find an enterprise dashboard and scorecard solution to track KPIs

CUSTOMER:

A global major integrated energy company.

REQUIRED CAPABILITIES

  • An Enterprise Level Dashboard and Scorecards that tracks KPIs against Refinery Actual, Planned, and Scheduled Metrics with reduced data latency and enhanced ease of use

CHALLENGES

As one of the world’s largest integrated energy companies, our customer conducts business in every aspect of the crude oil and natural gas industry, including exploration and production, manufacturing, marketing and transportation, chemicals manufacturing and sales, geothermal energy, and power generation. Our customer sought an enterprise solution to track key financial and operational KPIs.

  • The customer did not have Metrics for key performance indicators in critical financial and operation categories;
  • Unable to track down any change in the key metrics and identify the contributing factors to the change;
  • No dashboarding capabilities to provide a snapshot view into operational performance at world wide refineries; and
  • There was 1-2 day of data latency, and as a result, the reports did not contain up-to-date information.

SCOPE

The customer’s requirement was to create an enterprise level dashboard that tracked key KPI’s against their Actual, Planned and Scheduled Metrics. The scope also included the creation of dashboards and scorecards to give a high level representation of critical operational data.

  • Increase visibility — create dashboards that allow the business a high-level view of  granular data in order to get to timely address business problems immediately;
  • Increase accountability — assigns owners for each metric as well as the accompanying responsibility for performance;
  • Increase focus — concentrate on priorities and eliminate distractions;
  • Improve communication — communicate results and actions taken to manage performance; and
  • Improve collaboration — use metrics to link together people, departments and processes.

SOLUTIONS

After evaluating several world class solutions, IBM Cognos BI was selected for a number of reasons – one of which being IBM Cognos BI provides a highly customizable and informational dashboard and scorecard solution. Cognos metrics studio, metrics designer and framework Manger version 8.4 provide needed metrics functionality to meet the requirements. PREDICTif was engaged to provide an end-to-end BI solution and develop Refinery Metrics and Balanced Scorecards using Cognos Metrics Studio/Metrics Designer 8.4.

  • Analyzed existing requirements for the need to created metrics, metrics types, planned values, actual values, charts and various scorecards;
  • Installed and configured Metrics Studio and Metrics Designer on the existing Cognos BI 8.4 environment;
  • Used Framework Manager to initially model a package that will be used to as a source for creating the metric designer package;
  • Created various Metrics and Metrics Types (Actual Vs Scheduled, Actual Vs Planned, Planned Vs Scheduled etc) and compared the different metrics;
  • Developed customized Report Studio Reports to be used as part of this metrics analysis;
  • Used Metric Designer to create a metric package for use in Metrics Studio;
  • Used Custom calendar and performed various admin tasks like pushing data into staging area and then into metric store etc;
  • Developed a balanced scorecard based on the various metrics created earlier; and
  • Trained Administrators, BA’s and Developers to maintain this metrics model and package and also them on used metric studio.

RESULTS

PREDICTif delivered a Cognos BI solution that increased the visibility to significant business events and enhanced the customer’s ability to detect and resolve business issues and maximize market opportunities.

  • The Cognos BI Dashboard provided a consolidated view of refinery operational metrics from all of the customer’s worldwide refinery units;
  • The Scorecard solution offered insight into operational issues and enabled teams to design and implement measures to resolve issues;
  • The data integration solution significantly reduced the latency and delivered up-to-date information to business users; and
  • The customer was able to support and upgrade the solution independently after PREDICTif provided extensive and specific training and detailed documentations.

IBM Cognos Success for Smith & Associates

NWS

Smith & Associates reacts faster to emerging opportunities gaining faster insight into supply chains and operations with IBM Cognos software

CUSTOMER:

Smith & Associates is a world-leading distributor of electronic components. The company employs more than 300 people, with regional headquarters in Houston (TX), Hong Kong and Amsterdam, and numerous sales and purchasing offices across three continents. As a pioneer in the management of the electronics industry’s complex supply chains, Smith & Associates has built up the experience, skills and reputation that enable it to earn a consistent number-one ranking for sales in the industry.

CHALLENGES

In a highly time-sensitive business environment, Smith & Associates needs to be able to source the right electronic components at the right price, and ensure that they can be delivered to meet customers’ tight manufacturing schedules.

THE SOLUTION

IBM® Cognos® Business Intelligence and IBM Cognos TM1® deliver rapid, real-time insight into inventory levels, pricing and the supply chain, enabling Smith & Associates’ traders to source, purchase and deliver the components that its customers need. PREDICTif Solutions, an IBM Business Partner, helped to embed analytics into the traders’ existing systems, providing seamless access to reports even while the traders are on the phone to customers.

THE BENEFITS

  • Gives traders and trade managers a deeper understanding of important factors such as cost of inventory, helping them to make better sales decisions and maintain profit margins.
  • Integrates business intelligence and planning data, providing a comprehensive solution for all types of business analysis.
  • Doubles the speed of many reporting processes, delivering near-instant, real time access to information. Smith & Associates expects performance to improve even further with the introduction of the new Dynamic Query mode.
  • Provides an intuitive set of management tools, reducing workload for the IT team and enabling easier development and upgrades.

“The distribution of electronic components is an extremely fast-moving business,” explains Marc Barnhill, Chief Trading Officer at Smith & Associates. “The reason we’ve been able to maintain our leading position is that we use our expertise to make good decisions quickly, and ensure that we can deliver the components our customers need, when they need them, and at the right price. Our ability to make these decisions depends on the quality and timeliness of the information we have access to – which is where business analytics technology comes in.”

EMBEDDED ANALYTICS WITH IBM COGNOS SOFTWARE

For several years, Smith & Associates has been using IBM Cognos Business Intelligence and IBM Cognos TM1 software to provide its traders, trade managers, accountants and marketers with vital data.

“We use IBM Cognos software across the whole business, and almost 20 percent of our staff are direct users,” says Phyllis Tsu. “All our financial reporting and planning processes are handled by Cognos Business Intelligence and Cognos TM1, and we have also started using these tools to provide rapid insight into operational areas such as sales, pricing and inventory.”

Reacting quickly to emerging opportunities

When an opportunity arises, Smith & Associates’ trading team needs to be able to take rapid action – checking current inventory and suppliers’ availability, calculating prices and assessing delivery times, and finally making an offer to the customer. The business moves so fast that traders often need to be able to quote a price to the customer during the course of a single phone call.

“The traders need to be able to generate quite complex analyses extremely quickly, and they need a very user-friendly system that they can use while they are on the phone,” explains Phyllis Tsu. “So two of the main requirements for our trading analytics solution were that the response speed had to be excellent, and the interface had to show them all the information they need on a single screen.

“From an IT perspective, this meant that we wanted better integration between Cognos Business Intelligence and TM1, and we also needed to boost performance so that traders’ queries could be run within seconds. In both cases, the answer was an upgrade to IBM Cognos 10.”

QUICK AND EASY MIGRATION

Working with PREDICTif Solutions, an IBM Business Partner that specializes in business analytics implementations, Smith & Associates upgraded from version 8.3 to version 10.1 of IBM Cognos Business Intelligence. The team used the Lifecycle Manager feature to check that each of its key reports would work properly on the new system before migrating them over.

“Lifecycle Manager is a valuable addition to Cognos Business Intelligence,” comments Phyllis Tsu. “It shows what each report will look like before and after the migration, so it’s easy to compare them and make sure that everything is working correctly. As a result, we were able to complete the entire project within a month – two or three times faster than our last upgrade.”

SEAMLESS INTEGRATION

She adds: “The PREDICTif team has played a big role, not only in the upgrade but in our whole business analytics journey. Aside from their technical knowledge and expertise, they also provided a solution guide that gave us a best-practice approach to Cognos deployment. In addition, PREDICTIF’s unique APIs [application programming interfaces] helped us integrate analytics into our trading and ERP systems – so our traders can call up Cognos reports with a few mouse-clicks, without having to switch applications. The integration is so seamless that in many cases they don’t even know they’re using Cognos.”

BOOSTING PERFORMANCE

The ability to access reports from both Cognos Business Intelligence and TM1 within the trading system is a major advantage for busy traders who need to access information while they are on the phone with customers – but it would count for nothing if the solution did not respond quickly enough. The second major benefit of the new version of the Cognos solution is that performance is in many cases twice as fast as before.

“The new version of Cognos Business Intelligence definitely handles traders’ queries faster than the previous version – although the improvements may not seem impressive when you’re talking about a few seconds or sub-seconds,” says Phyllis Tsu. “But when you look at major reporting tasks such as the end-of-month financial close, the improvement is obvious: a process that used to take over an hour now runs in less than 30 minutes.”

HARNESSING NEW FEATURES

From a performance perspective, the Smith & Associates team is also excited about the new Dynamic Query Mode, which uses advanced caching and local/remote processing technologies to accelerate query speeds even further. IBM benchmarks have shown 50 to 75 percent improvements with Dynamic Query Mode – a success which Smith & Associates hopes to emulate in the near future.

Another feature of the latest version of Cognos Business Intelligence is Active Report, which enables Smith & Associates to send reports to branch managers and  allows branch managers to interact with data without needing access to the central Cognos system.

“Previously, we used to send reports to the branches in Microsoft® Excel® format, and although this was not nearly as powerful or secure as the Cognos solution, the branch managers liked the look-and-feel,” explains Phyllis Tsu. “With Active Report we have been able to create a dashboard that looks just like the spreadsheets, so it gives them the best of both worlds.”

Other features that the company may deploy in the future include Business Insight, which makes it easier for users to create their own personalized dashboards, and Cognos Mobile.

“We use a whole range of smartphones and devices – from the iPhone and iPad to BlackBerry, Android and Windows Mobile,” says Phyllis Tsu. “If we can give our users access to Cognos via these devices, so that traders can access all the information they need when they’re visiting a customer or on the road, it could be a big win for us.”

DEEPER INSIGHT, BETTER BUSINESS DECISIONS

Focusing back on the benefits Smith & Associates has already achieved with IBM Cognos 10, Phyllis Tsu concludes:

“Above all, our traders and other users across the business can now get a much more comprehensive view of operational information and how it affects their day-to-day work. For example, previously a trader might just have looked at a product’s pricing and its availability from suppliers. Now, they can also see current inventory and understand how inventory costs affect the profitability of a deal. Everything they need is on one screen and available within seconds – so if a customer is asking them about prices and delivery times, they have all the answers at their fingertips.” 

ABOUT IBM BUSINESS ANALYTICS

IBM Business Analytics software delivers actionable insights decision-makers need to achieve better business performance. IBM offers a comprehensive, unified portfolio of business intelligence, predictive and advanced analytics, financial performance and strategy management, governance, risk and compliance and analytic applications.

With IBM software, companies can spot trends, patterns and anomalies, compare “what if” scenarios, predict potential threats and opportunities, identify and manage key business risks and plan, budget and forecast resources. With these deep analytic capabilities our customers around the world can better understand, anticipate and shape business outcomes.

Electronics Distributor Solves Migration, Logistics and Billing Problems

NWS

A major independent electronics distributor solves migration, logistics and billing problems with performance management.

CUSTOMER:

A leading, global independent distributors of semiconductors, electronic components, and computer products to the world’s major manufacturers

REQUIRED CAPABILITIES

  • Single-version of truth
  • Interactive reporting
  • Operation and finance dash-boarding
  • Real-time data access

CHALLENGES

This multinational organization relies on the ability to quickly and accurately report, analyze, plan and forecast across its entire global enterprise. On time delivery of components to customers is a critical business event for the client and a principle reason why the client is a leading company in the electronics distribution industry.

The analysis of continuously changing operational data is routine; planning and developing “what-if” scenarios for operations and logistics must be conducted not just annually, but on a daily and weekly basis. Data from multiple sources is constantly being entered by myriad users; the data is then manipulated and accessed as orders are placed to buy, sell, and deliver electronic components around the clock through numerous global offices and warehouses.

 

  • A lack of transparency into freight data lead to significant billing allocation issues, a lack of control over expenses, and delays in internal departmental’ budgeting. The customers standard reports only enabled limited visibility into the business leaving key insights buried;
  • Significant opacity into actual freight costs developed because of the multiple sources and means by which charge data were handled;
  • There was concern over the continuity of knowledge and information at both inter- and intra-department levels. Additionally, knowledge and data sharing were limited and as a result, hindered productivity and responsiveness;
  • Due to the absence of a BI platform, freight and inventory levels along with their associated costs were extremely difficult to manage effectively due to the lack of real-time interconnectivity of data across departments as well as locations; and
  • The business stake-holders did not have visibility into the inventory and freight related data;
  • Accurately planning and forecasting based on available data was becoming an impossible task to accomplish because of the number of disparate data sources; and
  • There was increasing concern over data validity due to data opacity;
  • Data opacity and resulting billing problems were estimated to be costing the client one-half of a million dollars in 2007.

SCOPE

The initiative is to deliver an end-to-end enterprise performance management (EPM) solution to increase cross business unit data sharing and as a result, enhance the customer’s agility to maximize short- and mid-term market opportunities given the real-time nature of the client’s business.

 

  • Delivered an end-to-end EPM solution, its accompanying infrastructure and data integration services;
  • Integration of the Accounting and Finance Departments with that of Operations in order to improve strategic planning, forecasting (including rolling forecast capabilities), analytics and various reporting for freight and inventory;
  • Provide real-time internal data for financial and operational planning to reduce data latency and accelerate response time-to-market opportunities;
  • Establish mechanisms for knowledge sharing to increase productivity of the workforce;
  • Addresses BI performance issues resulting from disparate systems that were not interconnected;
  • Provide back up and lock down document functionality that traditional spreadsheets are not capable of;
  • Resolve conflicting cross-departmental data issues to simplify Inter-department reporting; and
  • Establish a single version of truth by implementing a suite of tools for use in extracting, reporting, analyzing and forecasting the existing data while at the same time, compiling and cohering that data

SOLUTION

PREDICTif was chosen first to evaluate a number of technologies to be used for the initiative. After a careful product selection process, IBM’s Cognos tool set was selected due to its capabilities that allowed for real-time data drill-down and analyses, rolling forecasts, multi-level management tasking, visibility, interaction across departments and management levels.

 

PREDICTif then architected, designed and implemented a solution to address a set of logistics and billing related issues based on PREDICTif’ proven BI and EPM solution offerings. PREDICTif’s ability to provide an immediate implementation of Cognos TM1 mapped to a short-term scalable plan was of paramount importance to the customer as short term return on investment was a critical variable in the decision making process related to engaging with a solutions provider.

 

The PREDICTif team, comprised of financial and operational business experts, Data and BI solutions architects, along with PMI® certified consultants, adopted a proven project delivery methodology. The methodology consists of three main phases: Foundation, Implementation and Evolution. The Foundation Phase establishes the project readiness in terms of people, infrastructure and processes. The Implementation Phase entails a typical project lifecycle that constitutes many steps including requirement gathering, design, development, testing and deployment. The Evolution Phase establishes the customer’s self sufficiency in terms of the abilities to support, maintain and upgrade the delivered solution.  The solution provided:

 

  • Real-time access to multiple data sources from a single point
  • Agile forecasting and reporting
  • Product specific drill-down capabilities
  • Multi-level management reach and connectivity
  • The interconnection of operational and financial data across multiple departments
  • The ability for Client executives along with managers across departments to interact and manipulate data collaboratively, approve or amend changes, forecasts, and formulate budgets in real-time

 

RESULTS

PREDICTif established an IBM Cognos BI and TM1 infrastructure that the customer uses to enhance their operational excellence processes in order to drive maximum business value.

 

  • Delivered an IBM Cognos TM1 user-friendly Freight Analysis Model that was first deployed on a 32-bit environment and later upgraded to a full 64-bit environment for enhanced performance;
  • Created a new suite of analysis, forecasting, and reporting tools providing visibility into the inventory and freight data across multiple dimensions. This transparency allows executives and managers to connect different data elements in order to meet various business needs, such as allocating freight costs to different parties as well as building strategic plans and forecasting with precision;
  • Offered end users the ability not only to view and analyze reports, but also to accurately view the impact of changes to freight and inventory mix and thereby create rolling forecasts to better manage operations and budgets;
  • Achieved improved ROI as a result of enhanced analytic capabilities, forecasting and reporting across the enterprise because the data is no longer opaque;
  • Ushered in a new dimension of responsiveness by delivering a flexible, real-time environment for the organization in order to perform multiple business functions and improve strategic planning in real-time for immediate and future cycles.

Cognos migration success story for auto parts company

NWS

Leading retailer and distributor of auto parts successfully migrates from Cognos Impromptu 7 to Cognos 8

CUSTOMER:

A leading provider of communications, high-speed Internet and entertainment services in small-to-mid-size markets delivering advanced communications services through its broadband and fiber optics network in more than 33 states.

REQUIRED CAPABILITIES

  • Migration of IBM Cognos Impromptu 7 to IBM Cognos 8 BI
  • Improved performance and efficiency
  • Migration of Catalogs and Reports
  • IBM Cognos 8 BI Training

CHALLENGES

Our customer was interested in eliminating inefficient, error-prone reporting and the resolving of numerous performance issues that were inherent to their existing Cognos Impromptu 7 reporting solution. Their legacy solution…

  • Used a client based tool that made data integrity maintenance difficult and at times, unresponsive and unable to address data validation;
  • Used a database based security model that is difficult to manage and maintain;
  • Had existing Impromptu reports using hot files, macros, and Excel files for reporting;
  • Structure, data and formatting relative to producing reports was overly complex;
  • Was error prone as many existing Impromptu reports contained numerous errors as a result of incompatibility; and
  • Incorporated existing Impromptu reports which had many limitations in terms of report format, report data and report output.

SCOPE

The scope of the project covered a wide spectrum of functional areas and included:

  • Installation, configuration and performance tuning of Cognos 8.3 to requirements;
  • Migration of existing reports and catalogs to reap the benefits of new Cognos 8;
  • Ensuring the accuracy of the administrative aspects relative to migration and consistency of user access and security with that of existing systems in order to minimize downtime;
  • Resolution of security issues resulting from a client based impromptu solution to that of a web based Cognos 8 solution;
  • Providing training to end users for a seamless transition from Cognos Impromptu 7 to that of Cognos 8.3;
  • Additional functionality gained by the business without compromising its data integrity;
  • Fine tuning performance while addressing data validation;
  • Delivery of a Cognos based security model complete with the training of the users to ensure adaptation of change; and
  • The leveraging of more advanced functionality found in Framework Manger and Report Studio.

SOLUTIONS

The Customer chose PREDICTif for migration of their existing IBM Cognos® Impromptu 7 to that of IBM Cognos 8. PREDICTif demonstrated the necessary depth of experience in designing, building and delivering scalable BI solutions the customer required in a solution provider.

The PREDICTif team, comprised of IBM Cognos Certified consultants, used PREDICTif’s proprietary methodology to deliver the project, in three main phases we refer to as: Foundation, Implementation and Evolution.

The Foundation Phase established the readiness of people, infrastructure and process to ensure both PREDICTif and customer teams were immediately productive at the inception of the project. The Implementation Phase delivered the solutions that met the business objectives of the project. The Evolution Phase ensured customer’s self sufficiency post production.

Foundation Phase

  • Reviewed the existing process and collected existing reports, data sources, and information needed for the process as a part of Discovery Stage;
  • Generated a detailed Migration plan after numerous planning sessions with the customer;
  • Provided foundational training of Cognos 8 to customer’s personnel to ready them for the participation in requirement gathering, design workshops and testing; and
  • Installed and configured Cognos 8 and made all the needed integrations to dependent data sources within DEV, TEST and PROD environments.

Implementation Phase

  • Applied PREDICTif’s best practices in all designs of reports, metadata and data models to achieve consistency and meet industry standards;
  • Completed the migration of all the catalogs and reports that are free of functional errors, ambiguous relationships and loop joins;
  • Created many reports from scratch as those reports lost the formatting and data formats post migration to guarantee end users the exact same report formats;
  • Validated all the reports manually with the Impromptu reports for consistency in report data, report formats, and report output;
  • Produced numerous reports of medium to high complexity which included calculations, data based on numerous groupings, multiple prompts, filters, conditional formatting, charts, various associations, master-detail relationships, date-time calculations, and heavy formatting;
  • Created an efficient security solutions for user access that leveraged Cognos 8 security features; and
  • Worked with customer’s personnel throughout the projects to ensure knowledge transfer to the customer.

Evolution Phase

  • Created custom training materials on Report Studio and Cognos Connection as well as administered classroom training sessions to power users and end users to ensure a smooth transition from Cognos Series 7 to Cognos 8; and
  • Produced detailed documents for new report authoring and overall system support and maintenance to guarantee customer self sufficiency post production.

RESULTS

PREDICTif successfully delivered a solution that met the required functionality and training requirements for the Customer’s self sufficiency.

  • Produced a successful migration of all Models and Reports from Cognos Impromptu Series 7.1 to Cognos 8.3 as well as a user-friendly, refined Framework Manager Model that enabled customer personnel to create ad-hoc reports more easily;
  • Completed deployment of all reports under budget, ahead of schedule and exceeded customer’s expectations;
  • Established an efficient approach for providing access to each user based on roles and groups in Cognos 8;
  • Provided end users the required visibility into their data and a more efficiency related to creating the required reports; and
  • Enabled end users to query and build reports, create ad-hoc reports and use various other functions built into Report Studio.

Oracle BI Enterprise edition solution for UK Based Leeds Teaching Hospitals

NWS

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust Builds Budget Reports Six Times Faster, Achieves 100% ROI in 12 Months

CUSTOMER:

Leeds Teaching Hospitals National Health Service (NHS) Trust is one of the largest hospital systems in the United Kingdom and includes Europe’s largest teaching hospital. The trust provides acute services for the population of Leeds; is a regional center for specialist services, including cancer and cardiac surgery; and treats more than 1 million patients each year.

CUSTOMER QUOTE:

“Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition enabled us to move to a balanced scorecard approach for strategy management and planning. The insights it provides will be critical to our ability to identify where we can make operational savings of US$33 million each year for the next four years while continuing to deliver excellent quality healthcare to the public”

Robert Angel, Assistant Director of Finance, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

CHALLENGES

Consolidate financial and non-financial clinical and corporate data from all hospital departments into balanced scorecards to monitor performance against national and local indicators, deliver timely and accurate statistical returns to the Department of Health and central NHS, and achieve near 100% accuracy for strategic planning

Allow senior clinicians in radiology, neurology, oncology, trauma, orthopedics, pathology and analysts to access and interrogate real-time cost and performance statistics for the medical procedures carried out by their departments, identify the cost of each patient episode, and compare costs and outcomes between departments

Enable hospital managers to drill down into financial data on both clinical spend and non-clinical expenses, such as administration, catering, cleaning, utilities, and estate management, and enable analyzing multi period extracts of expenses in each area and identifying variances against the plan

Minimize training requirements for nontechnical medical and administrative staff and deliver new analytical and reporting capabilities at the speed of user and business demand

Meet government target of saving US$33 million for the next four years without negatively impacting critical factors, such as the availability of beds, wait times for appointments with consultants, timeliness of operations, and the quality of patient care

Solutions

Used Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition to deliver personalized budget and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Nominal roll reports via monthly dashboard e-mails, delivering extensive management reports to 750 clinical and nonclinical cost center managers from all disciplines

Enabled Corporate Finance to see individual transactions in just a few clicks, using Oracle Business Intelligence Answers to drill down from high-level summary to journal and subledger details, accessing scanned-in invoices from links embedded in the dashboard e-mail

Enabled all budget holders to render up to eight reports simultaneously on a single page in approximately three seconds, a process that took up to six minutes with the legacy system and involved opening multiple workbooks Gained immediate adoption from previously resistant users who gained competency with minimal training

Leveraged Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition’s intuitive development tools so key users could build new reports, meeting rapidly expanding user demand in 5 to 30 minutes instead of three to four hours using legacy tools

Used drag-and-drop functionality to feed quarterly balance sheet statements and statistics from the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and other sources into Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition

Conducted rapid modeling of complex data to compile balanced scorecards

Benefited from Oracle Business Intelligence Answers to shift the focus from extracting data to gaining timely business knowledge

Studied period-on-period comparisons and analyzed price and volume element variances to assist forecasting and future planning with 99.9% accuracy for outturn projections based

Benefited from Oracle Business Intelligence Answers to shift the focus from extracting data to gaining timely business knowledge

Studied period-on-period comparisons and analyzed price and volume element variances to assist forecasting and future planning with 99.9% accuracy for outturn projections based on half yearly figures when tested on historic data over a three-year period

Conducted detailed spend analyses to determine how best to achieve US$33 million annual savings while minimizing impact on front-line services

Gained 100% payback on investment in Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition within 12 months, an outstanding achievement for a complex and large-scale solution

Progressed with Oracle Business Intelligence Delivers roll out to provide budget holders with automated e-mail alerts if KPI thresholds were being exceeded, facilitating exception-based management

Committed to further roll out of Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition to all hospital departments within two years

Leeds Teaching Hospitals National Health Service Trust chose Oracle over alternative business intelligence solutions for its unrivalled functionality and scalability and because it could extract data from multiple sources without manual intervention.

“The leading competitor tools that we evaluated could not offer automated data extraction. It would have taken an IT team member around one-and-a-half days per month to manually extract the data into spreadsheets and load it into the solution for analysis with alternative solutions. Or we would have been looking at solutions where revenue costs increased with each step change in functionality or data refresh,” Robert Angel, Assistant Director of Finance, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

Cognos BI 10 Migration and Lifecycle Manager

BLG

At PREDICTif Solutions, we have successfully migrated Cognos 8.4 to Cognos BI 10. The migration was pretty straight forward.   We imported Cognos 8 content to Cognos BI 10 and verified it through Lifecycle Manager. We discovered that about 85% of the reports migrated successfully without any special attention and only a handful of reports required the same amount of attention as the most complex reports from a Cognos 7 to Cognos 8 migration.

By far, the most time consuming part of the migration process was verifying reports.  We used Lifecycle Manager (Upgrade Manager in previous releases) to speed up this process.   Lifecycle Manager allowed for a systematic way to compare original and updated reports automatically. If there were any differences between each version of Cognos, reports could be compared side-by-side and any discrepancies are marked in red.

Lifecycle Manager is an invaluable tool, but it does have its limitations that require some additional effort. Other than multiple report formats, it is not designed to verify a report on multiple scenarios. A user could run the report multiple times with different scenarios, but without history, there is no way to keep track of previous results.   There is also a similar limitation in dealing with multiple data sources. Normally, if there were multiple data sources in Cognos BI, the user is prompted to choose which data source to use. However, Lifecycle Manager does not prompt the user. The only way to process the report in Lifecycle Manager would be to disable multiple data sources in Cognos Administration or manually set the report in Cognos BI to use a specific data source.   Still, both of these limitations can be further minimized by having multiple projects Lifecycle Manager. Different reports scenarios or data sources can be accounted for by different projects.

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