Business intelligence: how to make it work for your company buyer’s guide CW

buyer’s guide
Business intelligence: how to
make it work for your company
CW Buyer’s guide
Business intelligence,
or BI, software has
business intelligence steadily emerged as a
hot topic in recent
years. Research
shows that more than
49% of companies
have concrete plans to implement or expand their use of BI
software in the next 24 months. But cost is a big barrier, and
interest in BI software and spending money to adopt the
tools and processes do not necessarily translate into
successful implementations. This eight-page guide looks at
some of the options companies should consider before
embarking on a BI implementation.
How to make business intelligence
tools work for your organisation
page 2
BI tools can report essential, timely data but care must be taken to
select the right system, writes Clive Longbottom
Give your business a BI boost for less
page 4
The benefits of business intelligence are clear, but cost is a major
barrier to mass adoption. With this in mind, Arif Mohammed
reviews two different BI models – one open source, one commercial – to see how they compare
How agility will shape the future of
business intelligence in your firm
page 6
Choose the right BI tool for the job
How agility will shape the future of business intelligence in your firm
page 7
Cliff Saran analyses how to find the right approach for your
company in a changing business intelligence landscape
These articles were originally published in the Computer Weekly ezine.
a whitepaper from
Computer Weekly
buyer’s guide
enterprise software
How to make business intelligence
tools work for your organisation
BI tools can report essential, timely data but care must be taken to select the right system, writes Clive Longbottom
CW Buyer’s guide
business intelligence
he last few years have seen
a flurry of activity in the
business intelligence (BI)
market. Firstly, the old-style
approach of reporting against data
in a relatively static manner was put
under pressure by users demanding
something a lot more flexible, where
they did not need to approach the IT
department every time they needed to
create a report. Then, the big suppliers decided they needed BI tools they
could control, rather than embedding
suppliers such as Information Builders, Panorama Software and Tableau
Software have all let users know
there are alternatives available to
whatever they may be using to date.
The largest remaining independent
supplier, SAS Institute, continues to
dominate as a specialist BI supplier.
Cloud-based computing is giving
greater reach to many of these suppliers. Spotfire has provided a hosted
a copy of a standard engine (generally
Crystal Reports) into their systems.
IBM acquired Cognos and SPSS, Oracle bought Hyperion and SAP took
over Business Objects. Some smaller
suppliers got in on the act – relative
newcomer Spotfire went to Tibco, the
middleware supplier.
This flurry of activity presented issues to many users – if they were
running a heterogeneous environment, how rich would the functionality of one supplier’s BI engine be
against another, competitive supplier’s systems? Would bringing Cognos
into an Oracle environment be a foot
in the door for IBM to try and move
the organisation over to DB2?
The market for independent BI
providers soon began to fill up –
version of its software for many years
and Panorama – through a partnership with Google – offers its capabilities as a BI software-as-a-service
(SaaS) offering.
Open source BI tools
But the biggest problem remains the
cost of BI. If a business’s main asset is
its information – its intellectual property – BI needs to be widespread
JasperSoft and Pentaho both have
community editions of their BI software
free to download and implement
buyer’s guide
across its employee base, so everyone
can add value to the data at their
disposal. By providing BI tools only
to those deemed at a sufficiently high
level, BI ceases to deliver what it
promises – and becomes a niche tool.
Open source could provide the answer here. There is a broad open
source BI project, known as BIRT, the
business intelligence and reporting
tools project. Actuate has the best
known distribution of this, but others
provide alternatives under open
source banners that may offer greater
overall functionality.
The main players here are JasperSoft and Pentaho, both of which have
“community editions” of their software that are free to download and
implement, with support being community-based.
Their commercial editions are enterprise subscription licences based
on the number of CPUs, so broad
adoption can be made without the
need to deal with per-user issues.
Others not using open source but
having low-cost approaches (and
often a free usage version or at least
free evaluation version) include QlikTech and Panopticon.
Buyers must understand there is a
cost to everything. Free, open source
software is not free – even when you
take the community version. It is free
of licence, but has implementation
and support costs. Subscription software has on-going, predictable costs,
Business intelligence case study: Cheyne Capital
Cheyne Capital, a hedge fund management company,
has replaced SAS with Tableau business intelligence, to
speed up reports for its traders, writes Cliff Saran.
Over the last three years the IT team at Cheyne Capital
needed to provide reporting across multiple systems to
provide traders with greater business insight. However,
due to the nature of its business, producing reports
needs to be done quickly and efficiently.
Jan Uygur, CTO of Cheyne Capital, said the company
wanted to hand over reporting to the business, rather
than leaving reporting as a purely IT function. “Since the
downturn we have strived to be more efficient. We were
using SAS previously, but it is a big heavy tool.”
This meant the company had to use the SAS environment and extract data into a SQL Server database. “We
wanted to make reporting much lighter,” says Uygur.
SAS needed a lot of developers, with three to five
people involved in developing reports. The downturn led
to a reduced IT team, forcing the department to rethink
how to produce reports more cost-effectively.
Faster reports were necessary as the trading desk
and commercial, off-the-shelf software
may have up-front licence costs along
with on-going maintenance charges.
The final choice comes down to other
issues – as detailed above – and applying suitable business wisdom in
the search for meaningful intelligence.
asked IT for applications. As an interim step, Uygur says:
“We gave traders reports. When traders need something, we have to give them a solution quickly.”
Cheyne Capital has realised portfolio managers need
to interact with instant data and up to date analysis,
rather than being presented with static reports that can’t
answer questions. The hedge fund company is using
Tableau Software to deliver reports in a way that it can
work with the numbers, delve deeper and see the
information in the way staff want – grids, graphs and in
the form of an infographic illustration.
Sheel Bhatiani, deputy head of IT at Cheyne Capital,
said the department had previously used wireframes to
develop reports, which were then presented to users.
Tableau is more interactive. It provides a graphical
designer, allowing an IT person to sit on the trading desk
and collaborate with a trader to build the report, making
changes on the fly.
Cheyne Capital plans to adopt Tableau Software’s 6.1
version with potential use on tablet devices, making the
data accessible for portfolio managers on the go.
Quocirca recommends the following
as basic pointers:
l Is a single supplier solution important to you? If so, look to the tools
from the incumbent (e.g. IBM, Oracle, SAP), but negotiate hard around
existing contracts. On the whole, this
will tend to restrict you to a smaller
number of active BI users, with the
capability to distribute the reports
from the analysis.
l Do you want an independent BI
system that can work across a more
heterogeneous system? Look to the
remaining independents or semiindependents such as SAS Institute
and Tibco Spotfire. These may still
be expensive at a per-seat level, but
will often come with tools to manage
deep domain expertise areas, such
as oil and gas, pharmaceutical and
finance data analysis.
l Can you provide your own systems
support, and are you in a position to
enable a suitable number of support
staff to build up their own knowledge
of the chosen system? If so, then
community editions of BI tools may
meet your requirements. This would
provide the most scalable BI system
– but you need to watch out for any
lack of functionality that may be in
some community editions.
l Do you want a fully supported
system, but also want broad adoption
capabilities? Then look for supported
versions of open source tools, or
for commercial systems that do not
charge on a per-user basis.
For many, it will come down to a
hybrid solution – but certain key
areas must be borne in mind:
l Everyone must be analysing the
same information. Different BI tools
looking at different information silos
Choose the right BI system
When it comes to choosing the right
BI direction for your organisation,
Buyers must
understand that
free, open source
software is not
free. It is free of
licence, but has
and support costs
do not provide business intelligence
– it gives chaos.
l One person’s great BI tool is another’s incapability to see the results.
Bar and pie charts may be pretty easy
for everyone to understand, but not
all data is well suited to bar or pie
charts. Heat maps, spider charts, geodata representations, bubble charts
and all other media may have meanings for certain people, but do not
assume that any one way of viewing
data will suit everyone.
Look for tools that enable the user
to change the visualisation method to
one that suits them best. If multiple
BI tools are chosen to give different
viewing capabilities – see the point
above regarding information silos.
l “Live” reports have pros and cons.
Web-based output which allows
users to see the analysis of the live
data is great, unless what was required was a snapshot in time. Make
sure that the differences are understood, and the right reports can be
run against the right data. ■
buyer’s guide
Give your business a BI boost for less
The benefits of business intelligence are clear, but cost is a major barrier to mass adoption. With this in mind,
Arif Mohammed reviews two different BI models – one open source, one commercial – to see how they compare
CW Buyer’s guide
business intelligence
here is a school of thought
which stipulates deploying
business intelligence (BI)
tools to as many people
as possible in the organisation.
Rolling out BI to the masses
empowers staff to make business
decisions themselves, rather than
rely on managers.
The cost of rolling out enterprise
business intelligence tools across
an organisation can be prohibitive,
but CIOs can reduce this cost by
opting for low-cost or open source
Jaspersoft BI Enterprise
Jaspersoft’s Business Intelligence (BI)
Suite Enterprise Edition is a strong
competitor in the commercial open
source BI market, with its main rivals
being Actuate BIRT, SpagoBI, and
Pentaho Enterprise. But due to its
wide toolset, analysts also view Jaspersoft worth considering alongside
commercial BI platforms from Microsoft, IBM, Information Builders,
Oracle, SAP and SAS.
Jaspersoft provides a broad BI
suite covering reporting, online analytical processing (OLAP), data visualisation and data integration. It also
features interactive, web-based reports, dashboards and analysis, and
comes at a fraction of the licence
cost of offerings from commercial
BI Enterprise also supports a range
of implementation options such as
on-premise, multi-tenant softwareas-a-service (SaaS), and cloud-based
deployment, and Jaspersoft offers
similar technical support packages
to most commercial BI suppliers.
The supplier owns and controls
its JasperReports and iReport tools –
for core reporting – and JasperServer
– which provides repository, security and dashboarding functions, plus
ad hoc and in-memory data analysis
But the suite’s open source codebase also enables it to support thirdparty commercial and open source BI
tools, which gives its broad range of
capabilities. These components include Talend’s open source extract,
transform and load (ETL) tool and activity monitoring console; R, an advanced analytics development envi-
ronment; and JasperAnalysis, an
OLAP tool based on the open source
Mondrian engine.
One disadvantage of this approach is that while these tools
extend the suite’s functionality,
Jaspersoft does not own or control
these key BI components, or their
roadmap or integration.
Nevertheless, Mike Boyarski, director of product marketing at Jaspersoft, argues that the relatively
low cost of BI Enterprise is a big attraction for many IT managers. “In
some cases, the cost of expanding
the use of an existing commercial
tool is prohibitively high due to perseat licence fees and associated services expenses. For core BI requirements, Jaspersoft often equals or
betters the [price of the] incumbent
solution,” he says.
buyer’s guide
Analyst view of Jaspersoft
Forrester Research principal analyst
Boris Evelson says there is a clear
distinction between Jaspersoft’s community and commercial enterprise
suites, with the latter able to compete
with the commercial market leaders
on features and functionality.
In terms of open source, enterpriseclass BI suites, he says Actuate BIRT
“leads the pack because of richness
of reporting functionality”. But he
adds: “Jaspersoft Enterprise, SpagoBI,
Pentaho Enterprise, and Pentaho
Community are close behind, and
offer a much fuller and broader BI
stack than Actuate BIRT, including
ETL and advanced analytics.”
Evelson argues that while
Jaspersoft does not match, feature
for feature, the likes of Oracle, Microsoft and IBM, BI users should
consider whether they really need
all of the “bells and whistles” of the
larger suites. “If your IT culture
calls for an 80/20 rule – where 80%
of requested functionality is mostly
good enough – and your budget is
limited, Jaspersoft, Pentaho, and
SpagoBI offer very respectable options,” he says.
QlikTech QlikView
QlikTech’s QlikView is a commercial BI platform that has achieved
rapid success over the past few
years, particularly since the company had its Nasdaq IPO in July
2010, making it the first BI flotation
for many years.
Analysts have remarked on
QlikView’s user-driven approach to
BI, which focuses on ease-of-use for
both IT professionals and non-technical users. The suite also differentiates
itself from other BI platforms by
being wholly based on an in-memory
data store. By utilising in-memory, as
opposed to traditional disk storage,
the BI application can refresh data in
real time to support operational BI
environments, such as monitoring financial transactions.
QlikTech’s main in-memory BI
competes with Microsoft SQL Server,
Case study: RelayWare/Jaspersoft
PowerPivot, IBM Cognos Express
and SAP BusinessObjects Explorer.
QlikView, which is currently on
version 10, comes with a set of integrated BI tools designed to create
highly interactive applications,
dashboards and reports. One of its
strengths is that it can combine data
from disparate sources, including
Oracle, SAP,, SQL
Server and Excel.
It then provides associative search
facilities, which the supplier likens
to Google’s Instant Search, with the
interface highlighting significant relationships in the data. The product
also offers extensive data visualisation via expandable 2D and 3D
charts, tables and graphs.
According to analysts, data visualisation is one of the main features of
the platform. During the MP expenses scandal, QlikTech developed a
demo application that allowed people to visualise and analyse their
local MP’s expenses.
Steve Dark, an independent
QlikView consultant, says: “At the
time the scandal was unfolding, the
data was being rolled out via QlikView
on the web. In the intervening time
there has been a huge surge in interest
in, and use of, QlikView in the UK.”
RelayWare, a supplier of partner relationship management (PRM) software to
the likes of Sony, Lexmark and Trend Micro, chose Jaspersoft BI Enterprise
and JasperReports Server after “extensive evaluation”. The firm rolled out the
latest version of its PRM software, RelayWare Version 8.3, in August, incorporating JasperReports Server.
It chose Jaspersoft mainly because its reporting capabilities allow
RelayWare to enable its clients, many of whom have non-technical sales and
marketing users, to share reports dynamically with their partners across the
world via web portals and dashboards. RelayWare operates globally, and
therefore chose to implement Jaspersoft in the cloud.
“We were struck by JasperReports Server’s
ease of integration, functionality, feature set and
ease of use, says RelayWare CEO Mike
Morgan. He adds that the firm chose an open
source platform partly because of its “lack of
expense” compared with commercial
platforms, and partly because of its “ongoing
development and support”.
Case study: The NHS/QlikView
According to QlikTech, more than 85 NHS trusts are using QlikView, including
Cambridge University Hospitals, Newham University Hospital and Liverpool
Heart and Chest Hospital.
Gareth Goodier, CEO of Cambridge University Hospitals, says the NHS
trust chose QlikView after tendering for a front-end system that could present
all its management information. Managers and clinical professionals across
the organisation use QlikView to detect operational inefficiencies, “from the
board to the ward”.
Goodier describes the software as fast, simple and easy to use. “We have
invested less than £1m over four years in terms of the software. It has
required very little staff time and has facilitated very significant improvements
in patient care, the efficiency at which we deliver that patient care and our
general productivity,” he says.
Another NHS organisation, the North West NHS
Collaborative Procurement Hub, deployed QlikView to
consolidate data from 45 financial and purchasing
systems – in a 12-week implementation. The Hub
claims QlikView has delivered procurement savings
of £42m and freed up hundreds of hours previously
spent on manual reporting and analysis.
Analyst view of QlikView
QlikView’s strengths lie in its userdriven approach to BI, its ease of use,
its intuitive interface and how “likable” the product is to use, says Rita
Sallam, research director at Gartner.
But Gartner has a number of concerns about the platform. “QlikTech
has no expansive product strategy beyond its current offering. While it has
a roadmap for incremental improvements to its current product, QlikTech has not laid out a clear vision
elucidating how it will maintain a
sustainable competitive advantage,”
says Sallam.
“QlikView is increasingly seen as
expensive – almost a third of customers surveyed see this as its main barrier to wider use. Its pricing model
often does not sit well with larger de-
ployments to more users, nor does
the investment in RAM required to
support the increasing numbers of
concurrent users,” she adds.
And while QlikView has a reputation for “blistering speed”, Sallam
says 11.6% of its customers reported
poor performance as a problem they
had encountered. Despite this, she
adds: “The general perception of its
customers is that QlikView still delivers among the best performance on
the market.”
Product information
Jaspersoft BI Enterprise
Company: Jaspersoft founded in
San Francisco, US, in 2004
Product: Jaspersoft BI Enterprise
Features: Reporting, OLAP, data
visualisation, dashboards, data
Production deployments: 175,000
in 100 countries; over 14,000
commercial customers
QlikTech QlikView
Company: QlikTech founded in
Lund, Sweden, in 1993
Product: QlikTech QlikView
Features: Data integration and
analysis, searching, visualisation,
Production deployments: 19,000
customers in more than 100
Jaspersoft versus QlikView
Gartner’s January 2011 Magic
Quadrant for BI Platforms featured
both Jaspersoft and QlikView – with
Jaspersoft meeting the criteria for
the first time. Gartner considers
Jaspersoft more of a “niche player”,
but among the challengers, while
QlikTech operates in the “leaders
and visionaries” quadrant, alongside
SAP, SAS and Information Builders.
Gartner’s Sallam says: “Cost
[and total cost of ownership are] by
far the most compelling part of the
Jaspersoft value proposition and the
major ingredient driving its success.”
In comparison, QlikTech implementations can be significantly more
expensive. In terms of functionality,
both platforms offer sophisticated
data visualisation and dashboards
and a full range of BI tools, albeit
through third parties for Jaspersoft.
In conclusion, QlikTech is a
better option for larger enterprise
implementations with deep
pockets, while Jaspersoft is ideal for
smaller companies that are happy
to work with a commercial open
source platform. ■
buyer’s guide
business intelligence
How agility will shape the future of
business intelligence in your firm
Agility can help close the gap earlier business intelligence processes and technologies create, writes Boris Evelson
well-intentioned efforts of the past
decade to streamline previously siloed BI environments via centralisation often had unfortunate negative
side effects.
Centralisation and consolidation
cut costs and reduce duplication. But
consolidated environments, managed
by a shared services organisation,
create more processes that are often
bureaucratic. Getting anything done
means multiple sign-offs and “building permit” approval processes.
Centralised BI environments are
anything but agile. Indeed, the number of organisations planning to consolidate their BI environment is decreasing, from 40% in 2009 to 38%
in 2010. It’s a slight decrease, but a
decrease nonetheless.
CW Buyer’s guide
business intelligence
usiness intelligence software has steadily emerged
as a hot topic in recent
years. In 2011, most companies will again focus their software investment plans on business
intelligence (BI). More than 49% of
the companies that responded to
Forrester’s recent software survey
have concrete plans to implement or
expand their use of BI software in the
next 24 months.
But interest in BI software and
spending money to adopt BI tools
and processes do not necessarily
translate into successful implementations: Forrester’s most recent BI maturity survey indicated that enterprise BI maturity levels are still
below average – 2.75 on a scale of 5, a
modest 6% increase over 2009.
Why earlier BI initiatives fail
BI technologies and processes have
not kept pace with business realities. In the past 10 years, enterprises
pretty much solved the problems that
plagued typical BI implementations
in the 1990s: data and information
silos and unstable, poorly scalable BI
technologies. But while earlier-generation BI technologies have matured
into industrial-strength solutions
- function-rich, scalable, and robust
- they have largely failed to address
Business intelligence must be able to adapt to ever-increasing rates of change
agile enough to react and adapt to information requirements that seem to
change with ever-increasing speed.
The second reason for BI not
meeting expectations is that centralisation has not led to agile, streamlined BI implementations. All of the
one simple, pragmatic business reality: the need for flexibility and agility.
Furthermore, businesses have
begun to realise that their enterprise
standard BI approaches, while suited
to addressing most current business
requirements, are neither flexible nor
The future of agile business intelligence
BI vendors and developers now need to concentrate on
next-generation technologies, and four subcategories of
agility: automated, pervasive, unified and limitless.
Firms need to automate BI processes and steps, from
data sourcing to delivering reports, dashboards and
alerts, as fully as possible to eliminate manual work and
free-up valuable human resources for analysis and other
value-added tasks. Even as BI attempts to bridge data
and information silos, BI technology itself is not unified.
Different BI tools address various BI use cases, such as
historical and predictive or batch-based and real-time BI
applications. Next-generation BI brings all of them
together in a unified platform.
After automation and unification, companies should
address pervasiveness. Make enterprise BI applications
available wherever and whenever strategic, tactical and
operational decision-makers need to analyse information, make decisions and act. This category includes
technologies such as mobile, cloud and embedded BI.
Finally, for next-generation BI to face the challenges of
the modern business world, it must operate on information without borders or restrictions.
Agility to the rescue
BI implementations need to be more
successful to support untamed business processes. While agility will not
cure all BI’s ills, it provides the most
important best practices and leverages a key capability of the underlying
BI technology to help close the gap
that earlier-generation BI processes
and technologies create.
It’s not just about the agile software
development methodology. Agile
business intelligence is an approach
that combines processes, methodologies, organisational structure and
technologies to enable strategic, tactical and operational decision-makers
to be more flexible and more responsive to change. But agile development by itself is not enough, so it is
wise to adopt multiple best practices
and next-generation technologies to
make BI more flexible.
Start by adapting your organisational structures and enterprise culture for agility. No technology or processes can address BI challenges if a
company’s organisational structure
and enterprise culture are not already
on firm, agile ground. Once the organisation is aligned for agility, the
next step is to consider and implement agile BI processes. ■
This is an edited extract from the Forrester
report Trends 2011 And Beyond: Business
Intelligence (March 2011) by vice-president
and principal analyst Boris Evelson.
buyer’s guide
Choose the right BI tool for the job
Cliff Saran analyses how to find the right approach for your company in a changing business intelligence landscape
CW Buyer’s guide
business intelligence
here can be little doubt business intelligence is recognised as an important IT investment. Business analytics
has been effective in decision-making
for three of four enterprises, according to a Bloomberg survey.
And Forrester principal analyst
Boris Evelson says: “More than
49% of the companies that responded to our most recent Foresights Software Survey have concrete plans to implement or expand
their use of BI software within the
next 24 months.”
Business intelligence (BI) is supposed to provide decision-makers
found that the more time deployment
teams took to build data cubes or
manage metadata, the more building
costs were eliminated.
For example, report author David
O’Connell discusses how a healthcare provider avoided growing its report-building staff by 20% because
its IBM Cognos 8 BI deployment was
integrated with more than 20 separate Oracle and SQL databases.
O’Connell says: “A credit union
examined by Nucleus avoided add-
with the insight they need, but the
definition is changing.
The growth in data is making it
harder for people to gain meaningful
insight because they can only track
data on a quarterly or yearly basis. Increasingly, business leaders want to
make decisions faster and this is putting the IT department under more
pressure at a time when they are
being asked to do more with less.
Business intelligence is expensive
but a recent Nucleus Research report
BI is expensive but a report found that
the more time deployment teams took
to build data cubes or manage metadata,
the more building costs were eliminated
ing three report builders by combining operational information and trialbalance data in its IBM Cognos TM1
deployment and automating reporting for asset-liability management
and cost-of-capital tracking.”
The main BI suppliers
IBM (with Cognos), Microsoft, SAP
(Business Objects) and Oracle have
strong BI offerings. IBM and Microsoft lack the ERP products the other
two offer. But Gartner says so far it’s
an open and heterogeneous position
and increasing use of services in its
value proposition are helping IBM to
maintain par with SAP and Oracle.
However, in Gartner’s report, The
Changing Attitudes of Business Intelligence Users, Gartner analyst James
Richardson notes that, in 2011, more
than 50% of IBM Cognos users stated
that SAP or Oracle is their primary
ERP and these firms will form a key »
buyer’s guide
battleground over the next few years
for Cognos.
Richardson says: “The biggest loser
in standardisation is Microsoft,
which has neither the strength in
ERP nor IBM’s service provider touch
to defend its position, and as such
has fallen out of parity with the other
three megavendors as a BI standard.”
The limitations of BI
According to Clive Longbottom, services director at Quocirca, the biggest
problem remains the cost of BI. “If a
business’ main asset is its information - its intellectual property - BI
needs to be widespread across its
employee base, so everyone can add
value to the data at their disposal.
By providing BI tools only to those
deemed at a sufficiently high level,
BI ceases to deliver what it promises
and becomes a niche tool.”
Worse, Forrester finds there are
plenty of BI failures. The analyst firm
warns that interest in BI software and
spending money to adopt BI tools
and processes do not necessarily
translate into successful implementations. Forrester’s most recent BI maturity survey indicated that enterprise BI maturity levels are still
below average (2.75 on a scale of 5, a
modest 6% increase over 2009).
A new approach to BI
Vivek Ranadivé, CEO of Tibco and
co-author of The Two-Second Advantage, believes traditional BI is
hampering business. Ranadivé says
it is better to have the right data a few
seconds before it is needed than wait
six months to analyse a report from
a data warehouse. “When you get off
a plane you should be told that your
luggage has not arrived, rather than
have to go to lost baggage.”
Ranadivé adds: “With a CRM system, everything sits in a database, but
no one knows something has happened. Traditional ERP and CRM are
siloed.” For Ranadivé, businesses
need to move away from the concept
of application servers to an event
server, where applications communicate events through a common bus –
a service-oriented architecture.
The Two-Second Advantage provides examples of how real-time decision support can grow a business.
In one example, the CIO of Air
France, Edouard Odier, describes a
system to minimise disruption when
Case study: Verna Group, healthcare manufacturer
Verna Group is a healthcare manufacturing company
based in Bolton, which supplies pulp paper products for
infection control to organisations such as the NHS.
David Foreman, group MIS manager at Verna Group,
has a finance background, reporting information to the
business, management accounts and decision support.
He says: “We have a big tender process for the NHS,
which requires plenty of information.”
As well as supporting this, BI is being used to prepare
financial reports and help the company compete. In the
last 10 years, technology has evolved, Foreman says.
“We have needed to compete. We have tried to make our
information far more efficient and effective.”
Verna Group has moved from yearly to rolling quarterly
forecasting for its budgets. The company has deployed
Cognos Planning and Cognos Contributor to allow
people to contribute to the forecast.
“We developed a model to enable people to go into
their division/channel area which contains previous
forecasts and historical data, allowing them to tweak
numbers quickly. We are aiming for fast and light
forecasting,” says Foreman.
Users can review the data based on what has
happened in the previous quarter. The model supports
trends. There is also a pipeline element which drives
sales, by showing business opportunities.
Foreman explains: “When a hospital buys 10 macerator machines they will also buy pulp paper products.”
Verna Group uses a data warehouse to collate
information across the company. He says: “In April we
had got to a position where overnight we could synchronise data from all systems, with aggregation and alerts.
“We wanted to get moving quite quickly, and the level
of our data is relatively easy.”
The company needed a cheap and quick solution. “It
was difficult to get pivot table information out. Cognos
needed more investment,” says Foreman.
The company chose QlikView. QlikView is used to
interrogate the data warehouse and supports interactive
reporting. Foreman says: “We used paper-based
reports. Now managers can get consolidated information quickly, slice and dice and do their own analysis.”
Case Study: Elekta, medical equipment provider
Elekta, a medical company which provides equipment
for radiation therapy, is using forecasting software from
Inform to manage spare parts in its warehouses.
The company needed a way to forecast stock levels of
spare parts across its global network of 20 warehouses,
a task that could not be completed easily with its existing
Movex M3 ERP system, explains Mark Purchase, global
logistics manager at Elekta. “We run a low-volume but
complex operation to install, maintain and support 2,000
sites globally. Because of the mission-critical nature of
the parts-support operation, we need to ensure all of our
customers maintain maximum use of their investment in
patient treatment systems.”
Purchase says ERP is unsuitable for the low volume of
parts that needs to be managed, since ERP systems are
transaction processors geared towards high-volume
manufacturing. He says ERP integrates sales, finance
and supply chain in one system, but spare parts
replenishment is a fairly specialised area in the business.
“It requires very low-volume forecast - almost random ERP is not configured for this type of forecasting.
“ERP would provide you with a lot of data, with lot of
fields to maintain,” he adds. If Elekta had used its ERP
system to support the parts replenishment business
process, it would have required an awful lot of data
manipulation at item level and item location, according to
Purchase. Then when something changed, he would
have to reset everything to do the forecast in a different
way. “At end of this year I will be running 20 locations with
2,500 SKUs per location. I don’t want to perform
constant maintenance and manually go into the ERP to
make forecasts.”
Instead, Elekta opted for add*One Inventory Optimizer
from Inform, which takes a nightly feed from the Movex
M3 ERP system, to forecast demand for spare parts
globally and respond to the more extreme movements as
soon as they register as demand.
Previously forecasting demand for spare parts was
based on fixed stock levels and usage. Purchase says:
“We used to look at data in the ERP and feed in parameters like maximum and minimum stock levels. We would
repeat this exercise globally once every three months.”
Now forecasting can be conducted daily: “We can
review a wide range of forecast models and select the
most appropriate automatically. We take an SQL extract
from the ERP and pass onto Inform six nights per week.
Since data from the ERP system is processed
overnight, the team has a complete overview of current
and projected stock of their whole portfolio, allowing a
recalculation of the global position for the next day.
hind.” The system helps decide
when the flight takes off, knows who
will miss their connection, and automatically e-mails them with rebooking information.
While real-time analytics is about
collapsing delay from weeks or
months to seconds. predictive analytics allows users to predict things
based on a number of events happening simultaneously. “It’s situational
awareness and is being used in the financial trading and online betting
sectors,” says John Sidhu, chief technology officer of Glue Reply.
long-haul flights are delayed.
In the book, he says: “If there are
400 people on the long haul flight
and the system sees that three will
miss it, it may decide it’s better to
have 400 on time and three left be-
“We looked at data in the ERP and fed
in parameters like maximum stock
levels every three months”
He says classic BI tools cannot
cope with predictive analytics because they output. In the gaming industry some of Glue Reply’s clients
are creating their own tools to manage risk.
Low-cost BI tools, such as
QlikView, and open source business
intelligence reporting tools, such as
Jaspersoft, open the use of BI in business. At the high-end, companies are
moving closer to real-time analytics
and linking disparate sources of information to add context to the decision-making process. ■