Business intelligence solutions a top priority for NZ businesses

User case studies from Otago Polytechnic, The Crane Group and Meridian Energy

The organisation provides building products, predominantly plumbing products. The Crane division has around 350 sites across New Zealand and Australia, and has 4000 employees.

The Oracle solution has been in place for four years, says Poree. Before that Crane had another vendor solution in place, but that one was expensive and not meeting the company’s needs, he says.

With the change to Oracle, the organisation was looking for more dashboard-type reporting, he says. To move to that with the previous vendor would have been costly.

“It saves us a lot of time in the business because people can quickly see what is important, whereas with the old system, we were just running lots and lots of tabular reports.”

Crane Group chose Oracle because it already had “an Oracle footprint” in the business – which meant the BI solution would integrate with other systems, for example the ERP system. Compared to other vendor offerings, it was also a cost-effective option, says Poree.

“The nature of the reporting has helped drive the behaviour we wanted in our operations – that has been the biggest benefit. People are now looking at numbers because of the way they are presented, and the information is relevant to them.”

Giving people the most important numbers in a very visual way has also helped increase productivity, he says.

Another aspect that in hindsight has worked very well was making sure that the reports were designed around the specific roles in the business.

“So, it’s not the head office purchasing person that decides what someone from a trading branch needs in terms of, for example, purchasing reporting,” he says.

This “role-based reporting” has helped drive the effectiveness of the solution, says Poree.

Implementation of the system was “relatively easy”.

“We did a proof-of-concept. Oracle came in and ran it up in a number of days on some existing data. It helped that we had the data warehouse there already so it wasn’t a case of having to build that.”

The Crane Group is now in the process of upgrading to the latest version of the Oracle BI software. One of the main drivers is to get support for mobile devices, such as iPads and iPhones, says Poree.

The solution already features push reporting, so you can email reports in PDF format to managers.

“With mobile device support you can send them an actual dashboard, so it’s not static – it becomes information that they can drill into and use,” he says.

There is a strong demand from the business to get onto that version because “people are quite mobile in our business and they see a lot of benefit in the mobile platform”.

Designing the solution around the people that are going to use it has played a big part in making it a success, says Poree. He would also recommend building a BI solution slowly.

“It’s a good tool to pilot – win people over and then let it grow.”

In addition, the organisation has made the information very open to users, he says.

“There are no barriers to getting access to information – no one has to phone IT support to get a report built, they just build it themselves.”

Meridian Energy

Meridian Energy has implemented an IBM Cognos TM1 budgeting and forecasting tool this year.

A financial planning and reporting application is in place, as well as a board scorecarding tool, says group financial controller Kelvin Mason. An HR application has just been commissioned and the organisation is in the process of completing a procurement reporting application. A retail dashboard app is also under development, he says.

Reporting at Meridian used to be spreadsheet-based.

“These spreadsheets grew over time, additional features were added, and they involved a lot of manual extraction out of databases,” Mason says.

As the spreadsheets grew larger and larger, the risk also became greater that one of them might fall over at some stage.

“We were really concerned about our reporting,” he says. “It took endless amounts of time to create reports and we couldn’t have the information quickly.”

After going through a selection process, the organisation decided on the Cognos suite and chose Auckland-based consultancy Cortell to deliver the solution.

In the past, it would take two to five days to consolidate budget – to get the numbers out, do some analytics, go back to the business and suggest changes, he says. But with the new system in place “we were instantaneously creating that consolidation, getting a view and were able to be very quick on the analytics”, Mason says. The cycle-time has been cut down “immensely”. “We are now able to focus the business on more driver-based information.”

As an SOE, Meridian is required to produce annual budgets, but the BI solution is opening the doors for moving towards a “rolling forecast mode”, with the business unit owners being able to look at their forecast, budgets and actual expenditure in real-time, says Mason.

The future outlook involves moving away from historic reporting to more of a forward-focus, he says.

“You can spend a huge amount of time looking backwards and creating reports that show what we did in the past. But that was the past and it’s not going to change. We can now move on to ‘what does that mean for the future?’” he says.

The organisation can now run scenarios to model what a future outcome could look like. “We can quickly change parameters and simulate what the result would be.”

While the investment in a BI system is large, the ability to speed up decision-making and quickly simulate and test future outcomes is “a real benefit”, he says – even if it’s hard to put a dollar amount on it.

The organisation provides building products, predominantly plumbing products. The Crane division has around 350 sites across New Zealand and Australia, and has 4000 employees.

The Oracle solution has been in place for four years, says Poree. Before that Crane had another vendor solution in place, but that one was expensive and not meeting the company’s needs, he says.

With the change to Oracle, the organisation was looking for more dashboard-type reporting, he says. To move to that with the previous vendor would have been costly.

“It saves us a lot of time in the business because people can quickly see what is important, whereas with the old system, we were just running lots and lots of tabular reports.”

Crane Group chose Oracle because it already had “an Oracle footprint” in the business – which meant the BI solution would integrate with other systems, for example the ERP system. Compared to other vendor offerings, it was also a cost-effective option, says Poree.

“The nature of the reporting has helped drive the behaviour we wanted in our operations – that has been the biggest benefit. People are now looking at numbers because of the way they are presented, and the information is relevant to them.”

Giving people the most important numbers in a very visual way has also helped increase productivity, he says.

Another aspect that in hindsight has worked very well was making sure that the reports were designed around the specific roles in the business.

“So, it’s not the head office purchasing person that decides what someone from a trading branch needs in terms of, for example, purchasing reporting,” he says.

This “role-based reporting” has helped drive the effectiveness of the solution, says Poree.

Implementation of the system was “relatively easy”.

“We did a proof-of-concept. Oracle came in and ran it up in a number of days on some existing data. It helped that we had the data warehouse there already so it wasn’t a case of having to build that.”

The Crane Group is now in the process of upgrading to the latest version of the Oracle BI software. One of the main drivers is to get support for mobile devices, such as iPads and iPhones, says Poree.

The solution already features push reporting, so you can email reports in PDF format to managers.

“With mobile device support you can send them an actual dashboard, so it’s not static – it becomes information that they can drill into and use,” he says.

There is a strong demand from the business to get onto that version because “people are quite mobile in our business and they see a lot of benefit in the mobile platform”.

Designing the solution around the people that are going to use it has played a big part in making it a success, says Poree. He would also recommend building a BI solution slowly.

“It’s a good tool to pilot – win people over and then let it grow.”

In addition, the organisation has made the information very open to users, he says.

“There are no barriers to getting access to information – no one has to phone IT support to get a report built, they just build it themselves.”

Meridian Energy

Meridian Energy has implemented an IBM Cognos TM1 budgeting and forecasting tool this year.

A financial planning and reporting application is in place, as well as a board scorecarding tool, says group financial controller Kelvin Mason. An HR application has just been commissioned and the organisation is in the process of completing a procurement reporting application. A retail dashboard app is also under development, he says.

Reporting at Meridian used to be spreadsheet-based.

“These spreadsheets grew over time, additional features were added, and they involved a lot of manual extraction out of databases,” Mason says.

As the spreadsheets grew larger and larger, the risk also became greater that one of them might fall over at some stage.

“We were really concerned about our reporting,” he says. “It took endless amounts of time to create reports and we couldn’t have the information quickly.”

After going through a selection process, the organisation decided on the Cognos suite and chose Auckland-based consultancy Cortell to deliver the solution.

In the past, it would take two to five days to consolidate budget – to get the numbers out, do some analytics, go back to the business and suggest changes, he says. But with the new system in place “we were instantaneously creating that consolidation, getting a view and were able to be very quick on the analytics”, Mason says. The cycle-time has been cut down “immensely”. “We are now able to focus the business on more driver-based information.”

As an SOE, Meridian is required to produce annual budgets, but the BI solution is opening the doors for moving towards a “rolling forecast mode”, with the business unit owners being able to look at their forecast, budgets and actual expenditure in real-time, says Mason.

The future outlook involves moving away from historic reporting to more of a forward-focus, he says.

“You can spend a huge amount of time looking backwards and creating reports that show what we did in the past. But that was the past and it’s not going to change. We can now move on to ‘what does that mean for the future?’” he says.

The organisation can now run scenarios to model what a future outcome could look like. “We can quickly change parameters and simulate what the result would be.”

While the investment in a BI system is large, the ability to speed up decision-making and quickly simulate and test future outcomes is “a real benefit”, he says – even if it’s hard to put a dollar amount on it.

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