With roots dating back to 1668, Merck is one of the oldest pharmaceutical and chemical companies in the world. It achieved ROI within one year of implementing a new business intelligence system from one of the globe's fastest growing BI software companies. The need to analyse and market more than 50,000 chemical products alone, across 15 Asia Pacific countries, made it vital for Merck to find a suitable tool to make sense of the wealth of data and information enmeshed in its complex operations.
A major challenge was to analyse the exhaustive products, sales and financial data being generated. Then there was the wealth of information produced by Merck's regional IT function and clinical development division in Singapore. This division conducts research and clinical trials for new drugs in the South East Asia and Pacific regions.
Merck is a global pharmaceutical and chemical enterprise with about 32,000 employees in more than 60 countries. Its pharmaceutical business sector comprises innovative prescription drugs plus over-the-counter products. The chemicals sector offers speciality products for the electronics, printing, coating, cosmetics, pharmaceutical and biotech industries.
In what it describes as 'an increasingly diversified and difficult' operating environment, Merck had total revenues of € 7 billion in 2007.
Milind Neurgaonkar, Merck's regional IS manager, Asia information services, said the Group's diversified business divisions in the growing Asia Pacific market, have led to the implementation of local solutions in various countries. During the selection process for an overall BI system, the company considered most of the existing On Line Analytical Processing (OLAP) based tools.
Neurgaonkar said they decided on 'point and click' software called QlikView, which uses patented in-memory associative technology from Sweden-based firm QlikTech. Merck found the software made it easy to develop templates and to extract data. The technology used in QlikView also enabled efficient data compression.
Founded in 1993 as a consulting company, one of QlikTech's first projects was to develop a tool for analysing multi-dimensional data. While developing the solution for a customer, it struck the founders that this was also a solution to a general problem for many organisations. After applying for patents, the firm launched version 3.15 in 1997 and it could be installed as a standard program on PCs.
At the end of 2004, Accel Partners and Jerusalem Venture Partners, the premier global venture capitalists, made an investment in taking QlikView global. QlikView 8.5 was released in July 2008 and the company claims that its "combination of power and simplicity in a single solution makes the conventional, top-down approach to BI obsolete".
Ashim Berry, CEO of QlikView Southeast Asia, said that QlikView "works the way your mind works," connecting related data from many sources. Information can be explored intuitively and visually, with drill down detail in a few clicks.
QlikView now has more than 9,430 customers in 87 countries, and more than 500 partners worldwide.
"Today's BI landscape is fragmented with many different tools for different needs," said QlikTech's Chief Technology Officer Jonas Nachmanson. "There is Excel for entering data; PDF reports and dashboards for basic and, ironically, executive users; OLAP for power users to do analysis; and data mining for the exceptionally well-trained expert.
Bridging the gap
"QlikView bridges the gap among all of these tools in a single solution, eliminating the tradeoff between power and simplicity. It delivers the depth of an OLAP cube that is as easy to work with as a PDF report."
QlikView SEA was formed in Singapore in 2004, in Malaysia in July 2006, and Hong Kong in 2008. In Thailand, although there isn't an office, there are close to 15 customers. In this region, QlikView has a customer base of about 250.
In July this year, QlikTech opened an office in Bangalore, India and appointed Raghunathan Rangarajan as its regional manager for India and South Asia. It says it already has close to 100 customers.
According research house IDC's 'India BI Software Market Report' June 2007, India is one the fastest growing markets of Business Intelligence software, forecast to have a compound annual growth rate of nearly 36 per cent through to 2011.
"India's economy is strong and continues to grow at a phenomenal rate. Our presence opens many opportunities to support our growth in many areas," said Peter McQuade, VP International Markets for QlikTech.
IDC also found that for three years running (2004-2006), QlikTech was the fastest growing business intelligence firm in the world.
Merck's Neurgaonkar said the benefits of the QlikView implementation, in terms of time and efficiency, were 'phenomenal' and it provided the means and the functionalities to create various statistics, KPIs and dashboards for the business.
"We have employees accessing the tool while answering the customers online and in real time. This gives them more control while discussing the customer's needs," Neurgaonkar said. "Previously, they did not have such information on the click of a button and took some hours, or days, before they could get back to the customers.
"With the implementation of QlikView, we were able to save some license cost for ERP systems. Employees who were using ERP to only view data, were moved to QlikView. Moreover, viewing information is easier than on ERP systems."
Neurgaonkar said that QlikView's integration with MS Office, the shorter learning curve required to handle it and the flexibility of creating their own front-end applications, enabled fast user acceptance. The Merck group companies in Asia have now been using the tool for more than five years and currently some 250 Asia Pacific employees are using it.
"The market conditions in Asia Pacific vary from country to country, there are always some local needs and requests for information," he said. "With QlikView, it is very easy to modify the template for these needs; the local requirements can be taken care of very fast during deployment."
Merck, said Neurgaonkar, "tends to take decision to purchase few licenses for the top management only".
"However, not all top management people need such information on an hourly or daily basis. It is our experience that tool brings more benefits to the junior and middle level management to analyse information and make decisions on an hourly and daily basis. Thus while considering the implementation, wider scope than only the top management should be considered."
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