Good connections

Good connections

Enterprise performance management is being touted as taking business intelligence to the next level – integrating critical financial and operational information. Darren Greenwood looks at the issues surrounding its implementation, and the experiences of enterprises that have deployed its tools.

Telecom New Zealand International (TNZI) uses Cognos 8 platform to analyse, query and report on network routes to help their decisions around trading and margin positions.

The newly-installed system allows teams in Wellington, Los Angeles and London to align their performance management.

Dave Gorman, head of IT for TNZI, says the company earlier used a different provider for its business intelligence system. But even then, most of its reporting was still bound in Excel.

“We have a very data-rich warehouse but we are unable to fully exploit that information source using Excel as the principal front-end. The data is not easy to access as it requires SQL query capability. Turning the data into useful information involves taking several spreadsheets and cutting and pasting and manipulating.

“Very often we break the 64,000 row limit on our Excel reports and in some cases (due to time differences as we run a global business) the data can be two to three days out of date by the time it gets to the business in a meaningful state.”

He says TNZI went through a “standard selection process” for its new system. It went into researching markets and products, attending conferences like the Gartner BI summit, and targeting four vendors for an RFP. It then cut down the number to two, and both vendors were asked to give demonstrations on how their respective products are best suited to the needs of TNZI.

“The selection panel was a joint IT/business venture with the business in the driving seat. We chose Cognos principally because of ease of use and vendor relationship/support through CDP. Functionally, there was not a lot between them (the two vendors) but our business had a very strong preference for Cognos based on what they saw.”

During the implementation, Gorman says he worked hard to ensure business buy-in from day one. His main challenges were the aggressive timescale and that Cognos 8 was new to the market.

The rollout went smoothly bar “the odd bump, but there were no show stoppers”. Furthermore, a close relationship with CDP, whose offices were just 10 minutes away on foot, also minimised any issues.

Now, the business “absolutely loves” the system, Gorman states, though TNZI has identified “a few minor things” it would like Cognos to include in its next release.

Gorman says he doubts he would have carried out the project any differently because his processes were rigorous and the business was involved from the beginning. “Get your business fully involved from the start,” he stresses. “Arguably, the selection of a BI tool could just as easily be driven by the business with IT assistance, rather than an IT-led thing.

“If it becomes a purely IT-led thing, presenting a fait accompli to the business users, then you fail or at best get a sub-optimal result. Remember, this is their tool?–?the IT team members aren’t the prime users; the business is.”

Efficiency gains

National Australia Bank (NAB) had a different business driver for deploying EPM software. In 2004, the bank’s customer service and operations division was in the middle of a headcount freeze and wanted to manage its staff to “best practice” standards.

NAB employed its first head of manufacturing, Nigel Adams, to assess the situation and employ new programs to improve productivity.

The ‘Operational Strategy and Performance Improvement’ program followed in 2005. It focused on staff scientifically forecasting their workloads, and being able to adjust their resources in line with predicted activities.

The project team wanted to use Kaplan and Norton’s balanced scorecard methodology (a performance measurement system that allows organisations to quantify intangible assets such as people, information and customer relationships) and selected Business Objects as the delivery tool for this methodology.

The NAB project involved division executives and line-of-business managers, with impact straight through to individual full-time employees.

Adams says that as a former KPMG performance management consultant, he knew that all such tools can do 80 per cent of what you want, so the “path of least resistance” was choosing Business Objects as the bank was already using it.

There were issues in sourcing raw data from various legacy systems and trying to match it up, but these were overcome. The project was low-key and on a low budget.

He says the bank, however, under-estimated how much effort it took to educate the users.

Adams says IT managers need to look at their definition of reports for the key performance indicators (KPIs).

For example, productivity, might mean something different in one department to another. Therefore, a variety of KPIs may have to be developed for each department.

The system is being used in the mortgages area, but it will be expanded to include other business units.

“Organisations are living more than ever in a more dynamic environment. Business intelligence is essential for providing line-of-sight on future performance,” Adams concludes.

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