Making Business Relevant Information Instantly available to More Users


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Business Intelligence is taking on an expanded role within organizations, but several factors need to be addressed in order to equip the users for success. This paper examines how SAP BusinessObjects Polestar combines the speed and simplicity of search with the trust and analytical power of business intelligence to deliver immediate answers to business questions.

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Making Business Relevant Information Instantly available to More Users

  1. 1. Making Business Relevant infoRMation Instantly avaIlable to More Users To stay competitive, organizations must constantly review critical business decisions. Specifically, executives, managers, the status of their projects, policies, and initiatives—and they and business users need the ability to quickly discover, have to make rapid decisions about which should continue, collect, analyze, and share relevant information and they which should change, and which are worth launching. need to be able to answer their own questions as they have What’s needed to make these choices is easy access to up-to- them. date business relevant information. New RequiRemeNts emeRge Unfortunately, many managers do not have access to the information they need to make these decisions. The required For years, organizations have relied on BI solutions to information is usually buried in a variety of data sources access information they need to help meet their business distributed throughout an organization. And while IT can objectives. For instance, many use the information to provide access to information, this approach can be time measure and improve business processes; compile consuming and resource intensive. What’s more, traditional financial results from across the company; gather, analyze approaches to Business Intelligence (BI) with reports or and act on customer information; and track and ensure existing query tools may not be suited to business users who regulatory compliance. want quick self-service answers to sets of questions they have. While conducting these tasks, most managers rely on data provided to them by IT. For example, in 2007, more than Something different is required to meet the constant and 80 percent of the 215 senior IT executives surveyed by CIO rapidly changing demand for information to drive time- Insight said they delivered some BI information to their business managers via reports. About 60 percent said additional information was delivered via dashboards. Meeting new Business Challenges: • Organizations must constantly make rapid While meeting the needs of some users, these approaches have limitations. Reports are static, and can quickly become decisions about new and existing initiatives outdated and not representative of the true situation at • To do this, users need easy access to up-to- hand. Dashboards offer more current information, but the date information user is limited to the information presented and cannot • What’s needed is a solution to find data that easily incorporate other relevant data or dynamically drill down into more granular detail. In particular, it takes is as easy to use as Internet search a great deal of time to develop custom applications • Once relevant data is found, workers need a to extract, assimilate, analyze, and visualize any newly way to quick visualize, analyze, and share the desired information. IT simply does not have the time to information accommodate such frequent, temporal requests. Sponsored by
  2. 2. relevant data. This might include information about sales, Business Intelligence is taking on an production, product return rates, inventory levels, etc. And expanded role in many organizations the desired information might be scattered in departmental Excel files, ERP systems, a corporate data warehouse, an online data repository, customer service e-mails, and so on. Recent business conditions are forcing a change. Traditional BI solutions have been leveraged for the high value of their Time lost searching for such information can be substantial. reporting and analytics capabilities, but now organizations Past IDC studies found that most workers have difficulty are looking to get the same power of information access to finding such data, spending 15 to 35 percent of their time all workers who need it. searching. Worse, people found the sought-after information less than 85 percent of the time. The problem is exacerbated As such, there is a growing demand for speed, and as raw data and the variety of data that must be searched companies need to adjust business processes and strategies explode in volume. to react to market conditions on the fly. In fact, these capabilities are becoming essential. For example, 42 percent And assuming the data is found, workers must then extract of the 220 senior executives in a 2009 CIO Insight survey said the relevant information needed for decision-making. For improving business processes was a top priority this year. instance, a manager might need only the fourth-quarter sales stats for North America, the inventory of one product in what’s Needed? stores in the Northeast, or the volume of repeat business for customers who spend more than a certain amount. For organizations to achieve their business goals and leverage BI, they must improve management’s ability to use To glean this specific information from the raw files and information and offer more people access to more kinds of databases requires cutting and pasting, or writing custom information. In particular, there is a growing need for easy- scripts to extract the required information. This manual to-use solutions that provide up to date interactive access to process can be time consuming, non-repeatable, and error- information. prone. And therein lays the challenge. The collection, assimilation, Add the complexity of assimilating data from multiple and sharing of data has not kept pace with today’s need for sources—which is often necessary—and the problem is rapid decision-making and flexible information access. compounded. For example, a retailer trying to optimize winter clothing inventory would need information about As information requirements and user expectations increase, in-store stock quantities, short-term product marketing BI solutions are challenged to meet the needs of a broader campaigns, weather projections, and so on. audience. As is the case with extracting data, assimilating data can be FactoRs LimitiNg success time-consuming and error prone. Here, data often must be converted before it can be used. For example, an ERP system As we’ve pointed out, the main impediment to dynamic BI is might list sales per quarter, while an inventory system uses that people cannot get the data they need to make decisions. per-month figures. IT can help, in some cases. But it is impractical for IT to Once all the information is gathered together, it then respond to every request as managers attempt to pull must be analyzed. For example, a manager might want to information from new sources on the fly. Besides draining calculate sales growth by quarter, by region, average sales IT resources, the time required to develop solutions might per month, and so on. This might require that the assembled prevent IT from fulfilling the requests altogether. information be incorporated into an additional application, such as a financial analysis package or spreadsheet. The alternative is for workers to handle such matters on their Again, errors can be introduced as this manual process is own. Unfortunately, this is not a trivial task. undertaken. First, decision-makers would need to identify and locate the And finally, employees often need to generate graphs or Sponsored by
  3. 3. charts to help identify trends, milestones, and shortcomings find information. visually. Unfortunately, many workers have trouble creating charts and graphs using desktop office productivity and Using the software, a sales director can view all relevant sales other applications. And unlike analysts, many workers who information, while a regional manager would only need are not used to viewing data on a day-to-day basis do not access to the information about sales in his or her territory. even know which type of charts to use to extract relevant Similarly, Human Resources might use SAP BusinessObjects information. Polestar to search for information about salaries, insurance coverage, and performance reviews, while a manager might eNteR a New way to get to iNFoRmatioN only use it to view a subset of that information. Essentially, what workers need to help make informed Being useful to so many types of users, security and access business decisions is something that is powerful and easy to control must be taken into account. To help manage these use, with a low learning curve. issues, the software is built on top of SAP BusinessObjects XI infrastructure, services, and capabilities. BI platform security To meet this need, SAP offers SAP BusinessObjects Polestar, is applied across all Polestar searches and exploration, which combines the simplicity and speed of search with the ensuring workers will only have access to permitted data. trust and analytical power of business intelligence to provide immediate Once workers gain answers to access to the data they business are entitled to use, SAP questions. BusinessObjects Polestar helps them sort through The software the information. The vast enables self- volumes of information service BI, so found would likely be workers do not overwhelming if the need to rely on worker were simply IT to develop presented with a random special tools for list of the sources found. this purpose. The software makes the search and exploration A worker starts process more efficient by entering by presenting the most With SAP BusinessObjects Polestar, users see the relevant data, which a few search relevant search results is automatically put into a chart for easy viewing. keywords to find first and automatically needed information. Like familiar desktop and Web search, generating the most relevant chart representing the this returns details about the relevant information from all information. data sources, including data warehouses, applications, and relational and database management systems. These capabilities are all offered in an exploration panel that helps add context to the search. The worker can determine SAP BusinessObjects Polestar replies on pre-indexed data to immediately if the right data for his or her project has been identified. Unlike analysts, many workers who are not In particular, SAP BusinessObjects Polestar automatically used to viewing data on a day-to-day basis generates the most appropriate chart without the worker needing to understand the data or how it is structured. For do not even know which type of charts to example, when displaying percentage breakdowns of a multiple-entry data set, the software generates a pie chart; use to extract relevant information when comparing multiple measures like revenue and profit, Sponsored by
  4. 4. SAP BusinessObjects Polestar quickly visualizes found data to make it more useful for decision making. it displays a bar chart. This makes exploration of the data as improve worker satisfaction. Or a custom service manager easy as browsing online. might use the software to examine product return rates and compare this information to methods of shipment to see if Once the relevant information is found, the software there is a correlation. enables easy sharing. Workers can bookmark the results they have obtained and send a URL to a colleague. Additionally, a manager at manufacturing unit might use Additionally, information found through the search and the software to look for top suppliers, quantity ordered, and exploration process can be exported to a CSV or Excel file. part costs. A marketing team might use the software to perform and analyze different campaigns, looking at leads generated by region, by product, and by media, and then What workers need to help make in- correlate the costs of a campaign to leads. In other words, formed business decisions is something SAP BusinessObjects Polestar can be used by a broad set of industries and by a broad spectrum of users within an that is powerful and easy to use, with a organization. low learning curve In other words, SAP BusinessObjects Polestar enables rapid data exploration giving workers visually interactive access to When in CSV format, the information can then be integrated information. It automatically displays relevant information into documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and other using the most suitable type of chart. And the worker can applications in the organization. then easily share this information with others and integrated the information into other applications. Similarly, a chart can be saved as an image file for use in a document or presentation. For more information about SAP With its ease of use and ability to quickly find relevant BusinessObjects Polestar, go to: data, SAP BusinessObjects Polestar can help many types of workers do their jobs. Specifically, its simplicity, speed, and intuitive user interface gives workers instant answers to questions. For example, a regional sales manager could sapbusinessobjects/large/ use the software to quickly view sales by representative or intelligenceplatform/bi/search- region rather than waiting for monthly reports generated by navigation/polestar/index.epx IT. An HR manager might use the software to explore trends in employee retention and then pass along the findings upper management with suggestions for new programs to Sponsored by