Implemention Technology
Business Intelligence
  Microsoft Excel
Warehouse Engine

Founded in 1879, Chevron is one of the world's largest integrated petroleum and chemical companies with headquarters in San Francisco, California, and operations in over 90 countries. Chevron is involved in every aspect of the petrochemical industry from exploration and production to transportation, refining and retail marketing.

Chevron's Global Lubricants business unit is the third largest lubricant marketer in the United States, posting sales of over 200 million gallons per year. The organization offers a wide variety of branded lubricants used by customers that range in size from large manufacturing entities to family farmers. Its field sales representatives, who bear the title lubrication business managers (LBMs), sell to a distribution network that includes over 500 business partners.

The IT challenge facing Chevron Global Lubricants was to provide sales volume and margin information to the LBMs (as well as others such as executives within the division and external business partners) in a timely manner. Under the old system, LBMs received information only once a month via a scheduled report. And since it took several weeks just to collect the data required to create that report, the information the LBMs were using to plan sales strategies, schedule customer visits and negotiate pricing was often six or seven weeks old.

Building a Data Warehouse

After studying the problem, Jim Conger, manager of information systems, decided that it could be solved with data warehousing technology. In principle, the plan was simple. Every night (except Saturday and Sunday), the transaction data in the organization's accounting system would be collected and transferred to a data warehouse. That data would then be made directly available to LBMs via a simple, user-friendly interface. Under the new system, no data provided to the LBMs would be more than 24-hours old.

Chevron's corporate accounting system is a "home grown" 3GL solution running on an IBM mainframe. A flat file for reporting purposes was already being created on a nightly basis. This file was used to extract data to build the data warehouse which was implemented on Oracle7.3. To create the user interface that would give the collected data its real value by getting it to the field promptly, Chevron chose the full client business intelligence solution from Business Objects.

BusinessObjects was deployed to the LBM cadre in November 1996, after the data warehouse was fully implemented. Since the majority of the LBMs did not fall into the power-user category, the IT group also prepared and deployed a number of basic report templates to help them easily obtain the information they were most likely to need. The LBMs were trained to make minor modifications in the reports such as changing the date parameters of the requested data.

Different Levels of Use

In addition to its access functions, which enable sophisticated slice-and-dice analysis, BusinessObjects has an abundance of tools for manipulating data once it has been acquired and formatting it for output. As might be expected, some LBMs took advantage of this rich feature set, while others were quite content with the basics. With BusinessObjects users have a choice: use the tools provided or transfer the data to Excel.

According to business analyst Rosemary Harwood, who currently manages the program, a high percentage take advantage of the product's compatibility with Microsoft Excel to manipulate data once they download it. She states, "Many people are simply more comfortable with the spreadsheet they use every day, so they gravitate toward it whenever they can. But we also have power users who write their own reports." For non-technical LBMs who need a special report, the IT department will design a report and send it out to the field via e-mail. However, says Harwood, "As much as possible, we encourage LBMs to take responsibility for their own reports."

The first phase of the initiative was so successful that the Global Lubricants unit subsequently implemented the Web-based business intelligence solution from Business Objects, WebIntelligence. Harwood believes that usage of the data available from the Oracle data warehouse has increased now that it is available via the Internet. "Anything you can do to link new technology with something that's familiar makes it easier and increases usage. The Internet is very familiar to our LBMs. They're on it every day," says Harwood.

Business Partners Also Benefit

In addition to helping LBMs make more intelligent decisions, BusinessObjects and WebIntelligence also provide data to manage the business development program (BDP) for Chevron's business partners who sell directly to end users. These partners are eligible for funds that can be used for a variety of purposes ranging from advertising and marketing to attendance at technical seminars and purchasing laptop computers for their sales force. The ability to accurately track their level of participation in the Chevron BDP program is a strong motivational factor leading to increased sales of Chevron products. Using BusinessObjects, monthly, quarterly and yearly reports were developed by the managers of the program which quickly identify the status of each marketer's involvement in the program. Awards for the program can be given within several days of the end of the quarter and at year-end.

Now that the initiative to provide timely data to the field sales force has become successful, the focus has shifted to technical fine-tuning, primarily within the data warehouse itself. Following generally accepted best practices, the data warehouse was implemented at the lowest level of granularity possible. In the case of Chevron Global Lubricants, this meant down to the level of invoice line item. However, as Harwood puts it, "Nobody cares about invoice line items." She is now busy summarizing data within the data warehouse, creating, in Oracle terminology, "new views" of the data. The benefit of this process is that when the data is summarized, fewer tables have to be joined, which means that response times are faster and the data is more reliable.

Another upcoming task is standardizing the entire organization on BusinessObjects. This will be relatively easy to do because of a larger enterprise-wide initiative at Chevron to create a standard architecture for every corporate PC. Approved applications ­ BusinessObjects falls into this category ­ are now distributed via a corporate intranet so that all Chevron employees can work with the same versions of the same applications. LBMs will need only to click on the appropriate button in a list of options to upgrade.

Key Advice: Meet End-User Needs

The Chevron Global Lubricants story is a good example of how data warehousing can bring timely, actionable data to the "front lines" of a large organization. It also illustrates the importance of creating an interface that is easy to use and linked to familiar technology, but sophisticated enough to meet the demands of power users. The fact that BusinessObjects and WebIntelligence can meet end users at their own level is one of the key success factors in this initiative.

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