Continue in 2 seconds

A New Approach to Fulfill Old Promises

  • February 01 2004, 1:00am EST
More in

A native of Genoa, Italy, Andrea Traverso, CEO of Orenburg USA, initially focused on engineering ­ specifically the construction of steel and concrete buildings. After receiving his MBA, he began working as an intern at a management consulting company in Milan where he specialized in planning control and logistics. One of the partners of the consulting firm, Francesco Rosi, was an experienced pioneer in using technology to solve management problems. Says Traverso, "The problem at that time - approximately 15 years ago - was that there was a very clear separation between technical people and businesspeople. It was extremely difficult to find individuals with both competencies. As a result, most of the work of the consulting company resulted in a very nice book of suggestions for changes in a company's structure and processes. Unfortunately, most of the time, these suggestions ended up in a drawer and were never put into practice. When I started working with Francesco, the idea was to put the technical side and the management side together." Rosi directed Traverso to research companies in Italy that had already adopted decision support systems - at the time, either an EIS (executive information system) or DSS (decision support system). A second aspect of the research involved reviewing the current products available. Thus began the process that eventually led to the development of Orenburg and its sole product, Board Management Intelligence Toolkit (M.I.T.).

"After 30 years, the promises of decision support still are mainly unfulfilled. It's rare to find a chief financial officer who can quickly and easily determine the impact of changes in customer payment terms on the company's net cash flow or how changes in raw material costs affect customer profitability," states Traverso. "While BI [business intelligence] vendors mainly focus on making information available and accessible, the complexity of the current business environment and new management approaches require the ability to answer complex what-if questions to effectively budget and forecast, and to support processes that span across different departments and outside a company's boundaries."

Founded in 1994 with U.S. headquarters in San Diego, California, Orenburg's core area of expertise has always been centered on the concept of using a software toolkit approach to develop and deliver custom solutions to business information questions. Equally important is the model Orenburg uses to deliver these solutions - a 100-percent channel model. Orenburg does not sell and implement Board using a direct sales force. Rather, they offer Board exclusively through a worldwide network of highly trained and experienced solution partners who design, implement and support a wide variety of analysis, planning and simulation solutions built from the Board toolkit.

Board M.I.T. is an innovative solution that enhances standard data analysis with the ability to model information and rapidly develop advanced analysis and analytic applications. It provides an alternative to prepackaged analytic applications by providing - in one integrated product - the tools to easily build highly scalable and flexible custom reporting, analysis and analytic applications, without any programming. Board delivers clear and measurable savings to organizations in operational and organizational efficiency through its fast development, easy access to information and low application development and maintenance costs. Traverso explains, "Because companies differ in size, structure, management style and function, among other things, it is not likely that prepackaged analytic applications will fit all of a company's needs right out of the box. Rather, these applications require customization, software development kits [SDKs] and other third-party tools, which increase complexity and come at a cost above and beyond that of the solution. Through hundreds of customers, we have shown that fully customized solutions can be built completely from scratch at a fraction of the time and cost of traditional BI products."

With its toolkit approach, Board is naturally appealing to both sophisticated information analysts and those who live with the data day in and day out. However, there is an even larger audience of people throughout an organization who could benefit from this same information if it was easy to obtain and understand. Traverso explains, "In recent years, businesses have acknowledged the need to supply decision-makers at all levels, from the CEO to a departmental manager or salesperson, and in all departments, from sales and marketing to finance and manufacturing, with the tools to access and analyze data. We fully recognize that not every user of a Board application is going to be a technology expert. In fact, we constructed Board with this in mind. Because of this, there is a very strong need to have solutions that can be easily and affordably customized and tailored to users' requirements. Board M.I.T. technology, although extremely sophisticated, has been designed to provide, in the easiest and fastest way, solutions for business needs, managing information and supporting management processes," emphasizes Traverso. "We focus on delivering what we promise and enabling our partners to solve business problems with their expertise and our technology."

Finding an efficient and effective way to use information to support management processes - where traditional BI software has proved limited and expensive - is a tall order. It requires the combination of formal reporting and interactive/ad hoc analysis, support to every level of the organization, end-user flexibility, handling of large volumes of data and rapid application development - all in a solution that is simple, flexible, affordable and has a quick time to application. Two components of Board M.I.T. make possible the fulfillment of these requirements.

To begin, Board boasts an integrated multidimensional database engine that is designed to fully exploit the multidimensional model. Its multi-cube architecture makes it easy to integrate data from different sources. The data is compressed and the analytic meta data guarantees the consistency of analysis and manipulation. "The net result," explains Traverso, "is that with Board M.I.T., it is possible to manage large volumes of data, such as millions of customers, at amazing speed and also utilize a number of native simulation functions, which further maximize speed and efficiency." The ability to fully exploit the structure of the data, provided by the product's multidimensional database engine, is fundamental for allowing analysis interactivity and flexibility, guaranteeing a consistent use of information across the organization and providing a high-speed framework for modeling and iterative application development.

"We are very proud of our customers' results, made possible by our years of research and development. As an example, A.C. Nielsen in Italy uses Board to help the retail industry analyze loyalty-card data. They have 200,000 product codes and several million loyalty-card codes, and they store the information by product and loyalty card. This is truly something beyond what is normally believed to be the size that can be managed with traditional BI or a standard multidimensional database," says Traverso.

The second unique component of Board M.I.T. is the application development environment. The database, data analysis and modeling functions provided by Board are made available here, and applications are built using a wide variety of objects including reports, charts, worksheets, calculation models, pictures, gauges and multi-file viewing objects. To build applications, users simply drag and drop these objects from a toolbox onto the screen and then configure them - without any programming.

Andrea Traverso, CEO of Orenburg USA

Traverso explains, "The product's functionality is similar to Legos that snap together to build the widest range of solutions at amazing speed - from reporting and ad hoc queries to complex analytics and what-if simulation." He continues, "We do not provide prepackaged Board modules to our partners. Rather, we deliver an integrated toolset that we continuously improve and enrich based on our vision and the input from our customers and partners. The result is the organic growth of an integrated solution, thereby avoiding the challenge of traditional BI systems that consist of countless numbers of layers and modules. Our partners and customers can analyze business requirements and use the appropriate pieces of the Board toolkit to provide a wide range of functions for maximum thoroughness and flexibility of analysis. This is what makes our product horizontally extensible and thus a connector of different areas of the enterprise. The ability to act as a 'connector' of people and processes, thanks to Board's native peer-to-peer technology for synchronous collaboration, allows Board M.I.T. to have a tremendous, positive impact from an organizational point of view - well beyond today's BI reporting technology."

"We believe that there are thousands upon thousands of very clever people with very valuable know-how and experience in the marketplace, but they are facing all sorts of difficulties in bringing their expertise and their added value to companies. With Board's toolkit approach, we help them do this. One of the most exciting things," Traverso notes, "is to see a partner combine their experience in a specific industry or discipline with Board and develop a solution unlike any delivered before." Board partners have used their competence and expertise to develop tailored applications for sales planning, activity-based costing, budgeting with workflow support, balanced scorecarding, value-based management, demand planning, manufacturing planning (integrating sales budget, stocks and production capacity), merchandising support, customer service-level analysis, order cycle analysis and many other business-critical needs. The flexibility of the toolkit has proven successful not only across traditional industries (such as financial, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, food, retail, banking and insurance), but also in U.S. federal government and education institutions.

For those habituated to customizing packaged analytic applications, and the costs and programming associated with it, developing a custom analytic application from scratch may sound like a challenging task. However, by allowing people to focus on the business issue, Board removes all of the very common problems that can be generated by the complexity of the infrastructure and limitations of software. The application generation process is programming-free, simple and real-time. "We have an application layer between the user and the database server that receives the requests from the users and forwards them to the database," says Traverso. "The application development layer is integrated to make things as simple as possible, and development is done in the user environment - provided you're allowed by security levels to do so. Board provides a contextual design so you can see what you are designing as you are developing, which is very important because you design 'live' with the data - the objects. You are in the user interface while you are designing - so it's real-time designing."

Orenburg USA

Year Founded: 1994
Private, profitable and self-funded
Number of Customers: 1,200+
Number of Licenses: 22,000+

Andrea Traverso

Last book read: Marlborough by Winston Churchill
Most memorable movie: Life is Beautiful
Favorite entertainer: Twiggy, my cocker spaniel
Favorite game: Tennis
Dream car: BMW Mini
Favorite vacation spot: Anywhere with family and friends
Hobbies: Tennis, bicycling, wakeboarding, reading and music
Favorite types of music: Classical, blues, jazz
Favorite food: Fruit
Favorite beverage: Water

On a designing note he continues, "Our product was designed from the beginning to be used as a rapid application development toolkit for analytic applications. It is not a reporting tool that has been extended with some additional functionality. We started from the beginning to develop and design software with the ultimate goal of speed, ease of maintenance and minimal cost of ownership in developing analytic applications. We did this from the design stage of the software and were thus guaranteed a great solution."

If this sounds good to you, you don't have to suffer through an interminable period waiting for delivery of a proof of concept (POC). "With Board," Traverso remarks, "our partners can deliver a POC in as few as two hours. At the longest, delivery of the POC would take two days. And the POC is not just a bunch of reports - improperly labeled by many as analytic applications - but a full analysis environment including examples of budgeting and simulation. Our partners do this on site with the customer's data so they know this is the real thing. There's no smoke and mirrors behind the scenes. This is a very important step for us because once our partners get the chance to conduct a POC, it is rare that we don't sell the solution."

Orenburg's Board M.I.T. enables complex analysis, but the approach is simplistic. With Board, you will be able to analyze the information required to make the best decisions for your company. "This is our ultimate goal - to empower the business users," Traverso proudly concludes.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Information Management content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access