By Scott Humphrey, Principal of Humphrey Strategic Communications, based on an interview with Jay Skibinski, Vice President of Information Technology and Services, and Tony Langford, Manager of Business Systems, at Siemens Medical Systems.

Siemens Medical Systems was facing a serious quandary. The company, which develops, markets and maintains medical imaging devices for hospitals and clinics, needed to meet a contractual obligation to produce more than a dozen crucial reports from its SAP R/3 system. These reports detail the servicing and maintenance of its medical imaging systems, such as MRIs, ultrasound equipment and nuclear medicine gamma cameras. In addition to its contractual obligations, the timely servicing and maintenance of its medical devices is critical to assuring the proper functioning of Siemens Medical's potentially life-saving equipment.

These reports detail items such as contract revenue, costs, third-party costs (both labor and equipment), miscellaneous costs, equipment inventory reports, open service call alerts as well as closed job reports. "The reports require us to pull information from all SAP R/3 modules, so they are very complex to produce," said Tony Langford, manager of business systems at Siemens Medical.

Siemens Medical had been using programmers writing custom ABAP/4 code, SAP R/3's programming language, to extract the necessary R/3 data for reporting purposes but were "on the edge" as far as being able to effectively meet additional reporting requirements of the business.

"The reports represent detailed information by customer that are generated in hard code format," Langford said. "We could not pull the reports using SAP R/3's basic reporting capabilities and recognized we needed to develop a longer-term solution as we add additional R/3 modules which will only further intensify the workload. ABAP reports are expensive to produce and not customizable by the end user; and because R/3 data is very complex, all user access to information had to be facilitated by IT which was a drain on our resources," Langford explained. "We were getting enough done to keep things going but weren't fully taking care of the information needs of the business. We knew it wasn't going to be the solution that we could live with forever just because of the cost and the inflexibility that it brought to our environment."

According to Vice President of Information Technology and Services Jay Skibinski, Siemens Medical wanted to design and implement an enterprise reporting system that provided end-user access to operational data from the various business applications and systems throughout Siemens Medical including SAP, JDE and PeopleSoft. "We also wanted to leverage packaged solutions for reporting needs that could be tailored to fit our specific requirements," Skibinski said. "In addition, we wanted to provide an intuitive interface for users to access predefined reports as well as generate their own ad hoc reports from the information contained in the data warehouse/reporting system. We wanted to empower the end user. It is as simple as that."

Siemens Medical also recognized it needed its new decision support solution to reside outside its R/3 environment. "We knew that any additional processing load on our current SAP system would adversely impact our transaction processing, and that was not an acceptable alternative," Langford said. "We wanted to find a solution that was 'R/3 smart' from the ETL side as well as one that would accelerate the development of our data warehouse. We found both solutions in Acta Technology's RapidMart and ActaWorks products."

Acta's RapidMarts are out-of-the-box warehouse solutions which greatly reduce the time and level of SAP and data warehousing expertise required to rapidly deploy an SAP data warehouse. RapidMarts are built with ActaWorks, the first extraction, transformation and loading tool designed specifically to address the challenges of building data warehouses from SAP R/3 applications.

During its due diligence, Siemens Medical conducted a proof of concept utilizing Acta's Sales Analysis RapidMart and ActaWorks. With minimal training, Siemens Medical was able to extract, transform and load Acta's RapidMart with real R/3 business data using ActaWorks and generate basic reports in just two days. "We were able to install the RapidMarts and hit the ground running," Langford said. "Acta's Materials Management, Sales and Cost Analysis RapidMarts provided us with a 70-80 percent solution that we then customized for our immediate needs."

Siemens Medical is using ActaWorks to extract SAP R/3 data nightly to refresh the warehouse before the start of the next business day. In its previous environment, custom ABAP programs would have been written to handle the extractions now performed in ActaWorks' GUI-based drag-and-drop environment. According to Langford, the performance of the new system, although not formally measured, has been more than acceptable. "We're running 52 data warehouse jobs nightly and easily finishing prior to the next business morning."

Users are provided secure access to the data warehouse utilizing a Web browser as well. "A large group of users can now access the data and build their own reports, in addition to the reports that we will prepare for them," Langford said.

In just eight weeks after installing ActaWorks and the RapidMarts, the major components of the key R/3 extracts were being performed and loaded into Siemens Medical's target data warehouse. Just four months after product inception, Siemens Medical successfully deployed phase one of its data warehouse implementation, with two more scheduled for later in the year. Siemens Medical estimates that it saved six months and over $1 million dollars implementing the Acta solution versus employing ABAP programmers to do the job. "That represents initial implementation costs only," Langford said "We will also save in ongoing maintenance as well as the cost of producing new reports. The RapidMarts greatly accelerated the development process, along with ActaWorks, which totally insulates us from the programming complexities of R/3."

Siemens Medical developed its data warehouse with the assistance of Root Consulting, a systems integration and consulting services company with focused expertise in the areas of data warehouses and enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications.

Looking to the Future

Now that the company has successfully deployed its data warehouse, Siemens Medical is looking to make the warehouse accessible to an even wider range of users. "Down the road, we want to find a series of standardized reports that a larger population of business users will need that we can make available through the Web," Langford said. He added that Siemens Medical will investigate using ActaWorks in conjunction with PeopleSoft as well. "ActaWorks will play a key role in making that data part of the data ware- house environment. "ActaWorks' ability to work with non-SAP data sources such as legacy data and PeopleSoft is going to enable us to further enrich the data warehouse with additional key source data," he said.

"The application landscape and the functionality changes in the business climate make us able to react much quicker since we don't have to go back and deal with custom code and applications," Langford said. "The timely servicing and maintenance of our medical devices is key to our business," Langford concluded. "These reports guarantee that proper servicing and maintenance occur on a timely basis."

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