REVIEWER: Murray MacFarlane, principal accountant for Argyll and Bute Council.
BACKGROUND: Argyll and Bute Council is one of 32 unitary local authorities in Scotland. It is responsible for a wide range of services, including education, waste management, maintenance of public roads, planning and building control, social work, housing, environmental health and emergency planning. Argyll and Bute Council covers the second largest geographical area of any Scottish local authority with six towns, 25 inhabited islands and more than 3,000 miles of coastline. Thirty-six councilors serve a local population of 90,000.
PLATFORMS: Argyll and Bute Council uses IBM's AIX as its operating system with Oracle E-Business Suite.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Argyll and Bute Council strives to be the best public service rural area in Scotland. To accomplish this goal, we recognized the need to have a framework in place that provided a defined level of public accountability: monitoring of performance indicators, internal auditing, and tracking of revenue and capital budgets. Our method for operational reporting needed to be executed at a faster rate in order to maintain our reputation and serve the communities successfully. In the late 1990s, there were only two staff members developing operational reports using Oracle Discoverer for Oracle Accounts Payable (AP) and General Ledger (GL). The process led to numerous hours of report creation and often required use of an Oracle technical reference manual for instruction on how to join data source tables. These reports also had to be recreated every time Oracle issued an upgrade. Efficiency and real-time reporting drove us to invest in a solution that would streamline this process and allow business users to have information at their fingertips. Argyll and Bute Council decided to continue to use Oracle Discoverer as a reporting tool, but we still sought a complementary solution that would enable them to extract business data quickly in order to eliminate hours of manual work.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: With Oracle Discoverer alone, we were unable to meet the need for customized queries. Noetix has extended Discoverer's capabilities and enabled us to extract the information we need quickly, into the format we want and the product we prefer. In addition, we can get this information without having to remap to the data. Noetix does that for us automatically.
STRENGTHS: A main strength of the solution is ease of use. Our business users were generating their own reports within minutes after the initial training. We currently have 75 users up and running on Noetix and plan to double this number shortly.
WEAKNESSES: One thing that Noetix could consider doing in a future release is to offer a prompt to alert the system administrator of any changes that would require a regeneration of the autogenerated technology process (Noetix MetaBuilder).
SELECTION CRITERIA: Noetix was the chosen solution because it allowed Argyll's management staff to present financial information to budget holders much more effectively. We looked at a few other BI reporting tools but specifically chose Noetix for its deep roots in the Oracle environment. We wanted something that was affordable and would complement Oracle Discoverer.
DELIVERABLES: With Noetix, we have been able to conduct monthly reports on year-to-date budgets (actuals versus planned) as well as calculate the lifecycle of an invoice (i.e., track from the time it is submitted to a vendor until the time it gets paid). More importantly, users manage Noetix from the convenience of their desktops for immediate and accurate response to requests from management. We have been able to provide our budget holders with accurate and up-to-date monthly financial reports using Noetix, and this has allowed us to see how we are performing against the planned budget and to view individual transactions in order to better understand where the money is being spent. As we wrap up one fiscal year, we are able to make adjustments and plan accordingly for the next year.
VENDOR SUPPORT: The support has been excellent. Noetix consulting is a very dedicated team that ensured our satisfaction with the product from the beginning. From providing on-site support during implementation to fielding calls, Noetix consulting has been instrumental in our success.
DOCUMENTATION: The documentation was comprehensive and easy to understand. We required very little training in order to get the product up and running because it was designed to be user friendly.
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