REVIEWER: Marsha Williams, vice president of IT for COBE Cardiovascular, Inc.

BACKGROUND: COBE Cardiovascular, founded in 1964, is a member of the SNIA family of companies dedicated to delivering therapeutic solutions in the treatment of cardiovascular disease. The SNIA family of four unique companies – COBE Cardiovascular, Dideco, Sorin and Stöckert – has a long rich history in providing innovative products for the cardiovascular surgeon, the perfusionist and the patient.

PLATFORMS: Cognos BPCS EPA Sales Analysis uses a SSA Global Technologies (GT) BPCS ERP system on an AS/400 platform. The operating system is DB2 V4R5.

PROBLEM SOLVED: We had a powerful ERP system in place – SSA GT's BPCS – so we were capturing a lot of rich transactional data. However, it was difficult to view our business at the necessary 300,000 foot level with only the BPCS transactional data. In Cognos' analytic applications, we found a product that would meet that need. Through a strategic partnership between SSA GT and Cognos, we were able to purchase their combined solution – BPCS EPA Sales Analysis powered by Cognos. COBE Cardiovascular needed a way to navigate this fast-paced commodity market to ensure that not only were we delivering on our reputation for customer service, but we were also finding a way to spot trends in our business. Heart bypass operations are at a steady level in our market. Therefore, we needed to find a way to differentiate the brand while maintaining loyalty in our customer base. COBE is driven by a high-touch sales model. Today, BPCS Sales Analysis allows our salespeople to approach their contacts with confidence – with the information in hand in order to see what is happening at a given account.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: BPCS EPA Sales Analysis is one in a series of analytic applications that provide a foundation for business performance measurement based on a common factor. This particular application focuses on sales performance and allows businesses to analyze all aspects of sales, turning raw data into meaningful information. With this ability, organizations can implement solutions that meet their immediate departmental requirements and then incrementally employ the solution across the entire enterprise. One of the chief areas in which the solution has excelled is sophisticated CRM analysis. We can determine what is happening at a given account and anticipate the customers' needs. It has also helped us maintain a very informed dialogue with our customer base.

STRENGTHS: Hands down, the biggest selling point for us was the ease of use. We are a traditional company in a traditional marketplace, and we had a very paper-based reporting culture. BPCS Sales Analysis was easier to use than we ever expected. Basically, we were able to get our sales teams up and running on the solution very, very quickly and with minimal training. The other key strengths for us were the low total cost of ownership (TCO) and the accelerated deployment time. The built-in business content (in the form of prepackaged cubes, reports and KPIs), as well as the fact that the solution was purpose-built for our BPCS system, slashed the deployment time from the five months that we had projected to eight weeks.

WEAKNESSES: One of the key concerns we had was perpetuating the dependency on paper reports. Cognos has a wide range of prepackaged reports that we avoided deploying initially. The fear was this reporting capability would cause our teams to revert to this report and print paradigm. We focused on the OLAP/Cognos PowerPlay functionality as the first wave.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We already had SSA GT's BPCS in place at COBE Cardiovascular. The integration of BPCS with Cognos' Analytic Applications was a natural fit for us and addressed a significant business requirement.

DELIVERABLES: Right now we have one cube in deployment. It delivers Cognos PowerPlay reports to our sales teams, allowing them to look at salesperson by product, customer by product, customer history/trending and product line.

VENDOR SUPPORT: COBE has maintained a very close relationship with both SSA GT and Cognos. We were an early adopter of the integrated product, and both companies have been there every step of the way. The best part about the solution is that it is truly turnkey. The impact on our company has been significant in driving bottom-line benefits.

DOCUMENTATION: The ease of use of this product has been remarkable. None of the people on the team had any prior solution training, nor have they really delved into the documentation – they just haven't needed to. The product could absolutely be used after only a cursory glance.

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