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Brio Enterprise Provides Decision Support for Simplot

Published
  • July 01 1998, 1:00am EDT

PLATFORMS: Clients: Micron Workstations running Windows 95, Windows NT. Server: Digital, Windows NT.

BACKGROUND: The J.R. Simplot Company is one of the nation's largest privately held businesses, with annual revenues of approximately $2.8 billion. Recognized as a leader in agribusiness, Simplot employs about 13,000 people in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Australia.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Simplot needed a data warehouse solution that would serve a wide range of users and generate few support issues. In the past, a first-generation data warehouse solution was installed for use by the Food Group division of Simplot, with end-user access provided by a variety of tools. Users were limited to viewing monthly paper reports or to making time-consuming requests for information that demanded the help of a SAS programmer. We saw an opportunity to improve the reliability and availability of our warehouse by phasing out this first-generation database in favor of a "second generation" solution. This time, however, we didn't want to deliver and support a whole range of tools--we wanted one tool that would meet the needs of our full spectrum of users, from occasional report viewers to those needing powerful analytical capabilities on a regular basis. What's more, we also wanted a decision support tool that allowed Simplot to use the Internet for disseminating information.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Our second generation data warehouse--and the enterprise business intelligence products from Brio--have been a success among users and management alike. Simplot's sales department regularly accesses standard sales reports, drilling down as needed--making sales performance analysis a simpler task, while the Logistics Group accesses the warehouse ad hoc--using Brio.Insight's query capability to solve problems and investigate "what-if" scenarios.

STRENGTHS: We were looking for a single product line to meet the reporting needs of Simplot's entire food group with its varying levels of user sophistication. One of the strengths of Brio Enterprise is that with essentially one product, users can do reporting, ad hoc queries and OLAP analysis in a Web browser. Logistics users need a direct connection to the database to perform ad hoc activities using BrioQuery to monitor inventory in warehouses, to check what products are age dated, etc. In contrast, sales representatives view canned, prepared reports using Brio Enterprise EIS tab in their Web browser. From a development standpoint, IT is supporting only one common query solution.

WEAKNESSES: We have found that the Web interface is not consistent across all PC browser platforms and are working with Brio Technology to resolve this.

SELECTION CRITERIA: From previous experience, we found that it was difficult for users to access the data. From a training, support and reliability standpoint, we needed to consolidate around one tool. We didn't want anything that was hard to support. Using these criteria, Brio's Web-based OLAP tool was chosen due to its integration, power and ease of use.

DELIVERABLES: The payback certainly relates favorably to our investment. We compete against huge, publicly held firms like ConAgra and Nestle, and we need to be more agile than they are if we want to succeed. Our ability to get information out quickly to our customers is very important. We estimate we'll experience a 50 percent reduction in support costs related to this decision support tool. The overall success of the new warehouse will fuel its continued expansion.

VENDOR SUPPORT: We were involved in the beta process of Brio's new product offering, the OnDemand Server. We felt that the support was good, considering this is a new product offering.

DOCUMENTATION: Complete on-line help is available. We were able to install and run the product (during the evaluation) without purchasing the product.

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