PLATFORMS: Microsoft Windows 95/NT with Office 97 on the client side. Solaris and NT with Oracle8 on the server side.
BACKGROUND: Colgate-Palmolive Company, Inc., based in New York City, is the worldwide leader in oral care, personal care, household surface care, fabric care and pet nutrition, operating in over 200 countries around the world with worldwide revenues of $9 billion.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The Business Information Warehouse (BW) is SAP's strategy for a comprehensive data warehousing solution. It is comprised of a data warehousing and a decision support tool (OLAP engine). The product also provides immediate visibility to core SAP R/3 business content through the use of pre-configured extractors, models, report libraries and channels. The data warehouse consists of an easy-to-use administrator workbench for implementation, maintenance, scheduling and monitoring of the data warehouse environment. Data may be extracted from internal (SAP R/3) and external data sources and then staged in BW. This provides a foundation for immediate aggregation of data for reporting on multiple SAP R/3 systems and external data together. The decision support tool is user friendly, provides interactive reporting along with drill-down capabilities and utilizes EXCEL as the report delivery mechanism, thus taking advantage of all Excel functionality. In addition, the users have the ability to customize their own desktop and build their own individual reports. SAP has published BAPIs and supports OLE DB for OLAP to allow third-party tool access and openness to their data warehouse.
STRENGTHS: The BW provides automated feeds from the SAP R/3 system. This yields immediate master, hierarchy, business event and meta data integration for reporting and eliminates the need for complex customized data extracts from SAP R/3. The administrator workbench provides ease of centralized maintenance of data feeds, building of data warehouse and monitoring of processes. The integration of a decision support tool with EXCEL provides for ease of training and simplification for global standardization. Through the development of BW, APO and other analytical applications, SAP has built the foundation for a "close-the-loop" application solution back to R/3. This gives customers a tremendous opportunity to deploy a total end-to-end strategy with SAP. SAP has involved its customers in the design of the product from the beginning, providing its customers great influence in product functionality and allowing them to prioritize future functionality components and drive requirements.
WEAKNESSES: The documentation currently provided needs to be more comprehensive. SAP has stated that the documentation will be greatly improved in the 1.2 production release, due in the fourth quarter. In addition, SAP has decided to work with third-party vendors to provide non-R/3 data access. Major ETL vendors are currently undergoing a certification process.
SELECTION CRITERIA: Colgate-Palmolive needed a product that would give tight integration with SAP R/3 and provide a user-friendly reporting environment. SAP integration of the Business Information Warehouse (OLAP) product with its SAP R/3 (OLTP) product is impressive, providing endless possibilities to build an enterprise reporting environment, utilizing all aspects of SAP R/3 and external data sources that also influence the business. The automated data feeds mean tighter controls and audits with much less reliance on customization of data extractions from SAP R/3. The product provides a foundation for global standardization of data warehousing and DSS reporting tools as well as standardization under one software application solution and vendor.
DELIVERABLES: The Business Information Warehouse can deliver reports with any information imaginable. It is most useful when taking advantage of its automated data feeds from SAP R/3 and its pre-configured reports.
VENDOR SUPPORT: SAP AG has always been very responsive to our needs, in many cases allowing us to drive requirements toward their software product development efforts. SAP provided local consulting support that helped install and configure the BW system. They also conducted detailed technical training on the BW system and were able to apply knowledge of R/3 to assist in creation of applications under BW.
DOCUMENTATION: The on-line help that accompanies Business Information Warehouse is well written and organized.
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