REVIEWER: Mark Lack, planning and financial analysis manager at Mueller, Inc.

BACKGROUND: Since 1984, Mueller, Inc. has undergone rapid expansion, becoming a leading manufacturer of preengineered metal building and residential metal roofing products. Today, Mueller, Inc. serves the central and southwest U.S. markets from three manufacturing/distribution locations and 21 retail outlets.

PLATFORMS: AS/400, SQL Server, Windows 2000.

PROBLEM SOLVED: The CEO, CFO and I spent several years developing and refining a true balanced scorecard. Together we led the company in a process of identifying key performance indicators in the areas of finance, customers, internal processes, and learning and growth. Metrics dependencies were studied and process maps created to reflect our leading and lagging characteristics. After developing the metrics and gaining buy-in from other key Mueller personnel, the next challenge we faced was extracting and disseminating the information in a timely yet cost-effective manner. A robust solution that could be implemented quickly was needed because the scorecard was critical to communicate our business strategy. We purchased the full suite of Cognos Performance applications as well as the Cognos reporting tools. We partnered with CD Group for the implementation because of their deep knowledge of the Cognos Performance Applications and our JD Edwards applications.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The first phase of the project was the implementation of the sales and general ledger (GL) modules. These prepackaged customer and sales analytic applications have open ERP-agnostic architectures that are production-ready and are based on analysis and reporting best practices. We valued their rapid deployment with JD Edwards applications - which essentially accelerated our process for a quicker time to results. Reports, plans and metrics come with each module and are all interconnected so we can easily investigate a sales issue and then link it back to our financials as necessary. The combination of these two modules with one key customization enabled better-than-expected analysis as well as access to the core metrics we needed in the balanced scorecard. We now have faster access to information (getting information in three minutes rather than in three to four days) and standard reports. We have the ability to conduct thorough project-pricing analysis and the right tools to evaluate target market strategy and success. 

STRENGTHS: Faster time to results is one key strength. ERP applications are wonderful for transaction processing, but reporting is slow and very time-intensive. The ability to get quick answers to questions with minimal impact on infrastructure is very beneficial to our overall decision-making process. Another strength is the ability to draw on proven industry best practices, reports and analysis in core functional areas of the business to gain greater visibility into company data without building everything from scratch.

WEAKNESSES: The cube concept takes a great deal of learning for someone who has little concept of the depth of the data they create. Most users are accustomed to flat reports with large amounts of data, and the BI cube calls for large amounts of data accessed in small batches.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We selected Cognos because of its overall reporting strength, rapid deployment with JD Edwards applications and very quick results.

DELIVERABLES: The data cubes allow the user to research the information they need without creating a new report. For example, with sales data we were able to organize transaction files in such a way that users could access the particular piece of data they needed very quickly. We produced data cubes for sales and GL transaction items.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Cognos is great when it comes to support. They have given us tremendous help in solving any issues and have supported us on current issues as well. Cognos and CD Group have provided excellent support during the pre- and post-implementation process. The best part of working with the two vendors has been their relative levels of expertise and talent in delivering and supporting complex business value.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is complete and easy to understand.

Cognos Performance Applications
Cognos Inc.
3755 Riverside Drive
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
K1G 4K9

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