CATEGORY: Business Intelligence

REVIEWER: Michael White, director of financial planning and reporting for EDS PLM Solutions.

BACKGROUND: EDS PLM Solutions is an EDS line of business, created in 2001 by joint acquisition of two industry-leading product development and data management software vendors, Unigraphics and Structural Dynamics Research Corporation. EDS PLM Solutions has more than 4,500 employees globally deployed to offer their high-end software and services solutions.

PLATFORMS: Dell servers, Windows NT.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Our original system for financial and operational reporting was difficult, time-consuming and costly to maintain. Our primary goal was to achieve true reporting flexibility to compare operating results and productivity from different business units, and help to establish common metrics for decision making. We identified a series of revenue, expense and operating income metrics focused on sales productivity and sales growth, earnings and earnings growth, product line and service profitability. However, the metrics utilized transactional data and were applied on 3,000 spreadsheets, which were cumbersome to maintain and use. We encountered inherent problems associated with maintaining our existing systems, and our end users needed more information to make informed business decisions. With increased competition in our markets, we needed to pinpoint P&L problem areas to measure profitability of multiple organizational units. We wanted to spend more time analyzing data instead of gathering data. Hyperion Essbase gives us data availability at any time –­ an improvement over waiting until month end to determine budget and plan fulfillment. With new Web-based reporting, any manager with a Web browser can easily access trend reports; see plans, forecasts and productivity; and have drill-down capability instead of sifting through various paper reports. In the past, if a financial analyst wanted detailed data, he/she could access SAP through a series of predefined reports. These same reports are available through Essbase in less than 50 percent of the time it took through SAP. We also have a user-friendly interface.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: With Essbase, we can extract and replicate 3,000 separate spreadsheets into a standard template. The template allows drop-down menu selections of specific business units' performance and includes data such as revenue by type, actual versus plan and versus prior year, as well as high-level performance/ productivity summaries. The consolidation of multiple applications, with organizational drill-down capabilities has been tailored for multiple end users, such as financial analysts, operations managers or executive managers, depending on the level of detail required. The system achieves integration of multiple databases, enhances data integrity, expedites data retrieval, enables end users capable of using Excel to perform analysis querying and provides common security.

STRENGTHS: Strengths of Essbase include the user-friendly reporting system, scalability for future growth, quick and easy Web-based access and integration with various data inputs from our existing systems (SAP).

WEAKNESSES: One of the drawbacks to obtaining greater global utilization was the lack of company-specific user documentation; however, because each Essbase implementation is user-specific, the ability to provide users with a suitable set of documentation just wasn't available. Another weakness is the inability to work in other Microsoft applications, such as PowerPoint embedded worksheets, without having to disable the Essbase Excel add-in.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We had very specific requests for the vendor including: a tool for consolidations, reporting and ad hoc analysis; Web-based platform for distribution of financial information; user- friendliness; ease of extracting data from our SAP system; capability to easily maintain and change organizational structures; integration of a security profile for users; and prebuilt security. Hyperion demonstrated their capabilities using our data, and we were sold on the technical aspect of the product.

DELIVERABLES: Deliverables from Essbase include data availability any time, a Web-based reporting system, account summary level SAP data/reports in a fraction of the time and an Excel add-in for query and analysis that is easy to use. Over a five-year period, the new system will result in savings of more than $500,000 in true system associated costs. Productivity gains will be the equivalent of adding another analyst to the organization.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Throughout the evaluation and pre- implementation phase of the project, we received the utmost vendor support from Hyperion and our third-party consultant team. Post-implementation, the amount of Hyperion support required has been very minimal.

DOCUMENTATION: The Hyperion documentation of the standalone product (Essbase) has been more than adequate for reference post implementation.

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