Founded in 1973, FedEx Express is the world's largest express transportation company, whose mission is to produce superior financial returns for its shareowners while serving customers with the highest quality transportation, logistics and e-commerce solutions.

The company's Corporate Financial Planning group provides finance support to 10 domestic and international operational and support divisions. Each of these groups and its extended users require real-time access to detailed financial information for business and financial planning and reporting.

FedEx Express's existing mainframe presented a challenge to the company's finance organizations because each group used its own planning and reporting system containing its own subset of data. Over the years, these disparate systems were customized to suit individual functional needs. As a result, flexibility was limited and data was extremely disjointed. The ability to respond to ad hoc requests from senior management became an extensive manual exercise with minimal access to detailed information.

In late 1998, the Global Financial Planning Systems group that supports the Corporate Financial Planning organization embarked on an effort to implement new technology that would allow for more effective capture and reporting of higher quality financial data. Due to its size and global market position, FedEx Express needed a robust, end-to-end solution linked to overall business objectives.

Strategically, the company required a scalable and economical solution that could provide easy access to structured data in an intuitive and user-friendly format; offer browser-independent Web accessibility; seamlessly link the data hub to back-end legacy systems; and provide rapid implementation with minimal business disruption. Knowledge transfer to empower users and developers was also key.

After talking with several firms, FedEx Express selected ThinkFast Consulting, Inc. to help implement the financial planning and reporting solution. ThinkFast could provide consultants who were Essbase-certified, Oracle-certified and had the ability to deliver custom solutions.

Another critical resource was ThinkFast's reputation for being highly committed to ongoing knowledge transfer and solution support. This meant that FedEx Express users, regardless of their technical expertise, would gain a thorough working knowledge of the technology.

The focus of the solution was to provide the user community with Web-enabled, real-time access to a central data repository, or "hub," for financial and logistical information. The first phase involved taking all the data formerly housed in more than 16 disparate databases across the enterprise and using it to build a data warehouse hub. The team also built an OLAP data suite comprised of 16 OLAP Essbase databases with Web-enabled, front-end planning and reporting tools.

The second phase involved implementing a new, customized reporting tool called PACMAN (point and click monthly analyzer). Prior to implementing the PACMAN application, the FedEx Express Corporate Financial Planning Group spent 18 percent of its time preparing reports for others in the organization. PACMAN enables the company's 800 users to request reports and conduct the queries themselves, reducing the amount of time spent preparing.

The third phase involved building a sophisticated Web-based financial planning/budgeting component. The tool features an OLAP cube designed to take user input and make it immediately accessible at all aggregation levels. Dynamic calculation gives users their responses within 30 seconds at the very highest levels of aggregation and within a few seconds at all other levels, streamlining the reporting/planning function considerably.

The company can now more effectively access and leverage its information assets to improve planning and reporting, streamline critical business processes, move closer to customers and service them more efficiently. The Web-based nature of the business intelligence solution is flexible and robust, allowing for enterprise-wide growth.

ThinkFast Consulting created a custom solution for FedEx Express using the following technologies: Powersoft Data Architect for the design and generation of the data warehouse; Oracle8.x for relational database functions; Hyperion Essbase tools to build and modify OLAP structures, define database partitions, load data, create analytical calculations and control server processing; Hyperion Analyzer to provide thin-client access for OLAP analysis; and Informatica ETL (extract, transform and load) tool for data extraction.

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