REVIEWER: Jan-Willem Beldman, enterprise data architect for Mentor Graphics.

BACKGROUND: Mentor Graphics is a technology leader in electronic design automation, providing software and hardware design solutions that enable companies to send better electronic products to market faster and more cost-effectively. The company offers innovative products and solutions that help engineers overcome the design challenges they face in the increasingly complex worlds of board and chip design - where deep submicron technology and system-on-chip design multiply the challenges of getting great product ideas to market.

PLATFORMS: Sun-Solaris 5.8

PROBLEM SOLVED: People are our most valuable asset, and our expenses are driven primarily by head count. We needed a good tool to keep track of head count levels. Our management team needed a reliable tool to see how many people were in the hiring plan at all times and for attrition trending. We needed to be able to analyze this information in a variety of ways so that we could find any potential problems early and address them. Prior to Hyperion Essbase, we used spreadsheets for our monthly head count analysis, which were arduous to create and manage and required a number of individuals dedicating time to the process for at least a week.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: In 1998, we began using Essbase for much of our sales reporting, then moved it into our consolidation and then started using it for our planning and forecasting. We now use it for all of our financial planning and much of our HR analysis. Today, Essbase provides executives, line managers and the HR department with the ability to consolidate and access worldwide head count information to support decision making at all levels. Benefits include: real-time access to booking and revenue performance for the management team, consolidated worldwide head count information and the replacement of 1,200+ spreadsheets with a Web-based budgeting and planning solution.

STRENGTHS: Hyperion Essbase has been extremely powerful and highly scalable. With more than 250 users worldwide across multiple countries and divisions, we really test this system. Essbase has allowed us to automate and streamline processes that previously took us weeks and months. Hyperion has also greatly enhanced the ease of administration in recent versions. The new Metadata Security features make it easier to manage data and metadata access to sensitive HR information. Ultimately, the new level of security means we can expand access to more users. In addition, database triggers and alerts help monitor and manage IT processes such as backup and recovery.

WEAKNESSES: Some of our cubes have become very large (we have one that is 128GB) and take a lot of disk space. We are excited to hear that the recently released Hyperion Essbase 7.1 has a new storage option for sparse cubes such as this, which should dramatically reduce the cube size.

SELECTION CRITERIA: At the time when we selected Hyperion, there were few competitors. Hyperion was chosen based on successful past experience in previous jobs.

DELIVERABLES: Mentor Graphics provides executive management critical bookings and revenue performance to plan analysis. The system is refreshed as many as six times a day to support critical worldwide decision making. We brought together SQL dimension builds, partitioning and MaxL scripting to deliver this application with little ongoing maintenance. Essbase Analytic Services has been an easy-to-build and easy-to-implement solution that solved a very real business problem in the non-financial world of staffing and HR management. In 2002, we replaced a spreadsheet-based planning/budgeting model with a Web-based solution based on the Essbase Analytic platform. The system implements a bottom-up planning process based on detailed expense drivers and includes a workflow engine to collect approvals. Scenarios can be run in which the effect of a variety of business drivers can be explored. The implementation cut three months off the planning process, but also enforced consistent global planning practices. Recently, the system was extended with an integrated EPS forecasting system feeding the planning system and vice versa.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Hyperion has been a great company to work with. Our use of their products has evolved in the six years since we started working together. They have made it very easy for us to integrate with other systems so we can easily create new applications to meet needs as they arise.

DOCUMENTATION: Hyperion has done an excellent job of making the documentation available and easy to understand.

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