CATEGORY: Business Intelligence

REVIEWER: Dr. Jan Boltz, member of the SAP BW project team for Ihr Platz.

BACKGROUND: With more than 900 retail stores, 9,000 employees and an annual turnover of EUR 1.2 billion, Ihr Platz GmbH & Co. KG is one of the top three drugstore chains in Germany. The Osnabrck, Germany-based company recently acquired approximately 250 stores from the German drugstore chain Drospa and constantly opens new retail stores.

PLATFORMS: Oracle Database.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Ihr Platz used the Retail Information System (RIS) within mySAP Retail for reporting. RIS reporting was not powerful and flexible enough to meet the company's future needs. There were two primary reasons behind the decision to implement a separate data warehouse solution: performance load of the operative SAP R/3 system was no longer acceptable and retail stores could not be integrated in the reporting processes. Performance bottlenecks and reduced information content in RIS meant that Ihr Platz did not have access to detailed information about the status of products in retail stores.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: After beginning the SAP Business Information Warehouse (SAP BW) project in spring 2000, Ihr Platz achieved complete standard and ad hoc reporting for roughly 300 information users and power users in the central office by the middle of 2001. Ihr Platz used mass data tests at various stages in the project to test SAP BW answer times and, in this way, was able to always keep data volume in sight. This factor is critical to success. "Tests carried out during the project confirmed that SAP BW could handle the huge quantities of data which are produced in the stores," comments Oliver Meerpohl, project manager SAP BW. A specially developed and constantly expanding operating concept, as well as a knowledge database, contributed to the project's success. Both simplified collaboration between the project team, power users and the steering committee, and accelerated the accumulation and transfer of SAP BW know-how. SAP BW makes it easier to manage the product offering. Every group of products has its own sales and turnover figures, its own sales contribution and net gross margin figures, as well as stock and supply figures. "SAP BW enables us to quickly recognize and react to weaknesses in our product offering. We can manage our product offering in such a way as to maximize retail space profitability, we can spot overstocks, and we can reduce capital tie-up costs," explains Michael Lahrmann, also a member of the SAP BW team. In addition to this, SAP BW promotes internal benchmarking by enabling stores to compare their business with other, similarly structured stores. At present, all of the 900 stores of Ihr Platz use the Web reporting capabilities of SAP BW.

STRENGTHS: SAP BW is an integrated solution that can be combined with mySAP Retail without spending on additional software components. SAP BW provides the basis for additional products. With SAP BW, retail stores can be integrated in the data stream and communication processes via the Internet. SAP BW allows broad usage of standard content.

WEAKNESSES: SAP BW is an entirely relational data warehouse (ROLAP). Only users of the Microsoft SQL Server database system can create MOLAP aggregates.

SELECTION CRITERIA: The main criteria were database management, data warehouse transformation layer, data warehouse application layer, service and general system behavior. The major reasons for choosing SAP BW included: full integration in our SAP landscape, interfaces to many other systems, Excel as well-known front end, no new skills for administration of database and hardware, and broadly based full customized content for different needs. Finally, because included the license for SAP BW, no further software investments were necessary.

DELIVERABLES: Ihr Platz loads all data from mySAP Retail into 14 InfoCubes. Sales and balances, for example, are saved and evaluated in these "data containers." Business content proved helpful during the construction of the InfoCubes.

VENDOR SUPPORT: SAP offers its software updates via its online service system (OSS). This service is easy to access and offers useful tricks and bug-fixes very quickly in form of "SAP notes." Bug-fixes can be implemented very easily via the comfortable "notes- assistant."

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is understandable, sufficient and complete for standard administration purposes. Because the documentation is only updated with major releases, documentation on new functionality released via support packages must be retrieved either from SAP notes or white papers found on the Internet.

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