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Pitney Bowes Tackles Data Overload with Cognos

Published
  • July 01 2003, 1:00am EDT

REVIEWER: William Duffy, data warehouse project manager for Pitney Bowes.

BACKGROUND: Pitney Bowes engineers the flow of communication. The company is a $4.4 billion global leader of integrated mail and document management solutions headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut.

PLATFORMS: We are currently running Cognos on a Compaq 4-way NT Server. We participated in an on-site beta test with Cognos to certify the product for HP/UX 11i, and that testing went very well. We will soon upgrade our platform to HPUX. Our data warehouse draws upon information from Siebel, SAP R/3 and numerous mainframe legacy platforms.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Under our old system, decision making was heavily reliant on spreadsheets. Gathering information on sales, expenses and overall operational costs was often manual and always extremely labor intensive. Pitney Bowes began a data warehousing project back in 1999. The Cognos implementation began in lockstep with the data warehousing project. We felt strongly that a business intelligence (BI) layer with the data warehouse structure would fuel greater business user adoption of the project and promote a self-service analysis/report culture. Today, we provide our broad-based user community with critical performance data via a range of reports, dashboards and multidimensional cubes. They are able to access information on financials, corporate income, expense trending, sales activities, accounts receivable/payable and credit information.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Cognos BI Series 7 performs very well in a demanding environment. The key to its effectiveness is the power of the multidimensional cubes of Cognos BI Series 7 analytics. Cognos has delivered to our users a means of seeing the business in ways that were not possible under the old system. Our business model is unique. We lease postal meters to corporations of all sizes. As a result, we have to tightly manage our leasing agreements with customers. Cognos BI Series 7 allows marketing and credit teams to closely manage customer relationships at all stages of the leasing cycle. The fact that all of this information is delivered in a zero footprint, non-client fashion makes it easier to use; and our IT does not have applets, plug-ins or entire client licenses to manage. The complete Web parity, zero footprint approach from Cognos lowers the overall cost of ownership for our entire BI investment. In today's tough economic climate, Cognos enables consistent control of costs. For example, in one of our divisions, we have been able to take AS/400 non-SAP general ledger data and, in a very short amount of time, give the team access to robust analysis on the performance of our management services business that we run on behalf of large corporate clients. We are able to keep costs down, such as personnel (including overtime management) for our customers by rigorously managing how those service centers are run.

STRENGTHS: One of the key aspects of the Cognos solution ­ and a major factor in its selection over offerings from Crystal and Business Objects ­ was its industrial- strength performance. Our team felt very confident in Cognos' ability to scale as user requirements and project parameters grew. Cognos runs on a fully UNIX environment, unlike other BI solutions and is highly scalable. We have a current active user base of approximately 500, and we expect that number to grow. In addition, our executive team is able to easily garner insights via Web- based dashboards ­ a real Cognos differentiator. For example, all financial reporting at the executive level is translated across dashboards, entirely removing the need to use the manual Excel spreadsheet process ­ a system that did not allow the same ability to spot patterns and issues in the business. People can easily spot deviations and issues, and financial data is explained through graphics.

WEAKNESSES: We consider Cognos a strategic investment for Pitney Bowes. It has proven its enterprise value. A better incremental pricing model for Cognos would allow us to cost-effectively add more Web users.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Cognos offered the best breadth of BI functionality. We knew we could bring information to our non- technical users ­ be it in managed reports, cubes, scorecards or visualizations ­ in many different ways.

DELIVERABLES: We currently have hundreds of cubes in production and hundreds of managed reports. Our product staff has the flexibility to take their own initiative and make reports, etc. We utilize the dashboard for our top-level decision-makers.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Our team has been very pleased with the service and support we have received from Cognos. We particularly appreciated the level of UNIX expertise Cognos was able to provide. The end-to-end Cognos BI solution runs across our HP/UX platforms flawlessly, providing us with a mission-critical BI implementation.

DOCUMENTATION: We rarely use the documentation. Training is usually only necessary for a few hours. Cognos offers a very intuitive solution.

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