BACKGROUND: Founded in 1886, Avon Products Inc. is the world's largest direct seller of beauty products. With $5.1 billion in annual revenues and powered by 2.7 million independent sales representatives, Avon markets over 400 brands in 135 countries.

PLATFORMS: Avon uses PowerPlay Enterprise Server to access and analyze data sources on Oracle7.5 and 8.0, SQL Server 6.5 and DB2.

PROBLEM SOLVED: To ensure the continued success of its aggressive plans for growth, Avon implemented a company-wide program called business process redesign (BPR). The program's first step was to clearly identify Avon's business and IT challenges. First, the IT environment included many different systems which were not integrated. As a result, business users and IT staff faced significant data access obstacles. Further, the company looked to the IT staff to generate all reports from the disparate data sources. The report request volume was high, and IT faced a hefty backlog. It took analysts days or even weeks to gather the requested data and cut and paste it into spreadsheet reports. The delay in receiving information made it difficult to accurately evaluate business and market trends and act on that knowledge in a timely fashion. Avon decided to build a data warehouse and departmental data marts, beginning with a marketing data mart. The company selected Cognos PowerPlay Enterprise Server as its reporting and analysis solution. PowerPlay Enterprise Server is a single, scalable OLAP application server for Web, Windows and Excel users. Hundreds of Avon users, including those on the Web and in a Windows or mobile environment, will access PowerPlay PowerCubes ­ OLAP cubes containing national, field and global sales information. This instant data access will enable Avon to evaluate the success of products, marketing initiatives, sales representatives and other vital factors impacting the business and to make better business decisions based on that information.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: PowerPlay Enterprise Server will enable Avon to cost-effectively extend the value of business intelligence to Web, Windows and mobile users throughout the enterprise. The single application-server architecture delivers on Cognos' promise of reduced administration and maintenance with central administration of OLAP cubes. The product's PowerCubes scale to store data mart-sized data sets ­ over 50 million consolidated rows of data and up to 500,000 categories. Even so, PowerCubes are very compressed and are easy to build, update and distribute. PowerPlay Enterprise Server also offers access to third-party cubes, which is important to Avon as it converts from its multi-data source environment.

STRENGTHS: Avon expects PowerPlay Enterprise Server's fast deployment will jump-start the company's business intelligence initiative and put data at the fingertips of Avon decision-makers across the globe. Its ease of use and intuitive graphic interface were attractive to users, who immediately embraced the product. PowerPlay Enterprise Server's balanced scorecard (a framework for translating strategic objectives and vision into measurable results) reporting and drill-through capabilities provide Avon with the tools to improve its business and increase its competitive edge in the crowded beauty products market.

WEAKNESSES: The PowerPlay Enterprise Server does not offer users the flexibility to adapt the look of the printed reports. However, this issue will be amended in version 6.6 as part of Cognos' enterprise business intelligence strategy and will provide users with Web-based managed reporting for OLAP-style performance reports.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Avon selected Cognos PowerPlay Enterprise Server because it is highly scalable, easily deployed and can address the different needs of users ­ from the casual Web user to sophisticated report authors. PowerPlay Enterprise Server's ability to access third-party OLAP cubes was also an important capability for Avon as it sought to streamline its mixed data environment.

DELIVERABLES: PowerPlay Enterprise Server will democratize data for Avon. IT will no longer carry the data access and analyses burden for the entire company, and decision-makers will no longer rely on IT to deliver the information necessary for running and improving the business. The result will be not only a dramatic savings in time and productivity, but a noticeable increase in revenue and competitive advantage.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Cognos was very responsive during development and assisted Avon with prototype development and training.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation was thorough, simplifying implementation and use.

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