CATEGORY: Database Performance & Systems Management

REVIEWER: Tomas Stocksén, project manager, project management and business analysis for Scandinavian IT Group.

BACKGROUND: Scandinavian Airlines Systems (SAS) is the leading airline in the Scandinavian region. SAS provides passenger, cargo and associated ground transport, as well as support, training and logistical services to domestic, short and long haul destinations. SAS strives to exceed its customers' expectations; therefore, the company requires a comprehensive and continuously updated picture of all aspects of its business. To achieve this, the airline needed to benchmark its operations against a range of key performance indicators. This required access to accurate, up-to-date information, available to a variety of financial users simultaneously across multiple business units.

PLATFORMS: The implementation runs on HP-UX 11.0, Express server 6.4 and Oracle Financial Analyzer 6.4.

PROBLEM SOLVED: SAS recently implemented Oracle Financial Analyzer (OFA) as part of an enterprise-wide Oracle Financials 11i project. For the first time, SAS business users had access to "one version of the truth" for financial data. SAS business users could conduct ad hoc financial reporting, forecasting, budgeting and analysis of variances and key financial ratios – all within a single, integrated environment. However, with so much data in the OFA system, SAS's IT team struggled to deliver reports and ad hoc results in a timely manner. For instance, the existing aggregation time for all reports of one-month actuals (the profit and loss report, balance sheet report and other reports) was in excess of nine hours. This meant that during financial close periods, only a small number of iterations could be completed, which caused significant delays when producing the financial reports. The IT team turned to consulting firm inGroup, experts in OFA solutions and a HyperRoll partner. inGroup performed a system evaluation and identified HyperRoll OLAP software as the ideal solution to optimize OFA.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: With quick and easy installation by inGroup, HyperRoll OLAP Suite provided significantly faster build-times and, indirectly, query performance for OFA in just weeks. SAS can now run all its monthly reports in 16 minutes instead of the nine hours previously required. In addition, aggregation for budgeting reports was reduced to 24 minutes from more than 20 hours. SAS can now provide refreshed data several times during the day instead of only once after overnight processing. With such timely access to financial data, the average SAS business user is able to make better business decisions through fact-based data analysis.

STRENGTHS: The SAS team recognized three critical strengths of the HyperRoll implementation. Most critical were the significant improvements to the performance of the OFA system. With HyperRoll, SAS sped OFA's database load times to more than 60 times over those of the previous system. Secondly, HyperRoll was implemented quickly and seamlessly into OFA, which resulted in virtually no risk to the SAS team. Lastly, with HyperRoll, the SAS IT team increased system efficiencies. The HyperRoll implementation was transparent and seamless to end users. With OFA and HyperRoll, SAS today has a high-performance financial management solution that will play a key role in shaping their future IT strategy and direction.

WEAKNESSES: While the functionality of the product is solid, it does not work on all platforms, most notably Microsoft. In addition, the documentation can be further streamlined to help less-experienced users. The standard copy function in the Oracle Financial Analyzer didn't work with HyperRoll, and SAS needed to keep the leaf levels (values) in Express server instead of in HyperRoll. The drawback with this workaround was that the IT team was unable to fully leverage HyperRoll. This functionality will be added in the next version of the product.

SELECTION CRITERIA: inGroup identified HyperRoll OLAP Suite as the best solution for SAS's data performance. No other product offered the same high-quality results with a fast implementation and ROI.

DELIVERABLES: Due to the transparency of the software, business users of OFA get seamless access to financial data in the form of reports, forecasts and budgets.

VENDOR SUPPORT: inGroup's focused approach and expert knowledge of Oracle and HyperRoll products considerably reduced implementation time and brought the SAS team quickly up to speed on how to enhance data performance. Their Oracle knowledge and transfer-based approach was excellent.

DOCUMENTATION: For a first run, the documentation was helpful, but it could be further improved with upcoming versions.

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