In an effort to derive maximum value from their enterprise resource planning (ERP) investments, Texas Instruments, the world leader in digital signal processing and analog technologies, deployed business intelligence software to improve reporting capabilities and gain insight into back-office operations. IT pros at the firm spent the latter part of the 1990s revamping the order-to-bill process for the semiconductor division by deploying SAP R/3 software. Once the basic functionality was in place, they turned their attention to end-user reporting.

Texas Instruments has manufacturing and sales operations in more than 25 countries and employs 38,500 people worldwide. Until 1999, Texas Instruments depended on a mainframe-based order processing system that was created and maintained by in-house developers. Salespeople could access this system directly to review orders and revenue. However, with the implementation of SAP, the worldwide sales and marketing team was faced with a new challenge ­ to provide business reporting for the organization in a Web environment.

The worldwide sales and marketing team investigated many software vendors that specialize in tools for Web-based reporting. The team wanted to find a complete, browser-based solution for accessing and analyzing data from multiple sources including SAP. In the end, WebFOCUS from Information Builders best met the requirements for the worldwide sales and marketing organization.

While other tools required developers to build a special universe for each data type, WebFOCUS reads dozens of databases and file formats directly ­ including flat files, Oracle databases and SQL databases. It can also dynamically join additional files to meet new reporting needs.

As the SAP implementation was nearing completion, the worldwide sales and marketing team installed WebFOCUS on a Dell Xeon server running Microsoft Windows NT. Another Xeon processor was deployed as a database server. Then, with help from Information Builders Consulting, it took the team just six months to develop a robust management-reporting tool. Developers began by extracting summary data from SAP data extracts and loading it into data marts in Microsoft SQL Server. Then they used WebFOCUS and JavaScript to build a self-service reporting application called the Worldwide Sales and Marketing Management Reporting Team (WSMMART). Two in-house developers and one Information Builders consultant created an intuitive user interface for WSMMART that features drop-down menus and selection boxes to enter queries and create reports and it lets users specify parameters, query data through various filters and generate reports in several different formats.

The WebFOCUS application launched concurrently with the implementation of SAP Sales and Distribution Modules. To coordinate the worldwide software deployment, each regional champion received formal training from Information Builders and was prepped to instruct others in the use of the new reporting environment. It was an effective plan that encouraged widespread use of the new system.

WSMMART contains worldwide sales-related data and information on Texas Instruments products and customers that is readily available and easy to access, which makes it a very appealing tool for business users. While originally developed for the sales and marketing team, other organizations within Texas Instruments began requesting access.

Today, more than 1,200 users throughout the world rely on the new reporting system. WebFOCUS generates sales metrics by region, customer, product group and many other variables, along with specific information about products. Additionally, Texas Instruments uses WebFOCUS ReportCaster to schedule and push reports, such as quarterly and annual sales summaries, to selected users.

To maintain tight security, Texas Instruments uses the secure sockets layer (SSL) protocol to encrypt report requests and responses. Users must be authorized to access the corporate intranet. An additional layer of password security protects the WebFOCUS site.

Texas Instruments is continually enhancing the WSMMART application and we would love to set up a wireless reporting infrastructure so we could send reports to personal digital assistants (PDAs) and other handheld devices. From what the team has seen from Information Builders, it will be easy to add these capabilities with WebFOCUS.

Information Builders WebFOCUS is a complete business intelligence solution designed to support today's most critical e-business and e-government initiatives ­ B2B, B2C and B2E (business to enterprise).

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