BACKGROUND: Ultramar Diamond Shamrock (UDS) is one of the largest independent petroleum-refining companies in North America, earning nearly $14 billion in annual revenues last year. Operating more than 6,000 retail service stations and 4,000 wholesale outlets, the company sells its petroleum products to retail consumers, commercial end users, resellers, utilities and the United States military.

PLATFORMS: PowerCenter from Informatica currently runs on Compaq with Windows NT.

PROBLEM SOLVED: UDS implemented a small-scale data warehouse in its Canadian division and a corporate data warehouse in the U.S. Canadian and U.S. sales and marketing managers relied on both of these manually scripted data warehouse environments to support their analytical reporting needs. However, UDS opted to migrate the company's aging legacy mainframe systems to a more efficient SAP R/3 environment. To extract critical data from its complex R/3 modules for analysis, UDS chose to implement SAP's Business Information Warehouse (BW). After converting its enterprise sales, distribution and accounting systems to SAP R/3, UDS continued to manage many of its operational business units, external market sources and budget applications in non-SAP environments. While UDS could access its R/3 data through BW, the solution did not integrate with its retail sales systems nor could BW extract market intelligence from external sources. Without access to daily sales figures and external market information, UDS was unable to make strategic purchasing and retail marketing decisions.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Power Center allowed us to integrate our retail sales systems and market intelligence from external data sources with SAP R/3 data. As a result, UDS has experienced a number of significant benefits from implementing an enterprise data warehouse that have helped the company stay competitive and continue to grow its business: 1) Four times return on investment. To date, UDS estimates the return on investment from its data warehouse in the tens-of-millions-of-dollars range due to an increase in sales and its entrance into new markets. 2) Increased market share. With increased insight into its sales data and customer channels, UDS is able to better identify regional and national trends in the petroleum marketplace. As a result, UDS has taken a leading role in the jet-fuel market and is continually identifying regional and national trends it can capitalize on. 3) Increased profitability through contract fulfillment. With wholesale customers' rates dependent on the amount of petroleum they commit to purchase, contract fulfillment is a critical component of maintaining UDS profits. Daily updating of sales invoices permits sales managers to better monitor contract fulfillment, increasing overall profitability. 4) Maximized sales return. Daily updates of regional petroleum market prices instantly empower sales reps to strategically price their petroleum products for optimal sales performance. UDS can better understand the factors and drivers for competitors' price changes and predict when they may occur. By pricing its products competitively in the marketplace, UDS can better retain current customers and continually attract new ones. 5) Reduced time to market. Implementing automated data-integration technologies helped UDS unlock hard-to-access R/3 data and integrate it with non-SAP environments immediately after going into production with its data warehouse. As a result, UDS experienced decreased time to market of critical business intelligence to end users, eliminating down time for analysts to make strategic business decisions. 6) Greater use of strategic analysis across UDS to drive business decisions. By creating a singular point of reference for all sales analysis and accounting statements, end users make their decisions with the utmost confidence in the accuracy and integrity of the data.

STRENGTHS: The primary strengths of PowerCenter are its ease of use and simple installation/configuration setup.

WEAKNESSES: The product could be improved by adding more error-tracking mechanisms.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Because we rely on SAP BW to access all our SAP R/3 data, PowerCenter's accreditation by SAP was a key deciding factor at the time of purchase. PowerCenter's ability to seamlessly interface with BW eliminated the need for additional coding which resulted in lower training costs and faster deployment.

DELIVERABLES: Using Seagate on the front end, we provide daily, weekly and monthly reports for end users in several business areas such as HR, retail, external market information and finance.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Informatica's pre- and post- implementation support services were somewhat expensive, but effective.

DOCUMENTATION: From a technical point of view, we relied on the documentation to help us get up and running.

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