CATEGORY: Business Intelligence
REVIEWER: Michaeline Megahan, project manager, business systems development and integration group, USFilter.
BACKGROUND: USFilter, a Veolia Environment company, is North America's largest water company providing the most comprehensive water services for commercial, industrial, municipal and residential customers. The company delivers cost-effective, reliable systems guaranteed for quality, safety and compliance - from bottled water services for homes and sophisticated water treatment technologies for manufacturers to the design, construction, operation or financing of entire water and wastewater treatment systems.
PROBLEM SOLVED: As part of a publicly held organization, USFilter is responsible for complying with increasingly stringent financial reporting requirements. Our financial leaders needed to be able to access and analyze real-time information from multiple business units to obtain a complete picture of corporate performance. In the wake of numerous corporate acquisitions, USFilter was dependent on numerous ERP systems - including Oracle, JD Edwards, Baan and SAP, comprising approximately 55 different general ledgers - to do business. While most of the ERP systems came with their own embedded financial reporting tools, they were not always adequate for the intense needs of our organization. With such a diverse information landscape, the company needed to provide individual business units with reporting, application development and systems integration projects customized to their specific needs. Recognizing the need to provide timely and accurate information to many types of users, USFilter deployed business intelligence software solutions from Information Builders.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: WebFOCUS has enabled USFilter to satisfy critical financial reporting requirements and dramatically improve employee productivity as financial users are now armed with a user friendly and robust financial reporting tool. The software can pull data from multiple business centers, integrate it into a common format and send it to many different recipients on an ad hoc or monthly basis. Reports that previously involved several analysts and 10 hours or more of work have now been significantly streamlined thanks to the automation of data capture and reporting process functionality included within WebFOCUS.
STRENGTHS: The strength of WebFOCUS lies in the product's flexibility. WebFOCUS allows business users to create customized reports tailored to their specific needs and provides IT professionals the flexibility to pull data from various sources and data types.
WEAKNESSES: End-user coding is sometimes required for more complex reporting.
SELECTION CRITERIA: We selected Information Builders' WebFOCUS because it has excellent financial reporting capabilities and can work with many different data types. We were particularly impressed with the comprehensive data access architecture and the ability to easily create self-service reporting applications for the Web.
DELIVERABLES: USFilter requires a number of reports from WebFOCUS. The profit and loss summary report that the Information Builders consulting team designed for us pulls information from multiple business units and combines it into a single report using the post and pickup capabilities of WebFOCUS. Formerly, analysts had to use native JD Edwards tools to manually pull information into spreadsheets, which took days of effort. By automating this process, we are able to save time and improve accuracy. Information Builders also created an income statement and associated balance sheet that calculates retained earnings. Previously, USFilter analysts printed standard income statements and balance sheets from JD Edwards - which often yielded more information than needed. With WebFOCUS, they can choose to display only those lines for which there is data, generating concise presentations. What used to be a 15-page balance sheet can now be summarized in one or two pages, and users can determine how many levels to display in each report. Information Builders also created a variance report that allows financial officers to review budgets based on pre-selected time periods. Users can select monthly, quarterly and year-to-date summaries from the JD Edwards data, with budgeted and actual costs shown at any desired level. These users can view information in a variety of common business formats, including Excel, HTML and PDF. Additionally, reports can be pushed to designated users via e-mail, either on a scheduled basis or as alerts when critical business conditions arise. A single report can be automatically bursted into multiple sections and then delivered simultaneously to many different users.
VENDOR SUPPORT: The Information Builders' support staff has been excellent.
DOCUMENTATION: The documentation was very complete. The information is available in hard copy and electronically, and includes useful tutorials and help files.
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