Business Objects prevents information derailment

Decision makers may sometimes have a hard time getting their hands on and their heads around the amount of data collected within large corporations.

That’s why Business Objects software is designed to help people bridge the gap that exists between the massive information collected by organizations and the information decision makers need to support their day-to-day tasks, according to Alex Moissis.

“Typically, when you go into companies and ask decision makers if they have the information they need to support their decisions, the answer is typically no, hence the explosive demand for software,” said Moissis, vice-president of North America marketing for Business Objects. “(Business Objects) helps business people using familiar business terms access these databases.”

The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) has approximately 18,000 railcars, which makes tracking and allocating each difficult. The company uses Business Objects as their enterprise-reporting standard to track shipping performance and improve shipping times.

“The emphasis of a railroad is moving around a bunch of railroad cars in the most efficient fashion…to meet customer needs. We’ve got a lot of different assets that it takes to do that job,” said Michael Clarke, manager of Corporate Data Development for Alberta-based CPR. “One of the things that we need to do is have an efficient way of tracking how that movement happens, so we can see some history of it. It will help us plan ways of managing those assets in the future.”

Clarke said CPR tries to make delivery commitments to their customers, and therefore it needs to produce reports to show how well they’re doing against those commitments on a historical basis.

“That’s what we call shipment performance reporting. The tool is primarily hooked up to the data warehouse we’ve built here so that’s one central corporate data warehouse,” Clarke said. “What we found was that end user’s were spending about 80 per cent of their time collecting information, and 20 per cent of their time trying to get it into some sort of recognizable format. We wanted the analysts to spend a lot more time doing something with the information that they have rather than collecting and annotating it.”

Moissis explained there are databases that collect information on the schedules for the railroad, and whether a particular railroad cart is moving or sitting, full or empty.

“Our software lets business people go directly and get answers to their questions exactly, when they need the information, without the delay. We help the users make some sense of what’s in the database,” Moissis said.

Arthur Cunningham, general manager on the service excellence project at CPR, said the company wanted to make sure it had standardized data so that everyone was using the same information.

“We wanted to make sure that people were using a common tool to extract the data and we would be able to gain the efficiencies of people using that same tool generating reports, and being able to share reports across a common platform,” Cunningham said. “Once reports had been generated, then we could replicate those reports across a wider population. As far as the end business user, Business Objects has been able to follow us to focus a lot more clearly on shipment performance and equipment utilization in a much more timely and organized manner than in the past.”

According to director of education and research at The Data Warehousing Institute, Wayne Eckerson, Business Objects has moved from a client-based to more of a server-based tool.

“They’ve modernized it to keep up with the Web. It’s the icing on the cake,” Eckerson said. “It’s a good tool for the average business user to view reports that others have created as well as to submit queries themselves or drill down into those existing reports a bit more.”

Eckerson said that in the past, there has always been a programmer between the user and the data.

“Business Objects is a class of tools designed to give users more direct access to the data and allow them to analyze it a bit more freely on their own.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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