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Author's profile photo Timo ELLIOTT

VELUX: A New BI Strategy To Meet New Needs

VELUX is a €2.3bn provider of roof windows and skylights, headquartered in Copenhagen in Denmark. The VELUX name is derived from “ventilation” and “lux” (light in Latin), and it is one of the strongest global brands in building materials.

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Anders Reinhardt, head of global business intelligence for Velux recently gave a presentation explaining the company’s business intelligence strategy, at the Gurus of BI event in Oslo, Norway.

VELUX has been using business intelligence for over a decade. Like many other organizations, has been struggling to find the right model to provide better business intelligence services to internal departments, at lower cost and with fewer resources.

After a thorough investigation of fast-changing user and data needs, the company is implementing a plan to move from a centralized, report-based strategy to a more flexible, user-friendly self-service model, using SAP analytics technology.

VELUX 100% BI Strategy – 100% Technology – 100% Business Value

In his presentation, Reinhardt explained how the company started implementing a BI strategy in 2000, faced with many different “versions of the truth” across the organization. These efforts culminated in 2010 with a VELUX performance model that provided “one version of the truth.” The solution was anchored in the Finance function and used a centralized platform based on SAP Business Warehouse and BEx Analyzer.

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In 2011, the team realized that although the BI strategy had met the original goals, technology possibilities and user expectations had been rapidly changing. They decided to take a step back and looked at business intelligence from a more holistic perspective.

In order to ensure that they remained aligned with the business goals of VELUX, they set out to challenge their assumptions, with a series of questions about user needs, management focus, and flexibility requirements:

  • Did the team really understand the users and their needs?
  • Was the reporting in the central system a true picture of overall reporting activity?
  • Did VELUX management have an accurate overview of reporting activities?
  • How should the team involve management in prioritizing and setting strategic directions?
  • Was the team perceived as a help or a bottleneck?
  • Where could the team really make a difference?
  • What were the new requirements in terms of speed, flexibility, and simulation?

With the help of external consultants, the team compared the current reporting activities against a desired future state. The results were eye-opening for both the business intelligence team and management. Reinhardt noted:

“I can recommend this exercise. I know a lot of departments who work with BI think they know their users, what they’re doing, and what they’re needs are – but unless you’ve done a real investigation of this, I would challenge you that you will find stuff you didn’t know existed.”

The investigation immediately showed that there were immediate opportunities:

“We discovered that some of our subsidiaries had actually bought and were operating BI systems on their own. We didn’t know that, and management for sure didn’t know it! … A lot of decentralized costs were being spent on BI.”

The main findings included:

  • A need for a wider variety of more user-friendly tools
  • Users found the existing data too hard to understand, and more non-ERP data was required
  • Standard reports had only limited value, and users wanted more flexibility to create their own reports
  • Some business units had invested in their own systems, but preferred to be part of a global system.

There had also been massive changes to user patterns and behavior. A new generation of tech-savvy business users expected direct access to the data they needed to do their jobs. This meant that business intelligence solutions had to be suitable for every employee, not just financial controllers and analysts.

In common with many other IT organizations around the globe, there was also strong pressure to deliver more, faster, with fewer staff, even as data volumes and user demands were rising.

To address the challenges identified, VELUX has invested in SAP HANA and SAP BusinessObjects, to provide fast, self-service access to information.

Since the introduction of BusinessObjects two years ago, the company has seen a massive increase in the number of users. There are already more than on the previous system, and the company believes this will eventually expand to around 4,000 users, compared to just 800 on the old platform. The self-service nature of the tools has meant the team has not seen any significant increase in support requirements.

Reinhardt emphasized that it’s not enough just to focus on the more tools. His team realized that some of the users in the business were simply lacking analytical skills, making it harder to get the full benefits of the new reporting system. His team will be working with the user base on improving those skills in order to augment the business benefits.

“Doing visualization is really cool… but if you apply the wrong graphs to the data you will not get a very good result…. Some of my employees have had to actually take a course in visualization, just to be able to challenge the business.”

Mr. Reinhardt explained how the team built a business case for SAP HANA based on three main drivers:

  • A new vision for financial planning
  • Faster and cheaper data modeling
  • Accelerated access to external data sources

A SAP HANA project has been initiated to strengthen the financial performance throughout the organization, replacing budgets with rolling estimates and simulation models. The future system, based on SAP Business Planning and Consolidation will make it possible to plan units and prices faster and on a much more granular level than today. Any adjustments in the model will be immediately reflected in the PL, and compared against targets and KPIs. All cost simulations are driver-based, using figures imported directly from SAP.  Feedback on the prototype system has been positive:

“Initial tests of the HANA effect on planning shows a significant performance increase. Planning without HANA would not be an option!”

With SAP HANA, new data flows can be implemented at approximately half the cost and effort of previous solutions. In addition, VELUX has initiated a proof of concept using HANA’s predictive analysis abilities to spot defect trends and calculate service efforts and guarantee provisions.  VELUX is also looking into using HANA for real-time and unstructured data that would have been a challenge in the past.

Mr. Reinhardt concluded his presentation with the challenges for the future, explaining: “we still have a long way to go.”

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VELUX at BI2013

Later that week, Mr. Reinhardt went on to give another presentation at the SAPInsider BI 2013 Event in Amsterdam. SAP’s Thierry Audas took advantage of the opportunity to interview him about the VELUX projects:

Conclusion: A New BI Strategy, Now More Than Ever

In conclusion, VELUX had a lot in common with many other mature, BI-using organizations. If your organization is still primarily pursing a centralized, top-down BI strategy, it’s time to take a look at the new technology possibilities to get more data and control into the hands of business users, and pursue a “network of truth” BI strategy.

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      Author's profile photo Waldemar Adams
      Waldemar Adams

      Nice real-life example on how to run BI in organizations. Innovative approach.