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Author's profile photo Martin Grob

Creating a Successful BI Solution that is Used Enterprise Wide

While the path to a solution may not be clear, the challenge is obvious:

How can you ensure your solution is the one people instinctively use (and universally trust) when it comes to reporting?


There are a few key elements in a BI strategy that decide whether the overall BI solution will be a success.  The measure of success I’m talking about should not be simply delivering the correct numbers to the business users – that would be setting the bar far too low. To be honest if you do it right you gain so much trust that the users won’t question the accuracy.  

The following principles and actions summarize how our BI solution became the single point of truth and the only BI solution across the complete organization.

First, a bit of background about me and the reporting landscape when I started…
I work for global wholesale healthcare provider, which has roughly 8,000 employees and 100+ legal entities of various sizes across the globe.  Some of these entities were using SAP and some had other erp’s in place (this is still the case today).  Five years ago when I was asked to clean up the former two attempts, for an enterprise wide BI, the SAP BW user group was limited to approximately 25 people within HQ, each trying his or her best to deal with BEx Analyzer in Excel. Due localized and limited users, it was manageable to walk a user though how to reimport a query following structural changes or determine the technical name of a key user query. In no way a scaleable or manageable solution. Not suprising almost every bigger entity had a locally developed reporting solution in place that was fed by SAP since HQ did not deliver the former 3 years.  Basically, we had a tool zoo of BI products across the globe and even within headquarters competing tools were being used.  There was no standard tool or agreed source for data integrity within the organization. 

This is how it looked like

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Initially, BI was an IT discipline and essentially a “one-man-show” dealing with a couple of different consulting companies. Implementing various topics at the same time was a full time juggling act! Work with consultants you know and possibly with one company goes without saying.


We needed a change, as the TCO and ongoing license costs were way too high and more importantly, data integrity was constantly being challenged. Regularly, month end sales reporting from operating entities claimed to have “different numbers” when compared to what HQ showed.   Sales performance calls quickly dissolved into discussions about who has the “right” numbers rather than constructive interactions about performance and future strategic initiatives.  There was a lot of competition on BI tools and ownership.


Several key things needed to come together in order to turn our solution into the single point of truth and the only BI solution across the complete Organization.  Addressing the principles listed below, helped us made big changes, reaching the “right” decisions on a timely basis:


  • Organization
  • Sponsorship/Ownership
  • Product
  • Exchange platform with your entities
  • Identity
  • Easy Access
  • Marketing


Organization
BI moved from IT to the Finance department. Finance was the most structured and most advanced in ERP processes and thus, was the department leading the reporting requests. This change not only put finance in the driver seat in terms of executing changes, but also gave us the required “buy-in” from the key group of business users.  It also allowed for access to the finance organizations across the globe (see “Exchange platform with your entities” section).  Within the HQ finance group, a Finance Systems team exists, which is dedicated to ensure value flows and business cases are implemented the same way across all company codes (or legal entities).  Once we implemented the first reportings we quickly discovered that initially, consistent reporting across all companies was not possible, as some groups used certain fields in ECC differently.  Finance Systems was pretty handy (i.e. instrumental) in standardizing process and data fields within the operating organizations.  With that, piece one was in place.



Sponsorship/Ownership
I can’t stress the importance of setting the right “tone from the top”.  With the organizational shift to Finance, the CFO became the sponsor of the BI initiative. We initiated a steering committee, with bi-monthly meetings, to supervise and drive the initiative.  Key members included Senior Management from Sales, Operations, Finance and IT, along with the CFO.  Structured meetings ensured the committee was informed of ongoing developments, key milestones and with that information could drive the initiative forward.  I highly recommend creating a standardized agenda, which should (at a minimum) contain the following items:


  • Achievements made since the last meeting
  • Critical points
  • Risks
  • Decision needed
  • Achievements planned to be completed before the next meeting
  • Roadmap

This platform allowed us to “sell and promote” the progress on a regular basis.

Once Senior Management is only looking at your reporting and the local Managing Directors get incented on your database/numers you will also instantly gain the local controllers attention.

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Product(s)
The steering committee also had the required power to decide that going forward SAP BW will be the data warehouse for the entire group.  As Cognos BI already had strong acceptance within the management group, it was to be used as the frontend solution.  In the end, it’s possible to argue that almost all reputable tools can solve your requirements, although some may be better in certain areas.  I do believe, however, that it does not help you to attempt to convince management to use a different tool if the existing one can meet the organizational needs – why switch from something  which they are already familiar, comfortable and (most importantly) like and rebuilt a reputation you get for free with the existing tool.

Exchange platform with your entities
As part of the finance group, we have the chance to meet with the global user group twice a year during budget season and at a finance summit to discuss reporting requirements, engineer cockpits and discuss what dimensions/reporting areas are needed the most.  In addition to providing training updates, users were also able to share best practices and discuss issues.  Another benefit of these face-to-face meetings is that they allow you to promote your solutions (to a live, captive audience), report on progress to a wider group in your organization and share your plans or future outlook. 

It is much more powerful than email or other remote communication methods.  I must admit, that buy-in takes time – in first session the attention levels were low and questions posed about development needs were met with answers such as “I already have a solution in place” and “we don’t care so much for a HQ solution” were heard fairly often.  Users began to commit to the solution and offer development improvements when the SAP BW tool shown to be useful in meeting daily information needs and not just “something for HQ”. 


Talk with them about how corporate sees it… 
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vs. how they see things…Untitled1.png

Identity
This piece had an even bigger impact then we had originally thought. Give your solution a name and an identity!  It simplifies everything – from knowing which BI tool users are talking about to ticket management, as the average user does not understand if he/she is working with BusinessOjects, Cognos, BW, qlikview… and quite frankly, he/she doesn’t need to know so come up with a name you are going to call your BI and stick with it!  We went with the acronym IRIS, which stands for Internal Reporting & Information System. The BI portal shows a large image of an iris from an eye.  Within a few weeks many people were aware of IRIS and a few months after the launch the whole organization had heard of IRIS.  Note, if you handle tickets using a ticket management tool, this is how your group of tickets should be named, which will prevent them from floating in various categories because users will know what category of ticket to log.  


Easy Access
Even if you have the fastest and best looking reports, users won’t benefit and the tool won’t be used if the users don’t know how to access or where to find them.  Our platform got split into two users groups.
Group 1: 

The analysts who do self-service BI based on templates we provide (ensuring the KPI definitions are correct and principles of use consistent across the various templates) but are given enough freedom/flexibility to work with the data (without relying on the BI team for every single change). This far we think selfservice BI is a good thing. Our user group matured to be able to handle self service BI to this extend. 

Group 2:

The Management Group receiving and viewing standardized formatted reports. Each group is given a separate portal to access: One via http://analysis.company.com and the other through http://reporting.company.com.

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The main message is that whatever portal you go with it should be easy and simple to access.


As you might guess we moved completely to the web…no more BEx Analyzer.  Self-service BI happens through the BEx WebAnalyzer, ensuring all the investments in queries are secured regardless of what frontend may be in place in the future.  In our case, the source for formatted reporting is in Cognos BI. These days we would probably pick BusinessObjects, but again use what you have and is recognized and trusted by Management.  Most of us do not have the luxury to be able to start with green field.

Marketing
This is a hard one to maintain but shouldn’t be neglected if you want to promote your solution. It may seem trivial, but create flyers with important navigation steps, booklets for Management with FAQs and where they can find the most interesting information, mouse pads with helpful insights and periodic newsletters spreading the info on what has changed or got integrated.

We never threatened to shut down any island solutions that local entities built over the time, yet none of them exists today. They all moved voluntarily to the corporate solution in the end, as they were convinced it was better for procuring the information they needed to manage their business operations. Gaining the buy-in of local entities will push your solution one step further. They were willing to give up the independence they had with local reporting solutions for the benefit not have to deal with reconciliation issues, lowering the local cost of not having to maintain a separate system and pay licenses.

Today, sales performance calls are actually about performance and not muddled with discussing who has the correct numbers. We grew to 1000+ users and now have a global BI team established and a solution in place that feeds various external applications.  More than 10’000 queries are executed each week.

Our BI environement has come a long way in the last five years. 

I hope one or the other point I made left some food for thoughts…

If you are interested in more insight on the internal marketing on BI go here

All slides copyright by author.

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      75 Comments
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      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Great insights on how to get a user base to adopt a solution, not get chased onto a solution.

      Author's profile photo Martin Grob
      Martin Grob
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks! I think thats the best indicator to know that your solution is successful when you not have to chase people on it..

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Nice work

      Author's profile photo Martin Grob
      Martin Grob
      Blog Post Author

      thanks!

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Great blog on a very complicated subject matter.

      Author's profile photo Martin Grob
      Martin Grob
      Blog Post Author

      thanks!

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Martin, you really had a deep thoughts on the subject matter, and put light on it in very unique style. I like it. Valued efforts.

      Author's profile photo Martin Grob
      Martin Grob
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Amir

      Thanks for commenting on it

      Martin

      Author's profile photo Aby Jacob
      Aby Jacob

      Thanks Martin !!

      Excellent article, very informative for BW consultants

      Author's profile photo Martin Grob
      Martin Grob
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks for your kind words glad you like it

      Martin

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Good Work Martin, Liked you Agile Approach

      Raj

      Author's profile photo Martin Grob
      Martin Grob
      Blog Post Author

      thanks for your comment

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Thanks for this article on successful BI solutions approach.

      Author's profile photo Martin Grob
      Martin Grob
      Blog Post Author

      thanks..I hope it triggers one or the other idea for you

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      hi friend i am facing some problem at query level can you help me

      Author's profile photo Raf Boudewijns
      Raf Boudewijns

      Good job! Glad to hear you were able to make it work (and had the support of higher management, which is also a "key" factor for succes - but then again, I assume you categorise this under Organization).

      Author's profile photo Martin Grob
      Martin Grob
      Blog Post Author

      Hi

      Thanks for your comment. Actually acceptance and support with higher management I implied in the part of "Sponsorship/Ownership". In those steering committees are only members of the management board driving our BI initiative.

      Martin

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hi,

      I am sandhya new into SAP BI7.3.

      As per user requriement i am using Cube 0IC_C03,Data source name 2lis_03_bf, and SD data source also for sales commerical invoice.

      sales fields are FKIMG,FKSTO,VBTYP,VBELN,

      I have created one functional module in R/3 Side for Commerical invoice with SD fields.and mapping in to DSO,CUBE level.

      when ever i disply data in cube level, sales data is not displying.i need to display both sales data and Inventory data at report level.

      My report format : Opening Stock,Received,Returns,Sales,Closing Stock.

      Except Sales, Remining coloums displying correctly.

      Please help me to slove this problem.

      Thank

      Sandhya

      Author's profile photo Martin Grob
      Martin Grob
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Sujana Koduru

      Post your question in this space SAP Business Warehouse and we can help you solve your issue in no time!

      thanks

      Martin

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hi Friends,

      As per user Requirement i am using cube 0IC_C03 and Data Source 2lis_03_bf.

      and SD data source also we are using for commercial invoice, So I created one functional module in r/3 side with this tables and fields :VBRK-BUKRS ,VBRK-SPART .VBRP-FKIMG,VBRK-Fkdat ,VBRK-VBTYP ,FKSTO.

      so this both data source are mapping in to one DSO and cube.

      While display cube data sales related data is not come.

      My report : Opening Stock,Received,Returns,Sales,Closing Stock.

      Except Sales Colum, Remaining values displaying correct,

      Please suggest me to solve this problem.

      Thanks,

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      sorry for disturb

      reeport excel

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Great article.... almost like you worked here for our company and wrote about the issues we're experiencing ourselves almost verbatim.  Excellent ideas on a successful working solution.

      Author's profile photo Martin Grob
      Martin Grob
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks for your comment. I have seen one or the other company struggle with exactly these topics 🙂 I hope you get a good idea out of it..I'm working on a blog detailing out the marketing steps..

      Martin

      Author's profile photo Anshu Lilhori
      Anshu Lilhori

      Great Piece of work Martin..We can actually take some of the pointers from your blog to convince our customers that how BI can be implemented and used successfully.

      Thanks for all your hard work and efforts you put in this blog.

      Regards,

      AL

      Author's profile photo Martin Grob
      Martin Grob
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Anshu

      Thanks for your comments glad you can benefit from it.

      Martin

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Thanks Martin..

      This article solved our one doubt very clearly which v are not getting from a long time.

      it proved very helpful..:)

      Author's profile photo Martin Grob
      Martin Grob
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks for your comments. nice that I could clear a doubt

      Martin

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Dear Martin,

      It is really good and informative... 🙂

      Keep posting like this..

      Regards

      Kiran N

      Author's profile photo Martin Grob
      Martin Grob
      Blog Post Author
      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Wow!! Good Work Martin.

      Author's profile photo Martin Grob
      Martin Grob
      Blog Post Author

      Thank you for your comment and glad you liked my blog..

      Martin

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hi Martin,

      you did a great  research in Bi environment , it will be really useful for corporate society.

      Thank you.

      Author's profile photo Martin Grob
      Martin Grob
      Blog Post Author

      Hi

      Thanks!
      Glad you liked it hope you can use one or the other point of it

      Martin

      Author's profile photo Satendra Mishra
      Satendra Mishra

      NIce work.

      Regards,

      Satendra

      Author's profile photo Martin Grob
      Martin Grob
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks Satendra always nice to see you reading my blogs

      Martin

      Author's profile photo Ravi Pachauri
      Ravi Pachauri

      Thanks for sharing your inputs.

      Author's profile photo Martin Grob
      Martin Grob
      Blog Post Author

      Ravi you're welcome

      Martin

      Author's profile photo Prashanth konduru
      Prashanth konduru

      Nice document ... Marti... Good job ...

      Cheers 🙂

      KP

      Author's profile photo Martin Grob
      Martin Grob
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks glad seeing you like it

      Martin

      Author's profile photo Eduardo Rezende
      Eduardo Rezende

      Good blog Martin.

      Thanks for sharing.

      Author's profile photo Martin Grob
      Martin Grob
      Blog Post Author

      thanks you're welcome

      Author's profile photo Vivek Singh Bhoj
      Vivek Singh Bhoj

      Great blog Martin

      Regards,

      Vivek

      Author's profile photo Martin Grob
      Martin Grob
      Blog Post Author

      glad you liked it 🙂

      Author's profile photo Satendra Mishra
      Satendra Mishra

      Nice blog martin. 🙂

      Author's profile photo Martin Grob
      Martin Grob
      Blog Post Author

      always nice to read

      Author's profile photo Mohsin Abbasi
      Mohsin Abbasi

      Hi Martin,

      I just simply say Superb................ 🙂

      Best Regards

      Mohsin Abbasi

      Author's profile photo Benedict Venmani Felix
      Benedict Venmani Felix

      hi Martin Grob, thanks for sharing this wonderful article. It was like reading a article in a tech magazine. Great insight and write-up.

      Looking forward to reading the second part.

      Regards,

      Benedict

      Author's profile photo Martin Grob
      Martin Grob
      Blog Post Author

      thanks for the comments nice that you like it this much..

      part two is mentioned at the end of the blog 😉

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Great article! Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

      Author's profile photo Martin Grob
      Martin Grob
      Blog Post Author

      thanks & you're welcome

      Author's profile photo Erwin Leitner
      Erwin Leitner

      Hello Martin,

      Wow

      Excellent and Perfect ➕ 🙂 ℹ

      all the best Erwin

      Author's profile photo Martin Grob
      Martin Grob
      Blog Post Author

      thanks for the rating appriciate it..

      Author's profile photo Tariq Ashraf
      Tariq Ashraf

      Hello Martin,

      Excellent Work and keep up the good work!!!!

      Regards,

      Tariq Ashraf

      Author's profile photo Martin Grob
      Martin Grob
      Blog Post Author

      thanks! well do

      Author's profile photo Abyson Joseph
      Abyson Joseph

      Thanks Martin.. Very informative.. well presented..

      Author's profile photo Martin Grob
      Martin Grob
      Blog Post Author

      Joseph thank for your comments

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Nice work Martin !!! very informative.

      Author's profile photo Martin Grob
      Martin Grob
      Blog Post Author

      glad you like it

      Author's profile photo Praveen Kumar
      Praveen Kumar

      hi martin,

                   nice blog , seems quite impressive.

      Best Regards

      Praveen Kumar

      Author's profile photo Martin Grob
      Martin Grob
      Blog Post Author

      it was or still is an impressive journey

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hello Martin

      Knowledge able blog and good piece of work. Keep it up and looking forward your next blog.

      Arshiyan

      Author's profile photo Martin Grob
      Martin Grob
      Blog Post Author

      thanks you're welcome

      Author's profile photo Syam Babu
      Syam Babu

      Hi Martin

      Excellent and Interesting Blog.

      Thanks,

      Syam

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Excellent  Work Martin,

      U did a great  research in Bi environment , it will be really useful for corporate society.

      ThankQ

      Author's profile photo Martin Grob
      Martin Grob
      Blog Post Author

      thanks for your kind comment

      Martin

      Author's profile photo Martin Grob
      Martin Grob
      Blog Post Author
      Author's profile photo Benedict Venmani Felix
      Benedict Venmani Felix

      🙂 At this rate, I think you would be giving interviews and appearing in TV shows.

      Congrats once again Martin,

      Benedict

      Author's profile photo Martin Grob
      Martin Grob
      Blog Post Author

      haha we'll see not that fast 🙂

      Author's profile photo Srinu S
      Srinu S

      Nice blog Martin.Thanks for sharing. 🙂

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Martin

      Very good piece of doc for successful BI solutions. nice afford n keep it up.


      Arshiyan

      Author's profile photo Abdullah Qureshi
      Abdullah Qureshi

      Great Blog Martin. Thanks for sharing this valuable knowledge with us..

      Keep Sharing.

      Regards,

      Abdullah

      Author's profile photo Martin Grob
      Martin Grob
      Blog Post Author

      you're welcome I hope those points are useful for you too..

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hi Martin,

      This is really interesting, I feel addicted to BI.

      Rightly pointed out by you. Great work indeed.

      Kind regards

      Khushi

      Author's profile photo Martin Grob
      Martin Grob
      Blog Post Author

      thanks I appreciate all the comments

      Author's profile photo Appasaheb Nagargoje
      Appasaheb Nagargoje

      Hi Martin,

      Nice Blog and really interesting...
      great knowledge share.

      Regards,

      Ajay