With seven years of experience in running SAP ERP, Honam Petrochemical Corporation (HPC) had a wealth of useful business information flowing in and out of its data warehouse. Users across the organization, which is based in Seoul, South Korea, were running reports to guide their business decisions, to support strategic direction, and often to present data to company executives. However, much of the time, the data in these reports was sanitized — processed and manipulated — for the presentation, or it was somewhat dated by the time it was shown at business meetings.
Since HPC executives knew they were ultimately responsible for the decisions made based on that data, they began seeking direct access to more timely, accurate, and “unsanitized” data. Rather than waiting a week to see last quarter’s numbers, they wanted to see daily numbers — and they wanted to see these figures without having to make multiple requests.
To meet these requirements, the IT organization at HPC developed an enterprise information system, based on SAP BusinessObjects solutions, to provide executive-level access to updated business intelligence (BI) data in a dashboard format.
HPC’s enterprise system went live in January 2011, but the strategy behind its development goes back several years, and its implementation process provides a useful blueprint for other IT organizations looking to roll out a similar system.
Listening to C-Level Executives
Developing a BI solution specifically for executives requires a good deal of up-front requirements gathering. Busy executives don’t want to be overloaded with unnecessary data, but at the same time, they want a clear view of the watch-up indicators they consider crucial to their business. Jong Pyo Kim, CIO of HPC, says his team took into consideration three broad requests from executives when developing the enterprise system at HPC:
- Unsanitized data. Executives at the chemical firm wanted access to the data before it went through manipulation or processing. They didn’t want a sanitized view, wherein each department would come up with its own interpretation of the reports, making the data look “better” to senior leadership. Rather, executives wanted to see current data to get a real view of what was happening on the plant floor or in the sales office, for example.
- Fast results. Executives didn’t want to wait for the data. After years of viewing only select data in periodic presentations, HPC executives wanted “anytime access” to reports. When they ran a report, they wanted to see the results quickly on their desktop. If they were traveling, they wanted access via the web or their mobile device.
- Enterprise-wide visibility. Executives wanted to access and share the data easily across the various business units and functions. The company was expanding — both geographically and in terms of product line — so each business unit’s executives needed to track performance in all corners of the enterprise and share watch-up indicators.
Using these three requirements as a framework, the IT organization next needed to determine what technology platform would meet its reporting needs. Previously, the company had relied mostly on SAP Business Explorer. But to meet the new requirements, it was time to move to something more flexible and robust.
The IT team reviewed a number of different products and vendors, but seeing as HPC is an SAP shop, the integration and functionality benefits pointed them to SAP solutions — specifically SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards and SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence.
After identifying the front-end BI tools, the project focus then turned toward determining which data and reports the 200 high-level users should have access to through the new system. The IT organization started by asking executives to list the existing reports they were receiving and to assess the usefulness of each. Once that list was cut down to a manageable size, executives were asked if there were any additional reports or data that their organizations could benefit from. That dialogue proved very helpful in developing the right set of reports and dashboards for executives.
With the user requirements clarified, a final system was designed to pull data from SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse and present it to executives using SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards and SAP Crystal Reports. To make the data easily accessible, the system displayed a very intuitive web-based user interface. Kim says that because the interface was so simple, users didn’t require much instruction on how to use the system to access data and reports.
But given the executive-level user base for this system, according to Kim, even the training approach had to be unique. Instead of using a typical “top-down mandate” to drive adoption, the training strategy focused on clearly communicating the new system’s benefits. To develop that strategy, members of HPC’s IT organization visited the various manufacturing plants when the system was being rolled out and had in-depth discussions with executives about the benefits of the new system, as well as how to use it.
The Impact of Real Data
When the enterprise system went live in January 2011, users began accessing reports and dashboards on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, viewing a variety of watch-up indicators: manufacturing costs by plant, daily production and inventory rates, global product price trends, and transportation costs, among others. HPC also deployed mobile devices to the 30 executive users to test out “anytime, anywhere” access to the new system.
While it’s still a bit early to assess the long-term business impact of the new system, Kim says that one benefit was immediately clear: Executives no longer get a sanitized view of stale data in an outdated presentation. Today, up-to-date information can be shown during a meeting to ensure all discussions and decisions are based on a consistent and timely view of the data. And executives can access the data at any time to get a more accurate and timelier picture of how their organization is performing without any outside interpretation.
No longer do top-level decision makers need to send their staff members on data-hunting excursions — they know what data is available and how to get it, and this knowledge expedites their decision-making process for internal processes, such as production and manufacturing, as well as external and customer-facing strategies.
||Overall financial performance at a glance
||Financial overview of HPC subsidiaries
Words of Advice from CIO Jong Pyo Kim
One of the factors that helped make HPC’s SAP implementation a success, according to Kim, was its phased approach. Rather than pushing a new system onto executives early in the company’s ERP life cycle, HPC waited until the enterprise at large was experienced with the ERP software and confident in its data quality and its data collection and processing methods. Nothing would sidetrack an executive-level system more quickly than inaccurate or untimely data flowing into an executive’s dashboard.
Kim also emphasizes the value of benchmarking before designing and implementing an executive-facing system. He says that learning from those who have already made some common mistakes will help your implementation go much more smoothly. For example, most manufacturing executives will want access to similar data and watch-up indicators, so benchmarking with other manufacturers can provide a good look at what data brings the most value.
Lastly, he suggests that you make sure your business executives are ready for such a system. Even though HPC’s system is up and running now, Kim’s organization is continuously running campaigns to ensure that executives are using the system — and using it in the most effective way. In the longer term, HPC plans to leverage some of the enterprise risk management benefits that can stem from executive access to this data.