Satellite television provider Yes Television — Israel’s equivalent of Sky Television in England — broadcasts more than 80 channels and serves more than 42% of households in Israel. In 2014, the BI department at Yes successfully upgraded its business intelligence (BI) environment from SAP BusinessObjects Desktop Intelligence 3.0 to SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence 4.0 and then to SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1, all in just nine months. Here, Ido Biger, BI Department Manager at Yes, shares with insiderPROFILES the strategy the company followed in this implementation and provides insight into the key factors that contributed to the project’s successful completion and business user adoption.
Q: How important was input from business users as the project team implemented SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1?
The very first step, before even starting the project, was to survey our business users — people in marketing, engineering, finance, and all other business areas — about what they liked and didn’t like about the existing BI solution. At first, users said they were comfortable with the existing SAP BusinessObjects Desktop Intelligence 3.0 application, and that it was fine as it was. But our BI team knew that a new solution could provide users with so much more, such as a self-scheduler, more sophisticated reports, and a much better user interface.
So we started to ask users more specific questions: Would this functionality be helpful to you? If you could have these capabilities, would it be better? How many hours a day do you spend retrieving data versus analyzing that data? This last question was key, because once users understood they could waste less time on retrieving data and invest more time in analyzing data — and once we showed them what was possible with SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 — they began to suggest desired functionality that would help them, and they appreciated the value of the project much more.
It was critical to the project’s success to engage our business users and treat them like a partner in the implementation.
Q: Did you rely solely on in-house resources throughout the entire project?
A key success factor for the project was that the internal BI team was entirely responsible for deploying the solution. There were no external resources involved in the actual deployment. Having the project run internally in this fashion means that, at the end of the project, the team left with the responsibility for maintaining the software will have a strong understanding of the BI 4.1 platform and know what to do with it, because they were part of the migration.
To help ensure this knowledge, we hired an external consultant early on to train the project team on the BI 4.1 platform. We wanted the team to have a professional grasp of the new platform at the outset, rather than have them learn the capabilities of the toolset along with the business users. It is critical for the project team to understand better than the business users how a solution operates. If users see that you know less than they do, they will lose trust in you, the project, and IT in general.
We wanted the team to have a professional grasp of the new platform at the outset, rather than have them learn the capabilities of the toolset along with the business users.
So, while we used an external consultant to gain fundamental knowledge, all of the project work was done in-house. This approach helped us to gain the trust of business users. We all had a common goal and understanding from the beginning of exactly where we wanted to go together.
Q: What was the relationship between the BI team and business users as the project progressed?
The relationship between the BI project team and the business users was collaborative throughout the implementation. Instead of having a team leader from IT collect all the relevant feature requests from business users and then pass them along to the appropriate IT members of the team, each IT member of the team collaborated directly with his or her associated business unit and, in a sense, became a part of that business unit. For example, the marketing BI reference became our ambassador in the marketing division and was involved in all of the business processes in the project’s early stages.
In this way, the BI project team came to intimately understand user requests, such as a request for a certain type of report, and the business reasons behind them, and could proactively offer practical suggestions rather than just react to responses from various lines of business. With this approach, the business users also understood that they were an active partner in the project and not just suppliers of information.
The BI team’s focus was reinforced in two ways. Rather than a list of team goals, each team member had to meet specific individual goals — for example, to each migrate 10 reports every month. And the team’s overall success wasn’t measured in terms of the number of defects or reports. It was measured by the satisfaction of the business users.
Q: What was the timeline for the project?
The entire project took nine months, from the evaluation of the new solution, to the migration of the existing BI environment to a web-based environment, to the implementation of BI 4.1.
The evaluation began in September 2013, during which we made the plan to move our existing BI environment to a web-based environment — that is, migrate from SAP BusinessObjects Desktop Intelligence 3.0 to SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence 4.0 — and from there upgrade to the full SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 platform. Following that approach, we could examine and learn the business users’ behavior with the web platform much better, and then the second upgrade was fairly easy.
We began the migration to SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence in October 2013. Once we completed the migration, upgrading from there to the full BI 4.1 platform was simple. We were live on the full BI 4.1 platform by May 2014, and we were the first company in Israel to do so.
Q: What are some benefits business users are seeing with the new platform?
The new platform has added a lot of real-time analysis functionality in the data warehouse, enabling us to show reports, via dashboards, to analysts on screens across the company — from our service call centers in the north, central, and south parts of Israel, to staff in warehouses managing their inventory capacity. The retrieval time for these reports has improved tremendously — ad hoc queries, for example, have become very fast — reducing the time it takes to retrieve and analyze data by three or four times. When you consider how many people in the company are analyzing data, around 500 BI users, this adds up to significant time savings for the organization, freeing people to focus on improving the business. The improved efficiency of the new platform has been one of the biggest benefits for the company.
An additional major benefit has been the ability to add levels of detail behind numbers. For example, let’s say that on one particular day, 27 customers contacted our call centers about a problem they saw on the television. With our old BI implementation, the extent of the information about the problem ended after the calls stopped coming in. With the new BI 4.1 platform, analysts can drill down to a more specific level and see additional data on all 27 customers who suffered from that problem. Instead of just seeing that 27 customers had a problem, you can go through and understand what exactly happened to them.
Seeing everything — such as the service key performance indicators (KPIs) plus the detailed customer relationship management activities — within the same report has been another huge factor in the satisfaction of business users. They don’t have to go through one report, to another report, to yet another report to understand the details of a problem. All of the information is there in the same report, where they can view the information they need and resolve the problem in a single location, which is very convenient.
Q: How did the reporting environment change after BI 4.1 went live?
For business users, the new platform has removed the layer of data manipulation required by the prior environment. Previously, an analyst would arrive in the morning and manually go through a queue of reports, reviewing and analyzing one spreadsheet after another. With the new BI 4.1 platform, instead of the data coming from the data warehouse to the analyst, who then manipulates it in a spreadsheet and sends it to the decision maker who needs it, the information is pulled directly from the data warehouse into an SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence report. Business users no longer have to spend time manipulating the data, and decision makers no longer need to wait hours for a report. Analysis is faster and easier, and the data integration with BI 4.1 was seamless — no changes or reinstallations required.
To further enhance the ability of business users to quickly create relevant, easy-to-understand reports for decision makers, after BI 4.1 went live, the BI team concentrated on creating a lean and focused reporting environment. We monitored the use of reports, and removed any — along with their associated universes — deemed unnecessary. For instance, if we saw that in the last three months, no one used a set of 20 new reports we created, we removed them from the system. The end result is an environment of reports and data sources fully relevant to decision-making needs.
Internally, the BI team also took the opportunity presented by the new platform to move to a new, clean-cut development approach for building reports. Instead of building a specific SQL query to create a report, as we did in the previous BI environment, with the BI 4.1 platform, we simply build object-oriented reports using SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence. This clean-cut approach has saved the team a lot of time.
Q: Is there any functionality that is making a particular impression on business users?
One project in particular, called “Company Dashboards,” had a lasting impression on users. With this project, we chose a handful of KPIs for critical business units — such as the video on-demand department, the conservation department, the technical department, the engineering department, and the finance department — and had each business unit create its own dashboard based on these KPIs using SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards. Every morning, the analysts in these business units open their dashboards and walk through the relevant reports for that unit’s KPIs. We didn’t have to build the dashboards; the analysts could simply look through the reports. But we decided to use the project to change the way people work in the company. With the dashboard approach, business managers can focus on the KPI gauges for their business unit, and then drill down into specific reports as needed.
Q: How did you get users comfortable using the new BI platform?
We performed a lot of internal training, where we sat side by side with business users and showed them how to do everything. When we migrated all our existing reports to SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence, users felt comfortable with the interface and enjoyed how available the reports were to them. We provided a report template that was unique and clean, and fine-tuned it with feedback from end users.
We traveled to call centers across the country to ensure that all the BI platform users were trained and understood the benefits and possibilities of the BI 4.1 system. It was more than just letting everyone know that a new system is in place — our goal was to make sure they understood the new software, its functions, and its benefits; how things had changed from the way they used to do it; and how they need to do things now.
We created a survey to measure how satisfied users were with the new product and with the service they received. Using the survey results, combined with one-on-one conversations with users regarding how they feel about the changes and the new software, how it helps their daily work, and any ways in which the new environment is lacking, we can ensure that the new platform continues to meet the needs of its users and that everyone remains on board.
Q: Looking back over the project, what are you most proud of?
Changing the way your company works by doing this kind of project and being on the edge of technology is something that every BI manager feels proud of.
By using those dashboards, for example, division managers knew the status of the most important KPIs at a glance — instead of looking through 30 reports and trying to identify problems, they can see those six or seven KPI gauges in their dashboard and immediately determine that they don’t need to focus on the three marked in green, but do need to look into the ones marked in yellow and red. They can then drill down into the KPI in red to see exactly where the problem is.
Instead of analysts wasting time looking for problems to bring to management, they can see an overview of the entire set of specific problems on their dashboards, and then deal with them on their own.