JMC Steel’s Kalyan Boggavarapu, BI Lead, and Kerry McGuigan, Director of Finance, visit with SAPinsider Studio during the 2015 Reporting & Analytics conference in Las Vegas to discuss the company’s move from SAP Business Explorer (BEx) to SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for Microsoft Office.
This is an edited transcript of the discussion:
Ken Murphy, SAPinsider: Hi, this is Ken Murphy with SAPinsider and I’m at the SAPinsider Reporting & Analytics event, 2015. I’m pleased to be joined by Kalyan Boggavarapu and Kerry McGuigan, both of JMC Steel. Thanks for being with us.
Kalyan Boggavarapu, JMC Steel: Thank you.
Kerry McGuigan, JMC Steel: Thank you.
Ken: I was hoping to start if you could just tell the viewers your roles with the company and what you do.
Kalyan: I look after the BI team. We have a BW system, we have SAP BusinessObjects (BOBJ) and reporting, so that’s mostly my area.
Kerry: I’m the Director of Finance for JMC, and I also have responsibility for the BI reporting tools, so the reporting team reports up through me.
Ken: And before we get into a little bit more about the BI landscape, can you tell me a little bit about the company; what does JMC Steel do, who are its customers?
Kerry: We’re a pipe and tube manufacturer. We’re the largest independently held pipe and tube manufacturer in North America. We currently have about 2,000 employees, approximately 500 salary employees, 1,500 hourly employees. We have locations in the U.S. and Canada. We sell product into the oil and gas industry, into the solar markets, we sell fence framework, sprinkler tubes, hollow structural steel. If it can be made out of steel and it’s round, we can make it. We have about 13 operating locations across the U.S. and Canada. Our primary sales are in North America, all across the country both U.S. and Canada, a little bit of export business but primarily is North American based.
Ken: And getting into your BI landscape, can you address what you use and how is business intelligence used by the business?
Kalyan: We actually have two ECC systems. So BI is sort of a consolidation of the reporting for corporate. We also have other sources where we get data from. The most used reporting tool for BI is BEx (Business Explorer) Analyzer. It’s the favorite, everyone loves it because it has an Excel interface and it can plug into their worksheets of millions of calculations to go further. And then we introduced BusinessObjects about two and a half years ago; the sales team really loves reporting on iPads and we have enabled our Explorer tool as an ad-hoc query tool where they can come up with any report they want before they get to a customer location and then produce a chart and give it to the customer. That’s one way. We’re quite different from other SAP BI companies. We have a large implementation of something called Broadcast (Broadcast by E-mail); it basically runs a report and sends an email to users. So we are heavy on that. So that’s where most of the use is.
Ken: A pretty use of BI throughout the business. What challenges do you have? JMC Steel is here as an attendee, maybe looking at what you’re doing to improve that landscape. What challenges do you have, what solutions are you looking at, and how do you see those solutions meeting those challenges?
Kalyan: One of the immediate challenges we’re trying to address is we have the majority of reporting in BEx and that’s an older version of BEx, it’s 3.5. So we discussed whether to go 7.3 or should we jump and go to the latest BOBJ tool which is Advanced Analysis for Office (SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for Microsoft Office). So we decided to go with Advanced Analysis for Office. It has a few limitations right now, so we hope those on the scheduling part by the time we implement next year are mostly covered up. That’s one of the things we’re trying to address.
Ken: And you’re in the midst of this project?
Kalyan: We have proposed for this project and are in planning right now, so early next year we are planning to start the actual implementation. Before that we’ll be doing some proof of concepts, taking a few complex workbooks in BEx and converting them to Analysis for Office and see how it performs and see how accurately it brings data and see if it is able to get scheduled like a background job.
Ken: Kerry, how would the finance team use this solution and new landscape? What benefits do you see from that respect?
Kerry: The finance group is one of the biggest users of our BW reporting. As Kalyan mentioned we have lots of Broadcasts that are distributed out and flat data basically, and that goes to a wide range of our sales employees, our executives, as well as the finance team. The finance team also then does the slice and dice, does the analytics and answers the ad-hoc questions and is more of a user of the tool than a recipient of the information. So moving into the new landscape should help us hopefully be a little more efficient at that. The speed and the accuracy of the data coming out of the systems should hopefully be more reliable; we do have some issues with data loads coming from SAP and through our servers that have some timing issues that cause Kalyan early morning work to correct sometimes, so we’re hoping that by upgrading we’re going to eliminate a lot of those problems that we run into.
Ken: So with those types of benefits that you anticipate down the line, was it not as difficult as you imagined to build a business case for changes within the BI landscape at JMC Steel?
Kalyan: Yes, giving the benefit that it will be a better tool than the current situation, so we’re hoping it will add to the value to the company.
Ken: Lastly, as attendees could you address what you’re hoping to learn from this event and takeaway back to the office?
Kerry: From my aspect being more on the user side than the development side, I’m just looking for a better understanding of products that are out there. Whether it’s something that we’re going to move to in a year or potentially three or four years, to figure out what’s out there and what works best for our company. Like I said, the majority of our users are recipients of information, they’re not actively doing something so we don’t need to reinvent the wheel necessarily but as the company’s grown over the years through acquisitions and we have a bigger operations base, a bigger sales base, a bigger executive group, they do like to see the dashboards and some of the bells and whistles and they do like to see the information presented in a user-friendly manner. BW is great for those of us that use it and are intimate with it, but it’s not always the most user-friendly for someone that doesn’t understand it.
Ken: I appreciate your being with us today.
Kerry: Thank you.
Kalyan: Thank you.