(L to R): Alex Schuchman, BI Lead; and Ruben Panizza, Global IT Director
According to a recent study by researchers at the University of Texas, if the median Fortune 1000 business increased the usability of its data by just 10%, it would translate to a $2 billion increase in total revenue every year.
The study found that the “productivity of employees can be dramatically affected by increasing the usability of data within an organization — that is, presenting data more concisely and consistently across platforms, such as corporate laptops and mobile devices, and allowing it to be more easily manipulated.”
Yet, according to a recent Deloitte Consulting survey, more than one-third of businesses today either don’t know if their organization uses business analytics or even if they have business analytics capabilities at all.
So the challenge for the IT organization is two-fold:
1. Build the functionality that allows useful and accurate data to be spread across the entire enterprise.
2. Work with business units to ensure that business users are aware of the functionality, and that it can help them improve their business.
Colgate-Palmolive is a perfect example of a company that has identified and met these challenges by developing and implementing executive dashboards based on SAP BusinessObjects solutions. The consumer-packaged goods giant relies on a one-source-of-the-truth business warehouse system as its IT organization provides a single view of the company’s most important data — accessible in real time, on demand, and on thousands of desktops across the entire enterprise.
Data Consistency Comes First
The first challenge in Colgate’s move to be more data-driven was migrating to one source of data to eliminate differences across the enterprise. Colgate has been a global SAP user since the early 1990s and runs five separate SAP ERP instances across its regions, which, over a period of time, has led to differences between geographies or between corporate-level data and the data a business unit or region might see at its level.
“Previously, there was no daily reporting. Reports were run at various times, and the data was constantly changing. For example, every time you ran a sales report, you got a different number for orders, shipments, and so forth,” says Ruben Panizza, Colgate’s Global IT Director of Business Intelligence (BI), Master Data Management (MDM), and e-Commerce. “We wanted one snapshot for the day, as well as the ability to drill down into that snapshot.”
To eliminate the business issues created by those data differences, in 2000, Colgate implemented SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse (SAP NetWeaver BW) to be the single global repository into which the regional ERP systems fed. From that repository, the senior leaders were sent a daily HTML table showing a host of financial and operational metrics for the day compared to the previous month and quarter. SAP NetWeaver BW provided executives with the confidence that all of the data they were seeing matched up with what their peers and their direct reports were seeing, no matter what region or business unit they were in (see sidebar to the right).
But still, the data was not being used by enough employees to drive business benefits. Beyond viewing the standard reports issued to them, Colgate’s senior leaders and other casual users were not running ad hoc reports or otherwise drilling down into the layers of data to answer the business questions the data sometimes brought to light. It was primarily the power users who were taking it to the next level. Eventually, though, more of Colgate’s SAP users — including senior leaders — began requesting deeper access to the wealth of data sitting in SAP NetWeaver BW in a more timely and user-friendly format.
“We’re a CPG company, not an IT shop, so we didn’t want our business users to have to spend that much time focusing on developing reports,” says Alex Schuchman, BI Lead at Colgate. “But in those standard reports, there was no navigation, no drill down, and no color coding to the tables. Users had to interpret all the data just by looking at the numbers on that table.”
Panizza adds, “Those matrix reports were good for power users, but not for senior leaders who don’t have the time to run the more complex reports — these business users were having difficulty accessing the data quickly.”
Colgate needed a solution that could make it easier for business users to run the reports and interpret the data faster.
Roadmap to BI Success
“Performance improvement and ease of use became our top goals for the BI system,” says Panizza. And the more specific goal of building customizable, real-time dashboards came from Colgate’s senior leaders themselves.
The performance issues with the system were solved when Colgate implemented SAP NetWeaver BW Accelerator to speed up data loads and improve user perception and adoption. From there, the focus moved to improving the user-friendliness on the front end and expanding the use of BI across the enterprise.
As a long-time SAP customer, Colgate was not eager to bring in an outside application to streamline its reporting and create dashboards. So when SAP acquired Business Objects in 2008, the BI team at Colgate reviewed the full set of SAP BusinessObjects tools for building user-friendly dashboards and liked what it saw.
“SAP BusinessObjects solutions were our answer for giving the management team access to real-time data,” says Panizza. “For the first time, many of the company’s business leaders are running BI tools — in this case, dashboards — to monitor the business to see what’s going on at a high level.” Specifically, Colgate decided to use SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence to build reports out of SAP NetWeaver BW, using SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards (formerly Xcelsius) on the front end to let users interact with custom-built dashboards.
“For the first time, many of the company’s business leaders are running BI tools — in this case, dashboards — to monitor the business to see what’s going on at a high level.”
— Ruben Panizza, Global IT Director, Colgate-Palmolive
Getting Up to Speed with Dashboards
Colgate’s implementation of the new dashboard capabilities was a study in efficiency. Schuchman says the internal selling of the project was not difficult.
“It wasn’t just the IT organization pitching new tools,” he says. “We had the advantage because we didn’t invent this project — the business was asking for these dashboards.”
Colgate didn’t require the services of third-party consultants to redesign the back end. With some help from SAP, Colgate simply “exposed the SAP BusinessObjects tools to SAP NetWeaver BW,” as Panizza puts it.
“The SAP BusinessObjects suite of solutions is very intuitive and can be a rapid prototype,” he says. “We ran a proof-of-concept on the dashboards to see how much we could build in three weeks. After the first week with the tools, we started using actual production data. By the third week, we were showing dashboards and reports to IT management with production numbers.”
The training was conducted internally rather than by bringing in an outside vendor. Members of the global IT development team learned the functionality while implementing and testing it. From there, they built customized coursework for Colgate’s 65 BI experts and ran the classroom training. “These sessions assembled individuals from the global IT organization, so it gave us an opportunity to work with people in other geographies,” says Schuchman. “The training also identified people to associate with the development of the tools and strategy. So if individuals had questions later, they could go back to those contacts.”
Moving into the Fast Lane
Once the training started, word spread quickly about the dashboards’ capabilities. While the first round of training sessions was specifically developed for members of the IT organization, it wasn’t long before power users from the businesses were signing up for the classes too.
The impact of the dashboards continues to spread across the Colgate enterprise in various ways. And perhaps most importantly, there are scores of new users now consuming and leveraging BI across Colgate. While there are currently nearly 4,000 users interacting with their SAP systems every day, Panizza says this number could potentially grow to 15,000 or 20,000 users
“These real-time dashboards are a change for people who are used to seeing a lot of numbers with their data,” says Panizza. “But they quickly realize they can use the information as it’s presented in the dashboards to make faster decisions.” For example, executives can determine positive or negative financial conditions by simply scanning through the dashboard reports looking for green, which reflects improvements in the company’s financial position. “In the past, executives relied on other people to get custom reports and data,” he says. “Now, they can look at the information themselves. They see the real data as it is in the system much more easily and quickly.”