IT users seek to close performance management gap

CHICAGO — The majority of companies doing business today are facing a performance management gap and are living in a kind of spreadsheet hell that must be addressed if they want to compete in today’s marketplace.

That was the message delivered during today’s opening session of Solutions 2004,

the annual user group meeting held here by Sunnyvale, Calif.-based business intelligence and performance management software company Hyperion.

“”Companies need to rid of spreadsheet hell, get one version of the truth and deliver insight with dashboards to everyone in the organization. Suddenly, the CEO will be making better decisions about delivering bottom line growth,”” said Jeffrey Rodek, chairman and chief executive officer of Hyperion, speaking Monday to about 2,300 customers and 600 partners at the Lakeside Centre at McCormick Place.

The value of centralized reporting is two-fold, said Nazhin Zarghamee, chief marketing officer with Hyperion. A recent survey conducted by IBM revealed the majority of CFOs said business performance management was at the top of their agenda. First, they want to meet the requirements of business. Secondly, the current climate is not tolerant of behaviour that might represent malfeasance.

“”Up to 50 per cent of companies are relying on spreadsheets for their information. There are so many silos of information and we need to unlock the information in those silos,”” she said.

From the corner office to the frontline worker, the idea is to provide information in one location and deliver it to a company in a package everyone can use.

“”Dashboards are the face of business performance management,”” said Godfrey Sullivan, president and chief operating officer at Hyperion.

Sullivan pointed to his own example of using a worldwide sales dashboard developed at Hyperion to keep tabs on sales performance at the company. This is about empowering an organization, he said, not policing it.

“”When I first showed it people said, ‘Wow,’ then, “”Uh oh . . . he can see everything.’ But once they get past that people said ‘I have to have that.'””

What is holding many companies back is the fact there are many sources of information held within big ERP solutions. Many users want access to that information, but getting to it can be difficult.

At Toyota, the company was looking to streamline its supply chain and get a better picture of the status of each vehicle it sold.

At any one time there are 35,000 vehicles in transit via rail cars enroute to dealerships and sometimes those cars became misplaced. The company wanted visibility controls in place so they could track a vehicle every step of the way.

“”We wanted to drive analysis throughout the enterprise. We now have 2,700 users ranging from the executive director to the operations staff now who have access to reporting tools and can track the vehicle throughout its lifecycle,”” said Mike Burkes, data technical manager with Toyota Motor Sales.

The company processes 10 million parts transactions a day and can now see what vehicles have sold with what accessories.

The company can also use a dashboard with a map to show retail sales according to region, right down to how many Toyota Camrys were sold in Los Angeles month to month and which accessories are selling well on which models.

Just getting meaningful reports that didn’t clutter up the in-boxes of executives was the goal of the Oberto Sausage Co., makers of beef jerky in Kent, Washington. The popular snack-food maker had no reporting capability other than Excel or Word documents that provided little value to executives, said Steve Johnson, senior programmer analyst with the company.

The company CEO told Johnson he wanted one point of contact for reporting that didn’t involve cumbersome documents.

“”He said he was tired of all the e-mail and paper,”” said Johnson.

A dashboard Johnson created now shows sales, operations figures, HR, marketing, financials and customer service figures, although he admits he is still “”weaning some off Excel.””

“”At any point a sales executive can see the top three customers, yearly bookings and up to the minute performance metrics,”” said Johnson. “”We’re trying to win over all our users; we’re not 100 per cent there yet.””

Solutions 2004 continues Tuesday.

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