Whirlpool leaves spin cycle behind and standardizes BI tools

Home appliance manufacturer Whirlpool is in the process of phasing out a mix of business intelligence tools and standardizing on the SAP platform.

The global migration off Cognos, Business Objects and Information Builders will be completed in the next 12 months, according to Whirlpool Australia IT manager Jim Fotopoulos.

The company ran a pilot last year and Fotopoulos said the sticking point has been how to integrate Whirlpool's database with SAP's BI suite.

He said the project began in November last year and was driven by the company's need to expand its use of BI tools.

So far Cognos has been completely phased out of the Australian unit of the company.

Brian Murphy, director of geographic information systems development and business solutions at Whirlpool in the US, said the new version of SAP's BI tools have improved on earlier releases by closing gaps in front-end virtualization and reporting capabilities.

Whirpool will continue to use predictive analysis tools from BI vendor SAS Institute to mine unstructured data because the SAP products focus mostly on structured data, Murphy said.

Replacing most of its third-party BI tools with SAP will ease Whirpool's integration requirements, he said, and eliminate the need for employees to develop multiple skill sets.

John I. Haas Inc, a producer of hops used in the brewing of beer, decided a year ago to buy BI tools from Oracle rather than from traditional BI vendors. The company's vice president of information systems, Kyle Lambert, wanted to avoid the disconnect that often occurs when back-end software is upgraded before the BI vendor can support the update.

Haas plans to upgrade the BI tools in April when it installs Oracle's E-Business Suite 11i.10.

John Hagerty, an analyst at AMR Research, said the enterprise application vendors -- traditionally focused on transaction processing rather than analysis -- have increased their focus on BI as users buy more tools from the BI-centric vendors.

"The enterprise vendors saw this as money they were leaving on the table," he said. As a result, the traditional BI players are "getting knocked around a little bit" by the enterprise application vendors.

However, Hagerty also noted that the traditional BI vendors have the advantage of supporting disparate data sources, whereas the platform providers generally focus on their own data sources.

Although IBM's BI tool, the DB2 Data Warehouse Edition, which was released last year does support multivendor data sources.

Todd Grinaway, director of data warehousing and senior IT manager at a large health insurance company, plans to use the IBM tool set while keeping Business Objects for enterprise reporting.

Grinaway also noted that using the IBM BI tools means that there "is one less finger-pointing exercise I have to go through" when something goes wrong. w - with Heather Havenstein

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