BI helps overcome reporting deficiencies

An Australian university has found a pervasive business intelligence solution the key to generating reports from enterprise resource planning systems.

Doreen Stevenson, director, management information for the University of Queensland, said a high user confidence in a data warehouse solution combined with the inherent difficulty of extracting reports from enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems had led to a technical directive being given to university staff.

"Recently a strategic decision was made by the university that all management reporting be done through Business Object's business intelligence solution," Stevenson said.

"ERP systems are notorious for having few, if any, in-built management reports. Using Business Objects to produce these on the data warehouse is much cheaper than writing customised reports, much more flexible and functional for the user, and provides an ongoing, stable environment."

Stevenson said an ROI had not been conducted on the solution since its implementation in 1996. However, positive feedback from users - stating reports that had previously taken days or weeks to generate now took minutes - had been the main reason for the university recently choosing to use BO to generate all reports.

Also central to the decision, Stevenson said, was that quotes from ERP vendors showed a more comprehensive reporting system would cost "tens of thousands of dollars".

The university started to develop a data warehouse in 1995, initially using a Cognos solution. However, deemed unattractive to users and requiring too much technical support, the university opted for Business Objects 5i solution in 1996.

"The main focus of the [project] was that we wanted a data warehouse that was able to deliver a high level of strategic reporting. Since its implementation, staff have taken up the solution and, as well as using it for strategic planning, apply it in day-to-day business."

The system was also used to extend the life of legacy systems until the university began the implementation of its ERP systems.

First off the rank some time back was Aurion's HR system. This was followed by a PeopleSoft student information system, which went live in January. A new research system, Research Master has just gone live, with further modules yet to be implemented.

Stevenson said the solutions are "good for what they have been designed for", but staff have found it hard to extract reports from them.

"[The university] operates with a fairly devolved IT team, but since the solution has become more popular, a few more IT people have come on board. But the IT support is really used to extract data from the other systems so reports can be done in BO."

Stevenson said the university was currently looking at implementing a business intelligence portal using BO's InfoView. Unlike the BI solution, the solution will be modified to suit the university's needs.

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