BI solution is painting by numbers

In a deal in excess of $140,000, Taubmans Paints has implemented a business-intelligence solution from Cognos to overcome the limitations of its enterprise resource planning system and to allow staff easier access to reports.

According to Nigel Thompson, Taubmans Paints' IS development manager, the company couldn't easily derive management reports from the data that its Baan ERP system contained.

Thompson said Taubmans, which employs over 900 people nationally, wanted managers to be able to create their own reports at will.

"We wanted the solution to be database independent -- as we run both SQL and Oracle -- and it had to be capable of running on both Unix and NT platforms, which Cognos could do for us," Thompson said.

In looking for reporting tools, Thompson first turned to the vendor that had supplied the ERP system, but found the reporting tools on offer did not totally embrace Taubmans' requirements.

Over a 12-month period, Taubmans implemented the Cognos suite, including Impromptu Windows for access to reports and PowerPlay Windows Cubes for the finance and accounts-receivable departments, with Cubes also developed for sales and marketing.

With the implementation complete across the sales, marketing, finance and accounts departments, Taubmans is now looking to spread the solution to the manufacturing and distribution departments.

Thompson said the biggest business benefit achieved through the Cognos BI solution is that it powers the user base with tools to do the job and allows quicker, more accurate reporting.

He said Taubmans had almost recovered the return on investment and said the only major integration barrier faced in the implementation period was gaining access to the meta data within Baan.

"It was hard to identify tables and fields while trying to convert. It was an ongoing process and it initially taking four weeks for one full-time person to do the initial set-up and write the meta data," Thompson said.

The company wants to extend these tools to its customers to give them the ability to interact with the company over the Internet.

"But I don't ever see us getting to the stage of selling paint over the Internet," he said. "Colour variations and the way they are displayed on screen are just too great [a hurdle]. But we will be able to give customers the ability to track their orders, query statements and check invoices."

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