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Posted: 7/24/2012
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Baker Hughes Global Oil Services Firm Supports Self-Service BI with a Single Version of the Truth

Baker Hughes, a global oilfield services company operating in more than 80 countries, has long used data warehouses to support decision making. The company wants to push business intelligence (BI) out to more of its 58,000 employees. After conducting a proof-of-concept study of the Power View feature in Microsoft SQL Server 2012, the company was impressed by the self-service BI solutions it could create using Power View and Microsoft SQL Server 2012 PowerPivot for Excel.

Business Needs

Baker Hughes, a top-tier oilfield services company, works with customers to develop reliable application-specific products and services to more efficiently produce oil. Innovation has always been a hallmark of Baker Hughes. The company was formed in 1987 with the merger of Baker International and Hughes Tool Company—both founded more than 100 years ago when R. C. Baker and Howard Hughes conceived ground-breaking inventions that revolutionized the fledging petroleum era. The company prides itself on never having stopped searching for solutions to conquer the next frontier.

* We found SQL Server 2012 Power View to be very easy to use. It creates reports quickly and is a very good analysis tool. *

Seema Santhakumar
Senior Manager
Business Intelligence Solutions
Baker Hughes

The same innovative spirit is found on the IT side of the business, including early adoption of business intelligence (BI) technology. About 25 years ago, Baker Hughes started centralizing data from disparate systems across its operations, an effort that evolved into a unified data warehouse to serve as the company’s oilfield information repository. “We are always looking for ways to make this information more accessible to people throughout the enterprise,” says Andy Morley, Director of IT at Baker Hughes. “Ideally we want to provide self-service BI.”

At the same time, it makes data more accessible and easier to use, representing a single version of the truth. Trying to achieve this ideal is a challenge faced by all organizations with rich data repositories. Potential problems arise after a person downloads information into a spreadsheet and then adds data from other sources or changes data or definitions to better match a model. Other times, problems arise when a person doesn’t go back to get an update on the original information downloaded. All this can result in discrepancies in the way data is assembled and defined, which underscores the need for a single version of the truth.

To meet these challenges, Baker Hughes sought a solution that would support self-serve BI, while helping the company maintain reliable, consistent data.


In October 2011, Baker Hughes began a proof-of-concept study with a prerelease version of Microsoft SQL Server 2012 data management software. The Baker Hughes IT infrastructure already extensively uses SQL Server 2008 R2, running on the Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise operating system. The purpose of the proof of concept was to test the Power View feature in SQL Server 2012 Reporting Services. Power View is a self-service BI reporting tool that facilitates ad hoc data queries.

The company plans to take advantage of Microsoft SQL Server PowerPivot for Microsoft Excel to generate local, in-memory, multidimensional data cubes that run against the Oracle-based oilfield information repository data warehouse. The proof-of-concept project, which ended in December 2011, demonstrated to the company the effectiveness of running the new Power View feature with PowerPivot for Excel. Baker Hughes found that using Power View to run reports against the PowerPivot cubes provided the easy self-service BI that the company had sought, while helping to ensure a single version of the truth.

On the development side, Baker Hughes is using the BI Semantic Model, introduced with SQL Server 2012, to simplify internal development of BI solutions.


Baker Hughes sees significant benefits in using Power View and PowerPivot for Excel for self-service business intelligence, including ease of use, better decision making, a single version of the truth, and easier development.

Easy-to-Use Self-Service BI

The combination of Power View and PowerPivot for Excel provides the intuitive simplicity that Baker Hughes has sought to support self-service BI. “We found SQL Server 2012 Power View to be very easy to use,” says Seema Santhakumar, Senior Manager, Business Intelligence Solutions at Baker Hughes. “It creates reports quickly and is a very good analysis tool.”

Self-service BI is important to Baker Hughes because the company wants to empower analysts and other employees to explore data without having to request new reports from IT.

“Analysts with deep knowledge of the business might not know exactly what information they need in advance as they pursue an idea,” Morley says. “By using SQL Server PowerPivot for Excel and Power View, people can create their own reports, modify them as needed, and then share their findings with others.”

Better Decision Making

Though difficult to quantify, Baker Hughes sees potentially great business value as business intelligence is pushed out to more employees, giving them the data they need to make the best decisions.

“The goal of self-service BI is to give people the ability to go diving into our ever-larger stores of data and assemble the information they need to say: ‘Yes, this tells the story that we’re trying to understand,’” says Morley. “If our people can better manage their assets, processes, or supply chain through the use of some of these SQL Server 2012 tools, the potential payback is very, very large.”

A Single Version of the Truth

Baker Hughes sees Power View and PowerPivot for Excel as promising tools in helping the company maintain consistent and reliable data. Using the reporting tools, users can combine copies of data for their own uses, while the core data and definitions remain unchanged.

“Typically, users download information and perform some custom manipulations to focus on what they need,” Morley says. “But as a result of the manual manipulation, the data in the reports can no longer be trusted. We like the Microsoft strategy whereby users can work with the familiar Excel interface but not change the data when producing their reports. That's where PowerPivot for Excel and Power View come in—providing self-service BI while retaining a single version of the truth.”

Easier Development

The BI Semantic Model simplifies development of BI solutions. “Rather than using the conventional course of defining dimensions, we found it faster and easier to use SLQ Server PowerPivot for Excel and the BI Semantic Model to convert our existing model in memory,” says Santhakumar, “Users quickly get the data they need to report against.”

Solution Overview

Organization Size: 58000 employees

Organization Profile

Based in Houston, Texas, Baker Hughes is a top-tier oilfield service company with a century-long track record. The company has 58,000 employees working in more than 80 countries, and it generated revenue of U.S.$19.8 billion in 2011.

Software and Services
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Enterprise
  • Microsoft SQL Server PowerPivot for Microsoft Excel
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise
  • Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services

Vertical Industries
Life Sciences, Chemicals; Oil & Gas, Mining

United States

Business Need
Business Intelligence and Reporting

IT Issue
Data Warehousing


Microsoft Services