4-page Case Study
Posted: 9/23/2010
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NCR NCR Executives Gain Critical Insights with Dashboard Solution Built in Four Months

NCR is a global manufacturer of self-service solutions used in retail, financial, medical, and other fields. During the past 15 years, the company has accumulated some 25 terabytes of data in its Teradata® system. However, the firm’s aging business intelligence (BI) tools failed to offer the usability, functionality, and direct access required by executives. NCR worked with Teradata Corporation to create an executive dashboard using Microsoft BI software. Executives across the company now view the same up-to-date mission critical business data from any web browser, without waiting on reports from the finance staff. Analyses run in minutes instead of hours, enabling managers to gain business insight to drive improved decision making. The IT staff delivered the dashboard in just four months thanks to its familiarity with Microsoft technologies.

Situation
NCR makes self-service solutions such as automated teller machines (ATMs), grocery self-checkout stations, self-service patient registration kiosks, and similar equipment for the finance, retail, healthcare, travel, hospitality, entertainment, and gaming markets. The Duluth, Georgia—based company sells its products in more than 100 countries and employs 22,400 people. NCR had 2008 revenues of U.S.$5.32 billion.

In 1993, NCR created a Teradata® system for collecting data from multiple business systems—orders, products, inventory, sales, customer data, and so forth. Various departments acquired different business intelligence (BI) tools, primarily from Cognos and Business Objects, to report on the data in the warehouse. By 2009, the data warehouse contained approximately 25 terabytes of data.

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* I don’t think that we could have delivered this dashboard in just four months with anything but Microsoft technology. The simplicity of Microsoft software sped up our whole development effort. *

Julie Untener
Director of Information Technology, NCR

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One of the company’s primary BI tools—the Management Application Platform (MAP) based on Cognos Business Intelligence software—was used by the finance department. MAP was a financial reporting tool that provided spreadsheet reports on orders, revenue, and other financial performance indicators. However, over years of use and repeated enhancement, the tool became overloaded with business logic complexities, which made it difficult to use and expensive to support.

“MAP was very much a finance tool, with lots of numbers,” explains Julie Untener, Director of Information Technology for NCR. “But our executives wanted more visual data representation so that they could spot changes and trends easily. Especially in a down economy, our executives are looking at the numbers all the time and very closely. They were experiencing a lot of frustration at the inability to get fresh data on their own and view it the way that they wanted. It was a constant topic at leadership meetings: ‘I can’t get to my data.’”

Solution
The rising executive chorus for easier data visualization and more current data coincided with an effort to replace the Management Application Platform financial reporting tool. NCR decided to merge the two sets of needs and develop one solution to meet both.

By early 2009, the MAP replacement group narrowed down the options to a short list of business intelligence software vendors and invited them to develop proofs of concept. One of these vendors was Microsoft, which makes the data center and desktop software that NCR uses throughout its business.

“The Microsoft BI solution—which included Microsoft SQL Server 2008 and Microsoft PerformancePoint Server 2007—was dramatically less expensive than the other solutions and also offered ease of use for business users,” Untener says. “The IT staff liked its easy integration with Microsoft productivity programs and its overall simpler architecture. Anything we developed on Microsoft could be used with all the other Microsoft programs that our users already used, such as Microsoft Office Excel 2007 spreadsheet software.”

Four-Month Development
For help in creating a new executive dashboard, NCR turned to Teradata, its longtime data warehouse vendor. Teradata had acquired BI consulting firm Claraview in 2008, so it not only had deep knowledge of the underlying data warehouse but also could provide expertise in the best way to expose that data in a user-friendly BI environment.

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* Our executives wanted more visual data representation so that they could spot changes and trends easily. Especially in a down economy, our executives are looking at the numbers all the time and very closely. *

Julie Untener
Director of Information Technology, NCR

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NCR kicked off development of the executive dashboard project in May 2009, and within three months had a prototype. “We developed mockup screen shots and data views, and showed them to our executives,” Untener says. “Bill Nuti, our Chief Executive Officer, participated. I was about five minutes into the presentation when everyone became intrigued with the possibilities. The excitement was great and told us that we were on the right track.”

To flesh out the dashboard, NCR and Teradata used an agile development methodology that relies on iterative development and disciplined management processes by multiple collaboration teams. In September 2009, NCR rolled out the executive dashboard to its top 20 executives. As the company adds more data and security features to the dashboard, its use will be expanded to approximately 200 people.

How It Works
The NCR executive dashboard uses several Microsoft BI technologies. Data for the dashboard originates in the Teradata system, which pulls data three times a day from the company’s order-entry system, general ledger, product databases, customer relationship management software, and other line-of-business systems. Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Integration Services is used as an extract, transform, and load (ELT) tool, Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Analysis Services provides data mining functionality, and SQL Server 2008 Reporting Services provides report generation capabilities.

NCR uses Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 to house the dashboard so that it is accessible from any web browser. The dashboard uses Excel Services in Office SharePoint Server 2007 to dynamically render Office Excel 2007 spreadsheets as HTML so that spreadsheet data displayed by the dashboard is always up-to-date. The solution also uses Microsoft Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 dashboard software to convert data from the analysis cube and Excel spreadsheets into interactive graphs and charts. All the Microsoft BI software runs under the Windows Server 2003 64-bit operating system.

Clear Views of Business Data
With their new dashboard, NCR executives have direct access to current business data from their own PCs. They can see all the data that they are authorized to see, including recent orders, revenues, expenses, operating income, gross margins, and key performance indicators. Just as important as the way that the data is presented is the fact that every dashboard user, from the chief executive officer to sales and industry executives, is looking at the same data in near-real time.

“Every executive can see all this data by business unit, region, companywide, and other parameters,” Untener says. “If they want an explanation for any data, they simply click that point in the graph or chart and can see the underlying numbers. It’s extremely powerful.” NCR has also linked the dashboard to Microsoft Office programs so that executives can right-click a graph inside the dashboard and export it to their desktop copy of Office Excel for further manipulation and analysis.

As various business groups realize the power of the executive dashboard, they are moving their spreadsheets to the new environment. For example, the NCR retail business group has five years’ worth of data in complex Office Excel workbooks used for regression analysis. The group has always had difficulty distributing the massive workbooks to multiple people and keeping the data current. Now it will use the dashboard to deliver the data faster and in a more user-friendly fashion.

Benefits
With its dashboard solution, NCR is able to present current business data to executives in a user-friendly format that provides both high-level and in-depth views of data. Data analyses run 30 times faster in the Microsoft-based environment than they did in the Cognos environment, which encourages deeper analysis. The IT team was able to deliver the tool in just four months, faster than it could have with alternative technologies.

Better Decisions from Consistent Data
The NCR executive dashboard helps executives and financial staff gain better insight into business performance measures, which helps them make smarter, faster decisions. Untener says, “Our new dashboard enables everyone to look at the same data at the same time; it really syncs the company. It helps everyone align with the same goals and objectives in their daily work and decisions.”

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* The ability to view the business from multiple dimensions, such as geography, industry, customer, and total company, is of huge value to us. *

Bill VanCuren
Chief Information Officer, NCR

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Before the new solution was implemented, executives were obliged to view data using multiple spreadsheets created by the finance department, which gave them a limited view and was a cumbersome experience. With the dashboard, executives can view data flexibly and in different, more visual ways, so they can discern trends, spot problem areas, and drill down for answers. “If data is sitting in a notebook on a shelf, it’s static and not very approachable,” Untener says. “Now, this same data is on all our executives’ desktops—current and easy to digest. Executives no longer need to go through the finance department to get to the data.”

Because business data is so much more accessible, executives are turning to it more frequently in making decisions. “The ability to view the business from multiple dimensions, such as geography, industry, customer, and total company, is of huge value to us,” says Bill VanCuren, Chief Information Officer at NCR. “Plus, key mission critical business data such as orders, revenue, and gross margin is updated three times a day, giving the leadership team the ability to assess their actual against plan and then drill down into the details using various dimensions to determine where they need to take action.”

30 Times Faster Performance
Part of what makes the dashboard such a useful and dynamic data exploration tool is its exceptional processing speed. By moving BI analysis from Cognos to Microsoft software, NCR achieved a significant decrease in analysis time. “In Cognos, the average analysis cube took 10 hours to run; in the executive dashboard, this same processing, with even more data, takes 20 minutes," Untener says. “At crunch times, like quarter-end, this is hugely valuable. When a query takes 10 hours to run, you’re not going to ask many questions. But when executives can get rapid turnaround on queries, they ask more questions. This promotes a better understanding of key performance indicators and what’s behind them.”

Faster Time-to-Market
A big win for the IT staff was the speed with which it was able to deliver this sought-after and high-visibility solution. “I don’t think that we could have delivered this dashboard in just four months with anything but Microsoft technology,” Untener says. “The simplicity of Microsoft software sped up our whole development effort.”

In conclusion, Untener says, “We measure success by the fact that our executives really value this dashboard, want to use it, and are already asking for more functionality. More people are requesting access every day, and that’s a good problem to have.”

Microsoft Solutions for the Manufacturing Industry
Manufacturing enterprises must compete in an increasingly global environment. Success depends on finding ever-greater efficiencies throughout the enterprise, while developing a greater agility to react to local and global market opportunities. These challenges are best answered with technology from Microsoft and its partners. Microsoft-based solutions offer much needed value to manufacturers who are under increasing pressure to generate greater returns on the assets that they have employed. This focus on efficiency scales across all the critical functional areas—from getting products to market faster, to streamlining the supply chain, optimizing the manufacturing operations, and generating new revenue streams. 

For more information about Microsoft solutions for the manufacturing industry, go to:
www.microsoft.com/resources/manufacturing

For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:
www.microsoft.com

For more information about Teradata products and services, call (866) 548-8348 or visit the website at:
www.teradata.com

For more information about NCR products and services, call (800) 225-5627 or visit the website at:
www.ncr.com

Solution Overview



Organization Size: 22400 employees

Organization Profile

NCR manufactures self-service solutions, such as automated teller machines, for a range of industries. NCR is headquartered in Duluth, Georgia, and employs 22,400 people.


Business Situation

NCR needed to replace an aging Cognos-based business intelligence (BI) tool and also wanted to give executives simple, direct access to business data from a graphical dashboard.


Solution

NCR worked with Teradata, its data warehouse vendor, to build an executive dashboard using Microsoft BI software, including Microsoft SQL Server 2008.


Benefits

  • Better decisions from consistent data
  • 30 times faster performance than Cognos-based tool
  • Faster time-to-market


Hardware
  • Teradata Enterprise Data Warehouse


Software and Services
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008
  • Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Standard x64 Edition
  • Microsoft Office Excel 2007
  • Microsoft Office Performancepoint Server 2007
  • Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007
  • Excel Services in Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Analysis Services
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Integration Services
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Reporting Services

Vertical Industries
High Tech & Electronics

Country/Region
United States

Business Need
Business Intelligence and Reporting

Languages
English

Partner(s)
Teradata

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