When Volvo Car Corporation split off from Ford in 2010, it needed to develop its own stand-alone IT environment in some areas. At the same time, the company wanted to improve its business intelligence (BI) capabilities and operational efficiency.
So Volvo decided to prototype a Microsoft data management solution that simplifies its IT environment, provides graphical self-service reporting capabilities, and improves collaboration.
By the time that Zhejiang Geely Holding Group completed its acquisition of Volvo Car Corporation in 2010, the IT environment at Volvo had become complex, difficult to manage, and expensive. Over the years, a variety of data management and business intelligence
products had been deployed. Volvo wanted to reduce the number of these products to make the overall system easier to manage and to reduce licensing and other costs. “All the products out there have been purchased by some department at some time in history,
and we’re trying to consolidate and simplify our BI infrastructure,” says a Volvo IT architect.
Volvo also wanted to improve its business intelligence capabilities to achieve greater insights into such things as assembly and product development costs and to help employees produce reports more quickly and easily. “With the old systems, users had to
sample their own data from various sources, integrate the data, and produce the reports—and that cost a lot of time,” says a senior business analyst for business demand and strategy at Volvo.
In addition, Volvo needed reports that are easier to understand so that Volvo analysts and managers could build more persuasive and effective business cases for their proposals. “Everything here comes down to, ’Show me a business case,’” the IT architect
To ensure timeliness and accuracy and to foster collaboration, Volvo sought to improve data management. The company has relied on IT personnel to generate many data reports, which can be slow and inefficient. Also, there is no central location for storing
reports, so information often is distributed by sending a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet or other attachment in an email message. “They’re doing excerpts from the mainframe database into an Excel spreadsheet and emailing them around,” says the IT architect. That
means distribution is limited, and the information can be hard to find.
To address these challenges, Volvo is deploying a pilot solution based on Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Business Intelligence data management software and related BI technologies, including Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 and Microsoft Office 2010. One of the
big reasons for choosing Microsoft is that Microsoft products are designed to work well together. “We strive to keep down the number of technologies, and since Microsoft ensures the interoperability of those applications, we don’t have to worry about that,”
the IT architect says.
Volvo also is implementing the new Power View feature in SQL Server 2012 Reporting Services. Power View is a self-service reporting tool that helps data consumers visually explore their data themselves and answer ad-hoc questions with ease. Its drag-and-drop
data-querying and graphical data displays can be used by both nontechnical and experienced users.
The new system includes a SharePoint portal where people can access and use the tools and information they need and collaborate with fellow employees.
The prototype is being implemented first in the Research & Development Department, where several hundred employees will eventually use it. Volvo expects that it will gradually implement the new system for up to 5,000 users, dramatically increasing the number
of Volvo employees who will be able to make data-driven decisions.
Volvo expects that the Microsoft BI solution will result in a simplified IT environment and improved business intelligence that will help Volvo operate more efficiently and make it easier for employees to collaborate.
Simpler IT and Reduced Costs
Simplifying the IT environment will reduce software licensing costs by eliminating software programs. The new solution’s reliance on Microsoft products will also save the company money on training and improve performance because employees already have a
working familiarity with Microsoft products. The senior business analyst says, “If we present the data in the tools they are knowledgeable about—instead of having to use an interface that they don’t know—it raises their performance a lot.”
Better Business Intelligence
BI improvements in SQL Server 2012 also are expected to improve performance by making data easier to understand and manipulate. For example, vehicle descriptions can now include pictures. Reports can be dynamic instead of just static lists. And employees
can build more compelling business cases by using interactive charts and other graphical items.
Engineers who have used the prototype are delighted with the graphical reporting capabilities of Power View and with the fact that they can now generate reports themselves without asking a programmer. “They can see patterns and irregularities much faster
with a graphical user interface than with a simple Excel spreadsheet”, says the senior business analyst.
Productivity gains already have been impressive. “With SQL Server 2012 and Power View, we will be able to empower our users to significantly reduce the time for analysis in some areas,” the business analyst says.
The solution also will expand the number of people who can use BI. “Our business intelligence solutions have mostly been used by expert users,” the business analyst says. “But there has been a growing demand for dashboards and simple reporting by general
operational users.” The IT architect adds, “Instead of having a few expert users, with Power View we can give BI to entire departments.”
The company’s SharePoint portal improves collaboration by consolidating reporting, data, and BI tools in a single online location, where people can easily create, save, share, and distribute their work. “If you work as an engineer in R&D today, you might
have to access 10 or more systems to get your information,” the business analyst says. “But with SQL Server 2012 and SharePoint Server 2010, we can use one technology and have one place to get information, so there’s a lot of time saved—and money.”
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