To increase agility with enhanced insight and faster processes, Patten Industries replaced SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse with a financial management and business intelligence (BI) solution based on the Microsoft platform and CODA Financials from UNIT4. As a result, Patten has improved agility, increased return on investment, given users direct data access with enhanced security, sped processes, and increased reliability. Business Needs
Patten Industries is a full-service Caterpillar dealer. To succeed, the company must offer excellent service and competitive products. To achieve this, 40 executives and managers continually monitor operations, improve internal processes, and adapt offerings to support new trends.
Before 2009, employees in the finance department created BI for executives and managers with SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse (BW). Rather than increasing business insight, however, that solution hindered agility, slowed efficiency, and created frustration. “Our SAP reporting tool was very rigid, and it took a great deal of effort to do any kind of data analysis, especially since we don’t have IT personnel to manage reporting,” says Tom Synowiecki, Controller at Patten Industries. “We just couldn’t access and deliver information fast enough."
Because the solution was difficult to use, executives and managers spent days each month exporting data from static SAP reports into Microsoft Office Excel 2003 spreadsheet software to create new reports for internal users and third parties such as banks. To obtain additional information, answer new questions, or resolve business issues, executives and managers often asked financial employees to create a custom report in SAP NetWeaver BW—a process that took a day or more. Synowiecki explains, “Setting up a new report with SAP was very difficult, and because the process was so complex, we always had to double-check the data because we were not always sure that we had captured or excluded the right information.” Tom Black, Financial Systems Analyst at Patten Industries, adds, “Oftentimes, we couldn’t even get the data out of SAP to answer our questions.”
In 2008, Patten decided to replace SAP NetWeaver BW with CODA Financials from UNIT4. The company also sought a new BI solution that could boost agility by streamlining data access and processes. The solution needed to interoperate with SAP NetWeaver BW and CODA to support a phased implementation. It also needed to work with a mainframe-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) system called Dealer Business System (DBSi).
Because Patten deploys its technologies on the Microsoft platform whenever possible, it evaluated BI solutions from Microsoft partners. Ultimately, Patten engaged Advanced Computing because its solution could work with SAP, CODA, and future ERP systems. In addition, users can access it with Microsoft Excel. “By implementing a BI solution on the Microsoft platform, we would avoid learning curves because everyone was already very familiar with Microsoft Excel,” says Synowiecki.
||By replacing SAP with a Microsoft BI solution and CODA, we changed our corporate culture from reactive to proactive.… People explore information to make projections and see trends better and faster.
In December 2008, Advanced Computing implemented the solution by creating a data warehouse on a virtual server running the Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition operating system and Microsoft SQL Server data management software. Its engineers used SQL Server Analysis Services to set up one online analytical processing (OLAP) cube in the data warehouse that specifies which users can access what data. The engineers also used SQL Server Integration Services to import financial data into the cube from SAP and DBSi. Meanwhile, some employees at Patten also upgraded their workstations to Microsoft Office Excel 2007.
In February 2009, the company’s 40 executives and managers began to use the initial solution to access and explore data in the warehouse. Users can also create a new report or dashboard with PivotTable or PivotChart—reporting features in Excel 2003 and 2007—by specifying what information in the OLAP cube they want to include. Synowiecki says, “When people began to use the new solution, everyone asked, ‘Why didn’t we implement this years ago?’”
In September 2009, Patten updated its BI solution to include data from CODA. “The transition off SAP and onto Microsoft BI and CODA was painless,” says Black.
Because it replaced SAP NetWeaver BW with a new solution based on the Microsoft platform, Patten has improved agility, boosted return on investment (ROI), sped data access, accelerated processes, and enhanced reliability.
Boosts Agility and ROI
Patten has transformed how people look at and use data. “By replacing SAP with a Microsoft BI solution and CODA, we changed our corporate culture from reactive to proactive,” says Synowiecki. “Rather than just reading reports, people explore information to make projections and see trends better and faster than before. I can’t put a dollar value on the return on investment, but I can tell you that it’s huge.”
Empowers Employees to Analyze Data with Enhanced Security
Today, users can explore data in real time and create reports on their own. “Recently, I showed a new branch manager how to answer questions by creating custom reports in Microsoft Excel,” explains Synowiecki. “In just four hours, we created five new reports.”
Although executives and managers can access the data warehouse, security is not an issue. Synowiecki says, “With our Microsoft BI solution, we are comfortable letting our managers slice and dice information from one warehouse because we know that people only see the data they are authorized to look at.”
Speeds Processes from Days to Minutes
Patten has increased its efficiency, which ultimately boosts service levels and saves money. “My bank work and treasury functions used to take me several days every month,” says Synowiecki. “With the Microsoft BI solution and CODA, I can get my borrowing bases or covenants done in just 15 minutes.”
Provides Reliability and Peace of Mind
Accessing data is no longer frustrating for employees, and people can trust report content. “The Microsoft BI solution is reliable, and we manage it ourselves,” says Synowiecki. “The relationship we have with Advanced Computing and the confidence we have in the Microsoft platform make our lives simpler because we don’t have to worry about data accuracy, data insight, or support. This is the easiest world for a controller to live in.”
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