Providing business intelligence tools to more users can boost a company's bottom line, but widely expanding use of such products can also create IT problems, said executives at the Information Builders Summit User Conference in Las Vegas.
Some executives noted that users often try to access far more data than they need just because they can once BI tools are installed. Also, some noted that users often resist corporate shifts from one BI tool to another.
For example, Stave Watson assistant director of the finance office on the Maryland Department of Transportation, said that the first time his organisation put BI tools into place, they provided inexperienced users with too much access to information, and running unnecessary queries.
"We had people running reports and doing queries who were causing a lot of performance problems," he said. The department solved the problem of "people always wanting access to all the data" by implementing customised training programmes based on a user's role within the organization, he noted.
Steve Simon, senior technology officer at State Street, an investment management firm based in Boston, agreed that letting BI tools provide users with access to reams of data is "an accident waiting to happen," he said.
Simon noted that his IT deprtment works with users who complain when a report is taking five minutes to run. He noted that he explains to them that such reports would be far more timely if requests for data were limited simply to information needed to make specific decisions.
Indiana's Public Employees Retirement Fund, which manages US$17 billion in pension funds for retired workers, received resistance from users when it moved to replace the Impromptu BI tool from Cognos with WebFocus, said David Huffman, CIO of the fund. "I had to go against the whole state of Indiana when I switched off Cognos," he added.
Despite those problems, he said the WebFocus tool is now being used successfully by the fund. For example, since installing the software, the time it takes to begin issuing cheques to eligible workers has been cut from up to 180 days to 30 days from the data of retirement.
The company had opted to replace the Cognos tool because it had required IT to write a new program from scratch every time a user wanted a new report, Huffman said. Also, he noted that the older tool was hard to use.
To ease the replacement process, Huffman said the IT operation asked the company's users base to test various reporting tools and pick a favorite. They chose WebFocus because of its simplicity and ease of use, he said.
Ford Motors on the other hand, has expanded its use of WebFocus this year without major problems, said Jim Lollar, Ford's systems manager for global warranty operations. The company initially used the tool to build a portal that provides the automobile manufacturer's 10,000 dealerships with dashboards that show whether their costs for warranty repairs are in line with corporate parameters, said.
"The real value is we get these dealers back near their peer group's average [for repair costs]," Lollar said. "That is when they really save Ford money."
This year, Ford added a WebFocus-based application that collects the data about repair performance for auditors, who use that information to work with dealerships whose repair costs go beyond the parameters, Lollar said. This application has allowed Ford to bolster the efficiency of its audits, Lollar added.
Swift Trade, a securities trading form based in Toronto, has used WebFocus to provide its 3,000 traders with reports that provide details on how their trades affect the company's overall profit and loss, said Sharief Zaman, Swift Trade's director of IT business development.
The company also uses WebFocus with business process management tools to automatically trigger business processes based on certain event, he added. He attributed the company's ability to grow 4,000 percent over four years without adding a significant number of new employees in part to the use of the BI tools.