One of a company’s greatest assets is the data held within its systems. Enabling business users to easily access this data and empowering them to use the information delivered to make better, more informed decisions can help bring success to an organisation. However, extracting data from complex ERP systems and turning it into useful information that can drive business change, support decision making processes, and give you a better insight into how your business is performing has never been simple. TM meets Mitsubishi’s John Quickenden to learn more.
“Mitsubishi initially implemented its SAP system in 1998,” says John Quickenden, Business Support Group, Mitsubishi Electric Europe B.V. “When the system went live, however, a number of significant problems soon became apparent. For example, because we were operating without a suite of reporting programmes written specifically for our users, we had to rely on the SAP standard reports — which were not satisfactory for the users’ requirements.” Accordingly, Mitsubishi embarked on a programme of compiling detailed reports at its in-house facility and, says Quickenden, over the course of the following five years wrote approximately 500 bespoke SAP reports. This proved to be a particularly challenging process for all involved.
Users would provide Mitsubishi’s IT team with the specifications for a report. Once written to requirement would need to be reviewed several times by the Key User Group to gather relevant feedback and amend the reports accordingly.
“First and foremost, such processes were hugely time consuming for our programme technicians, taking anything from hours to days to produce, depending on the complexity of the variants of the reports” says Quickenden. “Equally, it became evident that we were simply presenting the same data in different formats and layouts, thus restricting the ability of our users to act independently and with an acceptable speed of process.
It was at this point that Mitsubishi decided to look for an alternative way of reporting from our ERP system.” “Mitsubishi required a system which users could operate without highly technical programming experience and with the ease of use to extract and present data from our framework in the ways which most suited their requirements. We considered a number of business intelligence systems, many of which we found to be large, slow, cumbersome, and expensive. The toolkit from BOARD stood in clear opposition, given its speed, simplicity, flexibility, and ease of integration.
Indeed, BOARD represented a future-proof platform to manage our Business Intelligence and Corporate PerformanceManagement needs.”
Meeting the challenge
The eventual purchase decision was made easier by the fact that Mitsubishi had a continuing investment with BOARD, the provider of a unique programmingfree toolkit for rapid and cost-effective development of Corporate Performance Management and Business Intelligence applications. As a result, Mitsubishi undertook three days of ‘concept’, which was carried out after Quickenden had undertaken an analysis of the 50 most frequently used reporting programmes on the company’s system.
He explains: “Having listed by frequency the objects that were reported, our results thus represented the basic data requirements for the reporting of Mitsubishi’s business units. Accordingly, the proof of concepts enabled us to locate many of the reported objects in SAP, and utilised them to load the primary data into a BOARD database — demonstrating that the system would function effectively.” Following this initial process, Mitsubishi took the project to its key user group, seeking to involve them at every stage of the implementation process and encouraging users to write their own reports.
Says Quickenden: “As testament to the agility of the BOARD toolkit, once Mitsubishi rolled out the project we are able to deliver to completion in less than three months. Moreover, arguably the system’s most tangible benefit is its ease of use, a sentiment echoed both by our staff and the external users.” “Indeed, Mitsubishi needed to train employees on the system for less than a day, given that we had previously constructed a malleable reporting framework from which to work. As a result, users are able to simply modify the reports according to their bespoke specifications and present the data in the ways which are best suited to their user base.”
Having implemented the BOARD system internally, Mitsubishi’s users have already created approximately 700 self-generated reports — and are continually finding innovative ways to utilise the system for their reporting needs. Explains Quickenden: “By way of example, we developed an in-house order and customer management function in the SAP framework called System 42, designed to enable Mitsubishi’s sales department to produce quotations for customers’ equipment and materials requirements.” When System 42 produces a quotation which is accepted by the customer, it is possible to simply press a convert button, automatically creating that order on the SAP system. Mitsubishi utilised the BOARD application as a staging database connected to System 42, merging its data with post-sales SAP information and importing the results back into the BOARD framework.
Says Quickenden: “System 42 has been instrumental in easing the organisation’s growing pains, especially with regard to the expansion of business with our Air Conditioning division. However, BOARD’s toolkit also enabled Mitsubishi to make advances which we hadn’t foreseen prior to purchasing the system — the liberating effect it had on our credit control department being one such example.” To quantify, the company’s automotive division sells equipment to operational facilities and manufacturing warehouses across Europe, which are required to transport that equipment from the warehouse to production line three or four times a day.
As a result, purchase orders are generated and sent to Mitsubishi on a daily basis, a process which was done entirely by hard copy faxes prior to acquiring BOARD — taking approximately three weeks per month for the company’s credit control team to input. Now the distributors are now able to send us all the information on a simple file, enabling the department to process a month’s worth of orders in less than a week.”
Mitsubishi’s original aim was, says Quickenden, to free the company’s departments from the restrictive merry-go-round of compiling reports which would be used for a limited period simply to be discarded for alternatives which would present the same data in marginally differing formats. “One of the most pleasing aspects of the implementation, however, was the degree of ‘buy in’ we received from our user base. Indeed, they are continually investigating new ways of using BOARD’s capabilities to their benefit, particularly in the fields of pre to post-sale activity and accurate forecasting.” “Ultimately, the BOARD toolkit puts the solution in the end-users’ hands, thus alleviating the pressure on other departments within any given organisation.
This is largely attributed to the programming-free and integrated environment which Mitsubishi now enjoys, and will continue to do so going forward.”
Ever changing business requirements can cause your reporting processes to become reactionary.
Utilising a Business Intelligence solution enables your business users to gain insight to the knowledge they require to make informed and timely decisions.
The ability to rapidly change reports, budgets and forecasts, and furnish users with the tools they need to do this can allow your IT team to engage much more with business users and deliver real value add projects. Delivering the right information and knowledge to the right people in a timely manner, as Mitsubishi have demonstrated, can only be of value to your business.