Organisation: Motorola Inc.'s Semiconductor Products Sector, Austin, Texas Application: An intranet-based executive information system Technologies: Online analytical processing and data access software, and the WebSuite application development environment from Gentia Software Inc., running on Apple, IBM, Microsoft and Sun platforms Scope: 1,500 employees worldwide, including senior executives, managers and project analysts Sponsor: Howard Gentry, vice president and director of finance for sector financial analysis Objective: To provide end users with quick access to data warehouse information Payoff: Reduced time to roll out new applications by half; improved system maintenance and response times worldwide AT MOTOROLA INC.'S SEMICONDUCTOR Products Sector (SPS), based in Austin, Texas, putting timely information into the hands of managers used to be a problem, given the global scope of the company's operations. Then in 1994 SPS implemented an executive information system (EIS) that let managers in the finance department quickly access data warehouse information from their desktops. Today SPS has moved the system over to an intranet that's available to other executives besides those in finance, and in the process it has reduced headaches involved in implementing and maintaining new applications.
The sector had reams of detailed information stored in data warehouses. But the data wasn't doing anyone at the company much good because end users couldn't easily find what they were looking for. According to Howard Gentry, vice president and director of finance for sector financial analysis, the driving motivation behind the project was to supply users with a "tool resident on the desktop that accounting and finance people could figure out." Gentry says that he didn't want to require managers to know arcane SQL search commands to locate the data they needed. "The initial project four years ago involved getting managers business metrics as well as customer and manufacturing information," adds Mike Bloxam, manager of data warehouse tools and decision support at SPS.
At the time, the Web hadn't really taken off, so SPS opted to implement a client/server-based EIS with online analytical processing software from Gentia Software Inc. of Wakefield, Mass. By the beginning of 1997, 1,000 users from finance, marketing, sales and accounting departments around the world used the Gentia software to access information on their desktop clients from one of three data warehouses.
As with any client/server environment, maintaining the applications on the six or so computing platforms used by SPS employees proved troublesome. And as employees came to rely on existing EIS applications, they wanted new applications. Unfortunately, introducing new applications across the company proved problematic because each new group of users had to be trained and supported.
In April 1997 SPS decided to organise its operations around customers rather than product lines or regions, recalls Bloxam. To support the reorganisation, SPS chose to build a global intranet that would allow managers to access the same information as they had with the client/server system. SPS implemented WebSuite, a development environment from Gentia that enabled the company to make its existing EIS applications accessible through standard Netscape Communications Corp. browsers. By July 1997 SPS had its EIS intranet up and running.
Now accessing customer-centric data is as easy as point and click, says Gentry.
In about five minutes, users can find out what customers are buying, their order histories and the status of their current orders. Having the information so accessible enables managers to be a lot more proactive when problems arise.
"If for some reason a customer doesn't receive a shipment when promised, a manager will know that immediately and can find out why," says Gentry.
About 1,500 employees access information through the intranet. Because applications are accessible through a standard browser, there's no need to train employees when a new feature is rolled out. And rolling out new applications on the intranet takes about half the time it did in the client/server environment, Bloxam says. Today 3 people maintain the applications, compared with the 12 who had to keep things running before.
SPS is even expanding on the anywhere/anytime computing model the Internet supports. About 700 managers equipped with Motorola pagers get the latest intranet-based business information sent to them on the road. "This is a great new capability that came out of the original executive information systems project," Bloxam says.
Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.