Executives at consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble, which owns 300 brands sold worldwide, must constantly make important decisions on business issues ranging from branding strategies to supply chain management.
A bad decision -- one based on outdated information or inadequate analysis -- could cost the company millions in wasted spending or lost sales. But until recently, business analysis was conducted mainly by sifting through stacks of printed reports and electronic spreadsheets.
So in 2008, P&G's Global Business Services organization began shopping for business intelligence software. The goal was to give decision-makers an easy-to-use BI tool and access to near-real-time data so they could do predictive analytics and answer "what if" questions.
Another objective was to find a system that enabled people in P&G offices all over the world attend the same meetings and view the same data.
"Senior executives had been limited to running the business by looking in the rearview mirror, and we wanted a forward-looking focus with better speed and quality of the decision-making," says Alan Falkingham, the director of business intelligence and analytics at P&G.
The BI initiative resulted in the construction of futuristic meeting rooms that P&G calls Business Spheres: oval conference rooms with white walls equipped with two 32- by 8-foot screens capable of displaying charts, graphs, heat maps and other visuals. P&G analysts use Tibco's Spotfire BI tool to study data and put together reports that they present to managers in meetings in the Spheres. Spotfire can drill down into areas of interest to attendees or create "what if" scenarios to illustrate the results of different strategies.
Doreen Bayliff, vice president of P&G's North America oral care business, says she and her leadership team use the Sphere two or three times a month to keep on top of market trends. "We use data in real time to monitor the health of the business externally versus the competition," says Bayliff. "The Business Sphere helps us make more holistic and agile decisions."
Hildreth is a veteran IT writer based in Waltham, Mass. She covers enterprise technologies, from BI and CRM to social media and IT management.