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Business-Intelligence Dashboards Get Democratic

Desktop business-intelligence displays are moving from the executive suite to the cubicles, where the ROI is even better.

By Mark Leon
June 16, 2003 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - The executive information systems (EIS) of the 1980s stayed in the executive suite and provided fancy pie charts of financial data. But now these business-intelligence tools have found a new home in the cubicles. They've also found some new names: "dashboards and scorecards," says John Hagerty, an analyst at AMR Research Inc. in Boston. "We are now seeing them all over the enterprise, and for a variety of reasons." Hagerty says more than half of the 135 companies he recently surveyed are implementing dashboards, which are also spreading into various nonfinancial departments.

Dashboards aren't just for financial data anymore. "At Southwest Airlines, they call them 'cockpits,' and they're specialized so that the guy in charge of putting peanuts on airplanes gets a different view than the guy who's in charge of purchasing jet fuel," says John Kopcke, chief technology officer at software vendor Hyperion Solutions Corp.

The Bottom Line

The payoff is that delivering dashboard data to frontline workers puts business intelligence in the hands of people who can exploit it to make money-saving decisions on a daily basis.

Motorola Inc., for example, deployed business-intelligence software from Informatica Corp. in Redwood City, Calif., last year to about 200 desktops in various purchasing offices. Falgun Patel, senior manager for sourcing systems at Schaumburg, Ill.-based Motorola, says his dashboard gives him unprecedented access to purchasing information.

"We got the system up and running in mid-2002," says Patel. "Prior to that, we had to pull information from a variety of spreadsheets and custom databases from locations all over the globe." In fact, this is still the case, but now Informatica's software does the pulling, and sourcing officers like Patel can get instant access to sophisticated metrics.

"It used to take 20 days for one of our indirect purchasing officers to collect global stats," says Chet Phillips, IT director for business intelligence at Motorola. "Now it takes minutes."

Patel says the result is smarter, faster decisions. "On my dashboard, I can immediately see our global spend with a particular supplier," he explains. "I can slice the data in a number of ways—various charts, historical records, purchases by departments, etc. This gives me exactly what I need to negotiate a better deal with the supplier."

He says the dashboard also allows him to be more proactive. "By combining the purchasing analytics on my desktop with current market conditions, I can determine whether it is better to negotiate for a commodity or go ahead and lock in a supply," Patel says.

The result is a fabulous return on investment. "We estimate that this system saved us about $15 million a month in 2002," says Phillips.

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