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Bearing Man rolls out BI strategy

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The Bearing Man Group, Africa's leading distributor of dynamic engineering
consumable products, has completed the first phase of its implementation of
the Cognos 8 Business Intelligence (BI) suite with the assistance of Synergy
Computing. The initiative, driven by the need to improve reporting and
provide the company with a more stable platform and accurate data, is
already delivering considerable benefits.

Says Campbell Fuller, divisional manager: ICT at Bearing Man: "The primary
driver behind this initiative was the unreliability of the reporting
mechanism within our ERP system, as well as the inability of the reporting
tool to produce complex reports. We thus took a strategic decision to
implement the Cognos 8 BI solution within the organisation, taking a phased
approach."
The initial scope of the project was to provide BI functionality at a head
office level after which the same functionality is to be rolled out to
Bearing Man's branch network of over 100 outlets nationally and in Africa.
This first phase of the implementation provides BI functionality for Bearing
Man's most critical operations – sales and finance. The second phase will
focus on stock and the supply chain.
Explains Fuller: "For the first phase we had two primary requirements: to
replace existing management screens with Cognos Reports and to provide the
company with a BI tool that gives it enhanced reporting capabilities,
including the ability to 'slice and dice'.
"The sales system needed to emulate what was currently being produced in our
ERP system but provide a more stable and accurate platform. Of primary
importance was that the system produced consistent results regardless of the
view that was presented. The finance system was required to cater for
balances and not transaction details, which may be incorporated at a later
date."
Synergy Computing, a corporate performance management and BI software
solution provider, was appointed as project facilitator and consultant.
Synergy has over three decades of experience in the scoping, design and
delivery of data warehouses and BI solutions and counts Vodacom, Woolworths
and Metropolitan Life among its clients.
Says Chris Hewitt, Durban branch manager of Synergy Computing: "We were
actively involved in the supply of the relevant software, the data warehouse
and cube designs, as well as implementation and training."
Cognos 8 was selected following the presentation of a proof of concept to
the company by Synergy Computing.
Says David McWilliam, MD of Cognos SA: "Cognos is known as a BI product but
its real value lies in the ability to enable business optimisation. It
doesn't just deliver information, it delivers performance driven information
that assists organisations to manage their business more effectively.
"Bearing Man's investment in Cognos 8 BI will deliver exponential returns as
its BI strategy rolls out and the company begins to leverage the
comprehensive BI functionality it offers. Synergy Computing, a long-time
Cognos partner, is a proven performer in this arena, building value around
its service and offerings that benefits its customers in the long term. The
major challenge faced by the implementers was data cleansing and data
transformation.
Says Hewitt: "As Bearing Man's ERP system did not use a relational database
we had to do a significant amount of data cleansing and validation. However,
this was a critical part of the operation as BI projects stand or fall based
on the quality of the data the organisation uses."
A data warehouse was created and two data marts, for sales and finance, were
populated with the relevant information.
Says Fuller: "The warehouse, which comprises both sales and finance data, is
now complete, although small modifications may be required. The management
screens from Bearing Man's ERP system have been replicated. Several benefits
have resulted from this first phase of the implementation.
"The consistency and accuracy of financial and sales information has been
improved. We also have increased flexibility with regards to report creation
and, in addition, the solution is very easy to use. Furthermore, Analysis
Studio allows senior management to better interrogate and understand their
figures, while ad hoc sales figures can now be produced very quickly."
Cognos is seen as a strategic tool in assisting Bearing Man meet its long
term business strategy of increased sales growth, increased profitability
and decreased expenses.
Concludes Fuller: "The challenge that lies ahead is to ensure that the BI
product is actively promoted within the business and is not seen as simply a
powerful reporting tool. Time and resource constraints are going to be
additional challenges but I am confident that we will succeed."