Faster Time to Answers
Accelerating Reporting for Oracle® Applications, Siebel® eBusinessApplications and PeopleSoft®
Raw data is a corporation’s most valuable and underutilized resource. To staycompetitive in today’s economy, decision makers need tools that will give them thepower to turn that data into meaningful business intelligence that they can accessthemselves, without relying on IT resources. Companies also need to protect theirreporting investment so that application upgrades don’t require hundreds of reportsto be rewritten.
Noetix technology uses metadata to solve these problems and put companies incontrol of their data. With Noetix, business users can get answers to theirimportant business questions when they need them, wherever they need them.
Faster Time to Answers
Accelerating Reporting for Oracle Applications, Siebel eBusiness Applications and PeopleSoft©2002 Noetix CorporationCopying of this document is permitted.This document is provided for information purposes only and the information contained herein is subject to changewithout notice. Noetix Corporation does not provide any warranties covering and specifically disclaims any liability inconnection with this document.Noetix and NoetixViews are registered trademarks of Noetix Corporation. All other product or company names mentionedherein are used for identification purposes only and are property of their respective owners.
Faster Time to AnswersExecutive Summary
The amount of data generated by business today is growing exponentially. Databases that not long ago were measured in megabytes are now well into the terabyte range.More than ever, in today’s competitive business environment, corporate decision makers need tools that can effectively turn those mountains of data into meaningful business intelligence.What’s more, these users want immediate answers to their critical business questions. And they want the information delivered not only to their desktops, but also to their mobile phones or personal digital assistants (PDAs). Corporate IT departments, already overburdened with maintaining and upgrading increasingly complex applications, aren’ta realistic solution to this demand for instantaneous information.Noetix technology translates the underlying complexity of enterprise applications such asOracle Applications, Siebel eBusiness Applications and PeopleSoft into familiar termsthat business users can understand and work with themselves. Noetix bridges the digitalabyss between the data and the decision maker.Customers using Noetix realize a significant return on investment from the reduction ofresources necessary to develop reports. Noetix also protects a company’s investment by shielding existing reports from application upgrade changes that often result in the need to completely rewrite customized reports.Accelerating Reporting for Oracle Applications, Siebel eBusinessApplications and PeopleSoft
Achieving Competitive Advantage:
The need for faster access to business information Billions of dollars have been spent on enterprise applications such as Oracle Applications,Siebel eBusiness Applications and PeopleSoft to replace legacy applications, improve efficiencies and gain greater competitive advantage. Millions more have been spent installing and customizing these applications to meet each company’s unique business requirements. Above and beyond the improved efficiencies, a much greater potential lies within this substantial investment and remains largely untapped. According to ForresterResearch, the next wave of competitive advantage will come from empowering front line decision makers with the information that lives within these powerful systems.1Similarly, The Butler Group believes that business intelligence (BI) arises from thesynergy between decision makers and the tools they employ. True BI systems encompass not only the tools and technologies that support quality decision-making, but also the decision makers themselves. Once data is taken from a variety of sources and integratedwith other relevant data, that information must be delivered to the decision maker in away that can be meaningfully used and analyzed. When business users can begin toobtain rapid answers to their questions, business intelligence becomes a strategicweapon.2A faster-paced market, a shifting business model, and an investor community that demands real-time information on a company’s status are only a few of the concerns faced by today’s executives and managers. With mergers, acquisitions and new business initiatives, the need to access vital information only increases. Certainly, the amount ofdata stored will continue to escalate, along with the number of users and their increasedrequirements for use of that data. According to a META Group analyst, “Enterpriseshaving difficulty coping with three terabytes of data today need to quickly find solutions for dealing with 300 terabytes of data tomorrow.” 3To optimally guide the corporate ship on the right course, one factor will remain paramount:the need for data. Users will overwhelm the IT department in their search foranswers to business questions unless a cost-effective, self-service solution is available.
The Roadblocks to Information
The primary roadblock to corporate information is found within the enterprise application itself. In order to provide the mission-critical transactional performance essential forenterprise-wide systems, a typical ERP application can utilize Byzantine data structures that lock down application information. To construct a report of even average simplicity,a significant amount of research and analysis is required to understand the data and construct the relationships necessary to produce meaningful information. Implementing off-the-shelf business intelligence solutions doesn’t avoid this roadblock.Any customizations made to packaged applications must also be engineered into the corporation’s BI tool. To bridge this digital abyss (that is, the gap between reporting tools and an application’s database), most companies hire outside consultants and pay thousands—even millions—of dollars to deploy reporting solutions that typically requirethe time-consuming development of a data warehouse to integrate the data (Diagram 1).Since application data structures change with each upgrade or reconfiguration, those same consultants are again called on for any customization or reengineering to the reports. With this approach, the IT department remains the primary information gatekeeper.
Bridging The Digital Abyss:
The high cost of informed decision makingThere are many software tools that provide connectivity with databases to extract dataand deliver or present that data to various devices — from PCs to PDAs to Internetenabledcellular phones. Most of these tools focus on the delivery and presentation ofdata in the form of a report, which may include graphs and charts. Although these toolsprovide connectivity to database resources, they do little to address the complexity ofhow data is stored within the database.Understanding what data means is not a trivial task. For example, a typical Oracle ERPApplication consists of more than 9,800 tables that hold various data elements. To gainaccess to the data, key tables must be sought out and related to each other in ways thatwill produce information that is meaningful to the business user. Getting something ascommon as an invoice, sales order or purchase order may require combining data from asmany as 20 different tables. Constructing these relationships is not easy, and many stepsare required to complete a report. As one Siebel user explained, “The challenge is gettingreporting to work like you want. The data tables are complicated.”4For more complex reports, where information must be drawn from more than oneapplication, resource-intensive research and analysis is first necessary to understand thesevarious data structures. Constructing the right relationships to produce the right reportcan escalate into weeks of work. With this level of technical expertise necessary toconstruct a report, it is no surprise that getting quick answers is out of reach for thetypical decision maker.
D I G I T A L A B Y S S
Metadata — The Foundation for Information AccessWith an increasing number of people at many levels of an organization requiring accessto relevant information for planning and reporting purposes, metadata provides an idealsolution to easily manage user connections and security, to map and route requests fordata to the appropriate data resource, and to insulate users from the complexities of howthe physical data is stored.To put it simply, metadata is descriptive information about data. If used for reportingpurposes, metadata can provide non-technical users a view into corporate databases,translating technical jargon into familiar, understandable business terminology.Metadata can include information about what a specific data item means (context),where it is located (data mapping), and who can access it (security). One of the mostfamiliar examples of metadata is the file name used to save a computer document.Since the location and context of data are unique to each corporation, the metadata usedmust be unique as well. Many commercially available BI solutions provide genericmetadata templates (such as Business Object’s Rapid Deployment Templates [RDTs]) asa starting point, but fail to provide tailored metadata that includes the essential connectivitywith any customizations that might have been made to the application. Theprimary challenge with generic metadata templates is cost-effectively mapping them to acustomized application, and then managing their continued integrity throughout businessprocess changes, mergers or application upgrades.The Noetix Enterprise Technology Suite — Faster, easier, more costeffectiveinformation accessThe Noetix approach is different. Noetix MetaBuilder™ technology automaticallydeciphers the customized application and constructs a comprehensive set of metadataunique to that specific implementation (Diagram 2). Since this approach to bridging thedigital abyss is quickly accomplished and easily managed, the Noetix solution yields asubstantial rate of return. There are other benefits to Noetix technology as well.The Noetix Enterprise Technology Suite (NETS) provides a comprehensive softwareplatform for metadata management and integration, which enables corporations tosimplify access to application data by translating the technical roadblocks into familiarbusiness terms, easily understandable by non-technical users.NoetixViews® — Dynamic Intelligent MetadataNoetix’s flagship product, NoetixViews, is the cornerstone of NETS. Upon installation,NoetixViews analyzes the application database, detects custom configurations, catalogsthe data and creates a comprehensive library of metadata, also known as “business views.”With NETS, a user does not have to understand the complicated relationships necessaryto turn data into information. Users simply base new reports on views that automaticallyincorporate the location and context of key data. Technical knowledge such as how toconstruct table joins, required when using ad hoc query tools, is not necessary.The amount of information that can be extracted from a report is directly proportionalto the richness of data relationships contained in the view upon which the report isbased. That is, a decision maker looking for a specific answer to his or her businessquestion can get better results by using content-rich views, or metadata that containextensive interrelationships of the data. NoetixViews provides unequaled “out of box”content when compared to other solutions.A Simplified Solution for Multiple Data Source ReportingIn addition to Oracle Applications, Siebel eBusiness Applications and PeopleSoft, NETSeasily integrates data from other applications and data sources into a single point ofinformation access. NETS masks the location of data and the data access details involved,simplifying the process for the end user. Single-password entry provides the userwith a seamless login to multiple data sources.For IT, NETS centralizes administration and securely manages data access to all corporatedata sources. Database administrators gain granular control over who can accessspecific data and are provided with monitoring tools that greatly assist in optimizingperformance.Access Information from Anywhere — With AnythingFrom executives and managers to analysts and casual users, NETS quickly provides acost-effective reporting solution to empower employees, vendors and customers withdata-driven decision making. To create, modify or run a report, a user can simply accessNETS through a Web browser connected to a corporate intranet or extranet, or theInternet. Since reports are stored centrally, users can also access the information fromother devices as well, such as mobile phones, wireless devices or personal digital assistants.NETS automatically translates reports to the destination and delivers the informationappropriate to the device. No report modification is required. This approachgreatly simplifies the maintenance and management of reports by allowing a report to bewritten once, and its results viewed anywhere.Each report within NETS is assigned a unique URL, which allows users to easily run thereport within a corporate portal, bookmark a favorite report, send the link via email, orembed links within online documents. When the user needs to view the report, thelogin is authenticated and the information securely delivered.
The Open Reporting Solution
Whatever the reporting tool, NETS’ ability to quickly bridge the digital abyss can speedthe implementation of most reporting and analytical tools, including Business Objects,Brio and Cognos. NETS also provides full support for Oracle Discoverer as well,providing the highly praised End User Layer (EUL) Generator option which quicklypopulates Discoverer’s EUL with extensive content specific to your Oracle Applications.For business users, the ability of NETS to dynamically integrate with Microsoft Excelgreatly improves the usability of this popular reporting tool. Users can easily embed thereport logic within an Excel workbook and refresh data in real time5, preserving existingreport formats. No export of data is necessary. With NETS, access to business informationdata is only a click away.Noetix AnswerPoint — Immediate answers to business questionsLeveraging the power behind NoetixViews, NETS provides hundreds of click-on,customizable reports covering an extensive collection of business concerns and quicklyanswering the most common questions. Instead of calling IT, users can easily modifyNoetix AnswerPoint reports to fit their individual requirements. For every question areport answers, the opportunity is presented for the user to drill down further by applyingfilters or parameters. Results can be easily distributed or saved for future use.Unlike other pre-built reports, Noetix AnswerPoint reports are automatically customizedto your application upon installation, providing near-immediate usability and informationaccess for most users. NETS automatically bridges the digital abyss without costlydevelopment.The Result — Faster Time to Answers for Noetix CustomersLone Star Steel CompanyManufacturer of energy, industrial, and automotive componentsLone Star operates in an extremely price-sensitive market. To help the company staycompetitive, real-time data is essential for adjusting manufacturing processes on the flybased on orders, inventory and factory capacity. Custom reports were difficult to constructdue to the large number of customized tables, and a batching process led todiscrepancies when the same report was run by different users. IT was overburdenedwith requests for new reports and wanted a new solution. When Lone Star chose Noetix,the company had moved to Oracle Applications and needed 200 new custom reports assoon as possible. NETS was able to easily provide these, including the difficult crossfunctionalreports required to draw data from inventory, purchasing and general ledger.NETS saved Lone Star thousands of dollars in consulting costs that would otherwisehave been required to develop custom reports. NETS also delivered all the reports rightto the users, who can easily modify them to meet their needs.
International manufacturer of food service equipmentEight months after installing Oracle Applications, Franke still needed a reporting solutionthat provided accurate reports and could be easily used by non-technical users.After evaluating several solutions, Franke selected NETS. The solution was implementedin days, and provided more than 300 financial end users with immediate access toinformation residing in their Oracle Applications. Report development costs weresignificantly lower and less time consuming than if the company had hired consultants togenerate each custom report.
Provider of concrete and concrete productsFlorida Rock had used NoetixViews since 1998 and wanted a comprehensive solutionthat would make custom reports available to more users without increasing the burdenon its IT department. By upgrading to NETS, Florida Rock could use NoetixAnswerPoint as an effective tool for end users, regardless of their level of technicalexpertise. NETS also enabled IT to easily manage reports derived from multiple disparatedata sources by centralizing management and security of the various systems.
Producer of electronic and electric productsMatsushita had been using Oracle Discoverer and had experienced difficulty in creatingcustom reports. Users found Oracle’s table field names confusing, and reliable reportswere cumbersome and time-consuming to create. Matsushita was also preparing for an11i upgrade, and had not yet developed its report migration strategy. By installingNETS prior to the upgrade, Matsushita estimates that it will save more than $1.2 millionover the next three years by avoiding consulting costs required to regenerate customreports and develop new ones.The Payoff — Over 75% Return on InvestmentCompanies that choose NETS typically see a return on investment of more than 75%within the first six months in report generation alone. By bridging the digital abyssbetween application data and end user information, NETS greatly reduces the coststypically associated with creating new reports. With NETS, decision makers are empoweredto answer their own business questions and IT’s role as information gatekeeper isminimized.
Protecting the Report Investment
Upgrading an enterprise application can drastically damage existing customized reports.With each new version of an application come new data structures, which break existingreport connections and require extensive re-work to restore report integrity. Hiringconsultants or diverting IT resources to reengineer the reports adds significantly to thecost of application upgrades. The additional time involved in getting the reports up andrunning again may also disrupt the flow of information to decision makers. At best, thisreport migration can be inconvenient to the end users. At worst, the delay can affectimportant business decisions because critical information is not available when it isneeded.Companies utilizing NETS for reporting protect their investment in custom reportsfrom these changes. With NETS, changes to the data structure can be detected byregenerating the views.
Low Total Cost of Ownership
The largest cost component of any software is managing and maintaining the solution.By providing IT with a centralized platform to manage metadata and user access, NETSlowers the cost of providing application information to an increasing number of usersand simplifies upgrades, auditing and security management. For companies utilizingNETS, providing new users, partners and customers with information is more costeffective.And for the decision maker, access to information is easier, without extensivetraining normally required to create custom reports.The maintenance cost of NETS is also extremely low because the user componentsrequire no client-side software. The implementation and maintenance costs are the samewhether there are ten users accessing data or 10,000. Once NETS is installed within adepartment or corporation, anyone with access to the Internet can begin answering theirown questions.For more information on the Noetix solution or for a no-obligation cost savings quote, visitwww.noetix.com, or call (Toll-free) 866-4NOETIX.