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Peabody Energy Fuels BI Innovation

As usual SapphireNow delivered some amazing presentations today.  None better than the session called, See the Future Now with the Latest Mobile Analytics Solutions.  The good news, bad news was if you thought it was going to be all about Mobility, you were wrong.  It was much more.

This standout session was a 20 minute information-fest on how to get the most out of analytics through the strategic deployment of business intelligence.

Deliver BI Programs

Keith Bowles is helping change the way Peabody Energy leverages analytics.  They are an $8 billion dollar utility with 8,000 employees and they have developed a BI program that is leveraging ever ounce of value out of the SAP Analytics Suite.  Peabody runs core SAP technologies and is very focused on leveraging standard tools and content — and it is paying huge dividends.

Stop BI projects and start delivering BI programs.  Keith Bowles

Peabody Energy is a BusinessObjects v4.0 FP3 ramp-up customer and Keith pulled back the kimono and let us see BusinessObjects running against their live environment.  They are leverage both legacy SAP BI technologies such as web application designer and well as deploying BusinessObjects centric technologies such as Xcelsius.

Your company doesn’t know what it doesn’t know, so it’s up to you to educate them about your BI capabilities.  In Peabody’s case they leverage a BI portal and provides monthly updates on topics like:  training, tips and tricks and technology innovations.

I particularly loved the idea of their program, Rent a BI Expert.  It’s a consultative training opportunity where the business can ask questions and focus on a specific “real world” reporting problem.  This helps them build momentum in the business as well as getting the business to take ownership of their analytic needs.

Information Without Context is Useless

Peabody delivers all their reports through the employee portal.  Instead of using the BI Launchpad, they simply use their SAP Portal technology to provide links to all their BI content.

When delivering reports Keith reiterated the critical importance of providing business data within context.  If you are producing 13 metric tons that doesn’t tell you anything, but if you say you are producing 13 metrics tons on a budget of 15, then that’s an entirely different story, which is why they always focus on context.

Peabody Uses Context to Deliver Insight

Red, Yellow and Green are three of the most important colors at Peabody.  There is so much information and the business is changing so rapidly, you have to manage by exception.

CIO Spend Dashboard Tracks Costs

In this CIO dashboard, Keith explained how the CIO tracks critical KPIs.  After clicking on a measure and seeing the high level details update, he can then link to other reports to see the financial spend details.  It’s like a web, focus on the central themes in the dashboard and allow the users to spin out from there.  Peabody’s spend dashboards provide one level of drill-down together with additional analytics showing time-series trends including monthly spend, YTD spend, historical spend (context), budget and headcount.

BI Widgets

Keith reminded me that sometimes older products can be easily overlooked.  BI Widgets is a great example.  I rarely talk about this solution anymore and yet this was the perfect solution for a use case for their executives.  Their Executive VP doesn’t want to have to log in or go to a portal, he simply wants to have the latest BI information on his computer desktop.

Enter BI Widgets.

Peabody created a Widgets bar, which allows them to easily swap back and forth between different dashboards and report visualizations.  It’s an elegant solution and perfect for their users.

Here’s the resulting desktop:

BI Widgets Deliver Real-time Insight on the Desktop

BI Mobile

With 177 iPads, Peabody has begun to deliver mobile analytics using standard SAP tools.  The hardest thing about rolling out mobile applications was getting their IT organization beyond the idea of VPN.  After some key discussions between both SAP and Peabody IT teams, they got the green light.  Getting Mobile BI up and running at Peabody took 8 days – 7 days for security and 1 day to deliver the application.  (Peabody is looking to deploy Afaria later this year.)

Peabody delivers key content to 177 iPads

Keith reiterated the speed of delivery of new analytic content.  Although most of your reports may have cool charts and graphics, continue to think out of the box. Within a few taps of the screen, Keith showed show the CIO is able to get the latest summary detail around IT projects and since Peabody is in the ramp-up program and running BusinessObjects v40 FP3 in production, they are able to use the latest collaboration features to allow for annotation direction onto the report.

Latest BusinessObjects Mobile delivers on screen annotations

SAP Experience

Peabody is also using the latest SAP Experience mobile application as well.  They are leveraging the new Exploration Views capabilities which have been added to BusinessObjects Explorer.  This means Peabody BI team can provide more self-service interactive dashboarding to business leaders.

New Exploration Views deliver self service dashboards

If you’ve not taken the time to download SAP Experience to your iPad, I recommend you do it today.

What Better BI?

Don’t have dashboards today?  I smiled when Keith suggested that you find out what your organization is bonused on and then put that information into a dashboard.  “Guaranteed you will have users using dashboards now.”

He’s right.  And he’s talking about alignment.  Alignment is critical.

Review board goals, strategic plans and LOB goals when identifying KPIs to track and report.  Understand the long and short term goals of your organization.  If you do that it should be much easier to get that essential foundation of any successful BI project, executive sponsorship.

Companies need to embrace BI more holistically.  Stop doing BI projects and run BI programs.  This will allow your organization to increase standardization and reuse.  It will also allow you to reallocate your time to take on other challenges such as governance, information management, mobility and develop your strategic BI vision.

UPDATE:  Link to the recorded session:

«Good BI»

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