Published on 14-Sep-2009
"Our biggest challenge was that our ERP system was really good for putting data in, but not good for getting data out,” Hanna says. “We do a great deal of analysis and needed to improve the process." - Laura Hanna, Director of Information Technology, George P. Johnson Co.
George P. Johnson Co.
After evaluating several products, George P. Johnson Co. chose the IBM® Cognos® solution for its performance, flexibility, ease of use and scalability.
Create consistent data throughout the worldwide organization and provide broad information access from a single portal.
The IBM Cognos 8 BI and IBM Cognos Data Manager system provides a streamlined approach for George P. Johnson to reduce reporting times significantly and enable its C-level executives and managers to have widespread, real-time access to data in a format that speeds decision making.
Ability to pull data out of its ERP and proprietary systems efficiently for access to information that was previously unavailable; increased accountability; quicker turnaround times on reporting; more insight into reports.
George P. Johnson (GPJ), based in Auburn Hills, Michigan, is one of the foremost event and experience marketing agencies in the world. The company specializes in using branded live experiences and environments to help Fortune 1000 clients cut through marketplace noise, differentiate themselves from the competition and create lasting relationships that make a direct impact on the bottom line.
With 26 offices and more than 1,000 employees worldwide, the agency plans, creates, activates and measures nearly 5,000 events annually, ranging from award-winning entertainment sponsorships to trade shows, conferences, mobile marketing and more. GPJ’s customers include category leaders such as IBM, Cisco Systems and Toyota.
As a forward-thinking and forward-acting agency, GPJ has always been an early adopter of technology as a competitive advantage. For example, GPJ owns a patented technology suite that operates in numerous languages globally, which is used by internal teams as well as clients to improve event attendee experience, measurement for program managers and dashboard reporting for senior executives.
So when the agency turned a critical eye towards managing its own data and turning that information into knowledge it can act on to serve its clients more effectively, there was immediate executive understanding and commitment to the process.
As a leader in a demanding, fast-paced industry, GPJ needs to stay agile to continue providing clients with marketing results that enable the highest level of business performance. As a services-based organization with the majority of its users being non-technical, GPJ required an easy-to-deploy business intelligence (BI) solution with a straightforward user interface that could access multiple data sources.
To that end, the IT department and executives wanted to be able to analyze operational data better and reduce the amount of time employees spent gathering data in generating internal operations reports. With limited tools to support these requests, and an approach of combining disparate spreadsheets and information, IT managers quickly realized that a comprehensive BI solution was needed to achieve success.
Prior to implementing IBM Cognos 8 BI and IBM Cognos Data Manager, GPJ’s reports were taking too much time and effort to produce. Employees charged with reporting duties had to combine data in a format that was difficult and too manual. The goal was not only to save time, but to provide more efficient reports so employees would have more time to dedicate to higher value-added tasks.
“The time it took to generate some of our most frequently used reports was just not acceptable from a business point of view,” says Laura Hanna, Director of Information Technology at GPJ. “Not only was it was taking too long to run reports, but the data for ad hoc reporting was difficult to get to.”
GPJ needed to access data from its ERP system and data warehouse in a quicker, more structured manner so it could meet its business needs and increase the efficiency of its reporting.
“Our biggest challenge was that our ERP system was really good for putting data in, but not good for getting data out,” Hanna says. “We do a great deal of analysis and needed to improve the process.”
By planning a BI solution, IT managers realized they would be able to manage reports better, have access to far more data and avoid the silos that spreadsheets tend to cause. Soon thereafter, GPJ evaluated several solutions, finally choosing IBM Cognos 8 BI for several reasons, including performance, flexibility, ease of use and scalability.
“We really needed to create a comprehensive reporting and analysis environment so our managers and executives could look at the information they needed easily,” Hanna says.
GPJ started its implementation by rolling the IBM Cognos system out to its finance group, because it realized those employees would be its heaviest users. During a ramp-up period before the deployment, GPJ worked to develop extract, transform and load code, a metadata framework and initial reports with power users in finance to ensure a smooth start.
“There was not much training needed, and what little we needed was more than amply covered in the comprehensive training sessions on IBM Cognos Data Manager, IBM Cognos Framework Manager and report authoring with IBM Cognos Education,” Hanna says. “It was a great process and worked for everyone involved.”
Since the implementation in March 2007, roughly 300 US-based employees in client services, marketing, operations and finance in five offices – including the CEO and CFO, who is also the executive sponsor – are using the IBM Cognos solution. Approximately 75 employees, or one quarter of the total users, use the solution on a daily basis.
Using the IBM Cognos solution, GPJ was soon running reports that helped improve the efficiency of the business. Whatever the report, the solution has empowered users to take action on trusted data that is delivered in real time, rather than having to use manually generated data. The solution receives praise from everyone using it; and, in fact, the only request at first was that some people weren’t getting enough reports – which soon changed.
Based on its strong immediate success, GPJ decided to expand its use of the solution to add international data. This phase, which will give access to more employees overseas, is in the planning stages and will begin in summer 2009. The overarching goal is to ensure that business processes are standardized throughout all offices, which will help with allocating resources most effectively.
GPJ is not only using IBM Cognos 8 BI for generating reports; it is also allowing users throughout the company the use of dashboards. These dashboards provide executives and operational teams insight into relevant data. The dashboards have proven to be a significant benefit in giving the organization a real-time look into specific project details as well as trends, so that if any changes are necessary, they can be made seamlessly so as to increase the efficiency of the organization.
Due to the ease of creating custom reports, information which is required by clients is much more easily generated, because manual spreadsheets have been replaced by custom IBM Cognos reports.
Additionally, weekly reports that were once manually created by an administrator now are generated far more easily, and go directly to managers and employees each week. Executives often ask for specific reports in addition to the ones they receive weekly.
“We found some reports were taking 20 minutes to an hour to run in our ERP system, but now, when we run those same reports in our IBM Cognos environment, they are taking less than one minute,” Hanna says.
For their part, IT managers are able to create dynamic views of data to cater to specific business requests. As a result, the company is able to analyze and explore business data more effectively. Not only is less time spent generating reports, but executives can get the specific information they need – when and how they want it. Once they realized the system’s capabilities, some executives approached IT asking to customize data sets so they could see alternative trends and outcomes based on different data.
“This was really an indicator to us that they are not only using it, but truly understanding the IBM Cognos system’s capabilities,” Hanna says. “They really get what the data is representing. Everybody looks forward to the weekly reports, and they deliver updates in their operational meetings based on those reports.”
About IBM Cognos BI and Performance Management
IBM Cognos business intelligence (BI) and performance management solutions deliver world-leading enterprise planning, consolidation and BI software, support and services to help companies plan, understand and manage financial and operational performance. IBM Cognos solutions bring together technology, analytical applications, best practices, and a broad network of partners to give customers an open, adaptive and complete performance solution. Over 23,000 customers in more than 135 countries around the world choose IBM Cognos solutions.
Products and services used
IBM products and services that were used in this case study.
Cognos 8 Business Intelligence
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