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BI & Reporting on IBS Enterprise (ASW)

Introduction

You are a customer of IBS and a happy user of the IBS Enterprise (ASW) software on the iSeries platform ? Nevertheless, you might always have struggled with getting meaningful management information from your ERP application. Bottlenecks you have encountered could have included: difficult access to data in the iSeries environment, lack of transparency of the underlying database structure, lack of an easy and user-friendly solution for interacting with your data, insufficient internal (or even external) knowledge of the IBS software to ensure trustworthy data extraction for creating meaningful Management Information.

If you recognize some of the above, then keep on reading. A proven, user-friendly and pragmatic solution exists and can become available to you in a matter of weeks.

Background

As one of the leading BI services companies in the Belgian marketplace, element61 has performed successful BI projects for 75+ customers in the past 6 years since its incorporation. As part of our partnership with IBM, we have developed strong presence and specific competences around BI in an iSeries context. Within this iSeries (or AS/400 as some still refer to) landscape, we have often come across IBS Enterprise as an operational system, very often used as Finance ERP solution. Most of the customers & users of this system are usually quite happy with the operational functionality of this system, but they all find it difficult and labor-intensive to extract meaningful management information from it.

Our expertise has already helped a significant number of customers with this. For a series of these customers, we have built a BI (Business Intelligence) solution for IBS Enterprise data. This significantly enhances the reporting and analysis capabilities of the system and opens up the IBS Enterprise data as a basis for quality management decisions.

 

Solution concept

Through our work at these various customers, we have developed a generic approach for a BI solution for IBS Enterprise. This is based on our lessons learnt of the previous projects and is a combination of industry Business Intelligence best practices and specific in-depth knowledge & understanding of IBS Enterprise. The result is a flexible and customizable solution with existing interfaces to IBS Enterprise that can be quickly deployed and adjusted to your needs. Next to that, we can also provide a basic set of standard reports that can be the basis for building out a specific set of reports, tailored to your specific needs.

The architecture of the solution looks as follows :

 

This architecture can be installed and deployed within your existing ICT infrastructure or – alternatively – in a Software-as-a-Service model, "in the cloud”. The latter model has the advantage that there are no investments required in software and hardware and that the solution can be made available immediately. The entire BI solution thus becomes available in a "pay as you go” model and can grow/shrink with your requirements and usage as you see fit.

In both architecture models, we can also integrate the IBS financial data with your other Enterprise data and other internal or external sources. This is where the real power of Business Intelligence lies, namely in intelligently combining operational data and indicators from other systems with resulting financial numbers. This will result in the underlying structure :

 

From the technology perspective, the solution is built up by a number of best-of-breed software components that we have chosen for reasons of cost-efficiency, ease-of-use and availability of skills in the Belgian market.

  • ETL-layer : This component is responsible for extracting the data from IBS Enterprise and making sure it is in good shape for analysis & reporting. Technology used : Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Integration Services.
  • Data Mart/Warehouse : This component hosts all of the management information raw data. This is where your financial data can be integrated with other company data. Technology used : Microsoft SQL Server 2008 or 2012.
  • BI software : This is the integrated layer that end-users interact with in order to view and analyse the management information. We offer alternatives that can be tailored to your specific needs and budgetary constraints. Technology used : Microsoft Excel, IBM Cognos BI 10, SAP Business Objects 4.0, QlikView.

 

End user experience and benefits

Within a BI environment, there is typically a diverse set of requirements. Some end users like to rely on pre-formatted standard reports. Other users prefer to have an interactive analysis environment in which they can slice & dice and drill-down on data in order to discover trends and data patterns. And yet another group of users will want to see aggregated data in a highly visual way, usually represented in some form of dashboard

A typical BI pyramid representing the different types of users and their functionality looks as follows. The key thing here is that all this information is presented in an integrated and coherent way. Away with manually consolidating numbers from different sources by copying and pasting in MS Excel.

 

Required investments

We are offering the BI solution for IBS Enterprise as a set of existing templates, solution components and best practices, not as an "out-of-the-box” solution. The problem with out-of-the-box is that this can become "a black box”. These solutions are often difficult to tailor to your specific needs, because no two IBS Enterprise environments are identical. Instead, what we do is build and deploy a custom solution in a minimal amount of time and effort.

Grow into Corporate Performance Management

Last but not least, we have proven practices to extend the environment with leading Financial Reporting, Consolidation and Planning & Budgeting solutions, functional processes typically quite hard to streamline with the IBS Enterprise environment too.

 

 

 

Customer references

Customers at which we have implemented a similar BI solution for IBS Enterprise successfully include :

  • Europal
  • Group H. Essers
  • HDP & Arista
  • Securitas
  • Vlaamse Vervoermaatschappij De Lijn

Contact us to learn more about this pre-build solution for Business Intelligence and Corporate Performance Management on top op IBS Enterprise/ASW for iSeries/AS 400.
 

Experts