Given the breakneck speed at which organisations move today, FT- SE 100 companies must process data and implement solutions and changes much quicker than in the past if they are to stay ahead of the competition.
Hyperion provides the analytic platform which enables large national and multi-national companies such as Citibank, Sears, Chase Manhattan, McDonalds and AT&T, to do this.
"The expectations of chief executives and managing directors are changing," says Ian Macdonald, product marketing director at Hyperion. "We are seeing a shift in terms of applications. Rather than cost savings, which do not help with competitiveness, managers are looking to grow business and profits by creating new opportunities and revenue streams through the strategic analysis of data."
What does "strategic analysis of data" really mean? It is applying the lessons learned during the earlier days of commercial computing to the modern organisation. During the 1960s and 1970s, companies tended to build their own transaction applications, dealing with payroll, stock control, invoicing and accounts. "Companies would buy a computer and then write their own applications to automate their own processes," says Mr Macdonald. "They would do this to cut back on costs. The thinking was: `If I can replace 200 people doing the payroll I could save money and do it more accurately'."
This proved to be inefficient, however. Companies tended to spend more money and time running this aspect of their business than the business itself. Realising this problem, packages were developed in the 1980s by specialists in stock control, human resources and many other functions, providing `off the shelf' solutions to operational business problems.
Unfortunately these different applications and various technologies weren't compatible with each other or with existing systems. "Businesses ended up with 10 different ways of defining what a customer was, different product codes and applications," says Mr Macdonald. "If you are a large multi- national company with hundreds of employees across the world, trying to bring all that data together in a useful way is very hard."
Such complications mean most of the larger companies have now abandoned individual operational applications and have standardised on integrated, strategic systems that are able to support the entire business operation, known as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) applications.
Simply collecting data through these systems though does not provide the insight necessary for today's competitive market. Thus a new breed of application software is beginning to emerge. One that allows the analysis and modelling of business performance across a wide spectrum of company functions, drawing its source data from the underlying operational ERP systems. It is by taking a strategic approach to such business and information analysis that will distinguish the successful ventures.
"These analytic applications use all the data you gain from doing business to better understand business performance in its widest sense," says Mr Macdonald. "Hyperion provides an integrated suite of applications which allows a business to bring data together from disparate sources. This enables the business to integrate its various arms better and have consistent definitions across the board."
Two trends are currently shaping the field of analytic solutions. The first is Customer Relationship Management (CRM) analysis, vital to any company trying to understand not only where its profits lie but, more importantly, how to enhance them. …