Business intelligence (BI) has been a prominent part of the SAP platform since the launch of SAP BW, and took on more importance with the BO buy. We recently spoke to the director of business transformation at Canadian telecommunications company TELUS, an SAP customer that has been running Cognos Inc. BI for the past four years, to learn more about BI's enterprise value. Cognos was recently acquired by IBM.
Overall, TELUS appeared very pleased with its Cognos reporting environment. TELUS was not among what Gartner calls the "significant number of customers [who] have complained about Cognos 8 support issues and poor query performance when deploying Cognos products in the absence of a well architected performance layer" [ Gartner: Vendor Rating, Cognos; 1 October 2007. Gratton told us that TELUS conducts vendor evaluations every two years, but based on the current state of affairs it appears unlikely that SAP/Business Objects will replace Cognos at TELUS.
We're intrigued by your job title. What's a director of business transformation?
How does BI work in your enterprise? Can you give us practical examples of BI in action?
Gratton: The board sets key strategic directions. We have a BI Council that matches those high-level strategic needs to potential projects. For example, one of the directions is cost-efficiency. That translates into giving specific information to field force engineers so that they can make better decisions about how to repair or replace networks. This is operational BI. It takes discrepancies out of decisions and provides meaningful information on the fly. BI can also provide information to call center reps and department or territory managers, telling them how they're doing and making them aware of challenges. All in all, we have 120 BI developers across Canada. It's a critical function that's growing rapidly.
Those sound like very business-relevant applications for reporting. But why did you standardize on the Cognos reporting environment? Why didn't you go with SAP?
Gratton: We made the decision to go with Cognos four years ago. Starting from then, we were able to consolidate from ten reporting tools down to one. There was enormous buy-in from stakeholders, VPs, business liaisons and training people. We knew SAP acquired Business Objects, but a major acquisition couldn't derail all of what we'd done with Cognos. Of course, we are monitoring SAP's integration of Business Objects and we expect Cognos to remain competitive blow-for-blow.
How do SAP and Cognos work together at TELUS?
Gratton: We have SAP 4.7 today. We also have NetWeaver in place. We believe that SAP and Cognos together, through a portal, can be a seamless experience. SAP handles the operational aspects and Cognos handles the analytical aspects, but the end user isn't aware of being in either technology. We pull data that we need for operational purposes directly out of the SAP Business Warehouse and into Cognos for more advanced analysis.