$200 million dollar ‘startup’ needs new tech environment
As part of replacing an entire business system, SnackBrands asked WalkerScott to implement a new reporting infrastructure.
When leading Australian food manufacturing company Snackbrands took over the internal snacks division of a major multi-national they were essentially building a new startup company – albeit one with an operating budget in the hundreds of millions. The ‘new’ business required an entirely new technology environment to be created by a fixed deadline, while keeping to a contractual obligation to use existing systems. The program of work included the implementation of a new ERP, Dynamics AX, a new demand planning tool, DSX and a cloud based infrastructure, followed by the integration of a paperless warehousing solution.
One of the major issues that arose during the transition was reporting – how would reporting work once the new systems were implemented and Business Objects was no longer available? WalkerScott were engaged to address this problem, replacing the existing reporting infrastructure and providing business continuity while Snackbrands moved to the new Microsoft systems.
An agile Microsoft-centric BI Solution
With no readily defined business requirements and no direct access to any of the key business systems, an agile approach leveraging the Microsoft BI stack was considered the only option.
WalkerScott began by creating a dedicated onsite team. The first objective was to extract the historical data through Business Objects. This provided an opportunity to analyse what data we had available to us.
By discussing what data we had access to and reviewing what we would get out of AX with the CEO, we defined a first round of performance reports. We then developed a single cube as the platform for all reporting by building a data warehouse in Microsoft SQL and leveraging the MDX development language and Microsoft Analysis Services for all the business logic. Extensive use of Microsoft Reporting Services (SSRS) on top of the cube provided a mechanism to distribute formatted reports to all aspects of the organisation.
WalkerScott now works closely with Snackbrands to analyse new requirements as they come up, designing and implementing solutions into the reporting infrastructure.
In addition to this, we have managed an ongoing and underlying program of work to refine and re-factor the reporting environment. This has included the incorporation of Microsoft SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) to manage the extraction, transformations and loading (ETL) of data as the requirement to move to incremental loads has arisen due to increasing data volumes.
WalkerScott’s outsourced reporting solution has evolved to provide a fully-managed information management service.
From day one WalkerScott successfully delivered business critical reporting to the executive team; the new systems went live with reporting working seamlessly. Since then, our work has expanded to encompass more information management for the business.
As the systems environment has matured and become more integrated, the reporting has been fully automated through business and operational systems. Whether a person enters a transaction or a machine executes a task, Management have real time visibility of activity in the business.
The reporting environment now consists of a series of Analysis Services OLAP Cubes, including Sales, GL, Production, Planning and Purchasing. Supporting this is a combination of formatted and distributed reports from the data warehouse as well as real time transactions reporting from production systems. These are delivered via Microsoft Reporting Services (SSRS).
As a result of our work, Snackbrands have never needed to employ an internal reporting or development resource, which means that their investment in information management remains a variable cost. Having an outsourced reporting function has also enabled scalability and means that the knowledge around key business logic is not restricted to a single person. This ensures continuity of service and support, even when there are personnel changes.
Snackbrands now enjoys a fully-managed information management service that is outsourced, flexible, accurate, efficient and thorough, and will continue to meet the needs of the company as it continues to grow and change.