Belgian manufacturer achieves rapid post-merger BI integration

Bart Cousin, business intelligence solutions executive at British American Tobacco Belgium, has overseen implementation of an enterprise data management solution from Kalido that essentially yielded a futureproof, flexible data warehouse that accommodates numerous systems data feeds to generate consolidated post-merger reports. Kalido is ensuring compatibility during an ongoing SAP convergence program.

By Malcolm Wheatley, senior contributing editor, Brussels, Belgium December 12, 2007

When Brussels-based cigarette manufacturer British American Tobacco Belgium merged its operations with those of sister company STC —a manufacturer of rolling tobacco, cigars, and smoking materials—it found an urgent need for a business intelligence (BI) solution that would give it a single consolidated view of its performance in an intensely competitive marketplace.
The problem: While each business had its own instance of SAP , and its own implementation of Business Objects ’ business intelligence solution on its own custom-built Oracle data warehouse, there were significant differences in how those systems were configured and used, and even bigger differences in the definitions, business models, and reporting time frames that lay behind them.
Yet with the sales of flagship brands like Kent, Dunhill, Lucky Strike, and Pall Mall at stake, executives realized that a failure to get a handle on market data quickly enough could lead to millions of euro in lost revenue. “Simply combining the figures wasn’t an option,” says Bart Cousin, business intelligence solutions executive at British American Tobacco Belgium. “We’d merged the businesses, but couldn’t simply merge the data.”
A number of potential solutions quickly emerged. SAP’s own Business Information Warehouse, for example, was quickly eliminated as an option, as the majority of the data for the data warehouse would come from non-SAP sources. Another option—put forward by executives from the STC side of the merged business—was to leverage the now-merged company’s considerable experience with custom-built Oracle data warehouses, and develop still another data warehouse, this time combining the operations of the two businesses.
While superficially attractive, the plan failed two critical tests, says Cousin. First, it was likely that it would be costly to develop and maintain, requiring in-depth reengineering every time the business model changed. Second, time was of the essence. “There just wasn’t the time to develop a whole new data warehouse,” says Cousin. “We needed something in a much faster time scale.”
That something turned out to be a solution from enterprise data management vendor Kalido , in the shape of a new data warehouse together with its Universe Manager for Business Objects integration application. The Universe Manager application, says James Dobson, a Kalido senior consultant who was close to the resulting implementation, “is in effect an‘add-on’ to the data warehouse, acting as a Rosetta Stone between the reports that users require, and the underlying data that goes to make up those reports.”
Key to the decision, says Cousin, was the sheer speed with which the Kalido solution could be delivered. Doubt about the viability of the Kalido proposal prompted British American Tobacco Belgium to request a Proof of Value—in effect, a scaled-down pilot of the project—as a result of which a partial working solution was delivered in just five days, drawing data from each of the two SAP systems, and producing meaningful reports. “We had been skeptical, but by the end of the Proof of Value, we were convinced,” says Cousin. “The Kalido concept was technically feasible—and could deliver on its promise far sooner than anything else we were contemplating.”
Also impressive was the ease with which the Kalido solution could subsequently be amended—and amended by ordinary users—as changes to the business model took place. Thanks to the tight integration with Business Objects, substantial cost savings were expected in the maintenance and support of the system—and by eliminating the need for IT experts such as Oracle database administrators, the Kalido solution could enable British American Tobacco Belgium to cut costs by 50 percent.
Following the successful Proof of Value—which had been created by Kalido staff—the project was completed by British American Tobacco Belgium’s own business intelligence team, delivering a full reporting suite on-time and on-budget in just two months. The diverse feeds which previously populated the now redundant Oracle data warehouses were all fed into the Kalido warehouse alongside further feeds from the two SAP systems—all without reengineering any of the source systems. “This would have been impossible to achieve with any of the other solutions, including a custom build,” says Cousin.
The business benefits of the new solution have been significant, he adds, and have provided additional insight to the company’s supply chain and sales operations. And the flexibility of being able to change the data across its diverse source systems means company executives get consistent, accurate and up-to-date information that allows them to track sales performance and monitor market share on a daily basis.
“The project has impressed on every criterion—speed of delivery, budget and all-around capability,” sums up Martin Karlsson, head of IT at British American Tobacco Belgium. “Kalido has enabled us to deliver a futureproof, flexible data warehouse that takes a number of different source feeds, produced bulletproof consolidated post-merger reports and ensured compatibility with our ongoing SAP convergence program.”