Janet, the government-funded organisation that runs the UK’s research and education network, wanted to replace its existing business intelligence platform with a more up-to-date solution that could link more effectively with a wide range of databases and provide detailed reports on-the-fly. The organisation partnered with Tessella who were charged with identifying and evaluating the leading products in the market, and then leading the implementation of the chosen solution.
Background and Challenge
The Janet network is dedicated to the needs of research and education in the UK, connecting over 18 million users across the UK’s education research and education organisations to each other, as well as to the rest of the world. The range of activities facilitated by Janet allows individuals and organisations to extend the traditional boundaries of teaching, learning and research methods.
The organisation relied on a reporting system which needed a significant amount of investment to keep up to date, and which didn’t quite match requirements. For example, it lacked the ability to connect into business critical databases, such as finance, to produce reports. Nor could it provide user-friendly interfaces or dashboards for easy data analysis.
Janet needed to identify a new business intelligence solution that would integrate the necessary data sources in a seamless and easily accessible way before maintaining their existing system started to become a serious long-term maintenance concern.
“The old system was no longer supported by the software vendor and simply couldn’t provide the reports we needed for the smooth operation of the business,” explains Rachel Mannering, Management Accountant at Janet. “We wanted to find a new solution that could meet our needs but with so many competing packages on the market, we weren’t sure we had the right know-how to figure out which one would be best suited to our organisation.”
Tessella is a long term partner of Janet’s and provides services and support across the organisation. Because the company has an in-depth knowledge of Janet’s requirements, combined with much experience of software development and deployment, it was asked to identify and evaluate the leading business intelligence applications on the market.
Solution and Benefits
The Tessella analyst began by gathering Janet’s business requirements and putting together a clear picture of what the new solution needed to deliver. He identified potential users and discovered the types of data and reports they would need. He also explored the types of devices used in the organisation – would the new software need to run on a range of platforms, for example. In order to ensure the information they had was as accurate as possible, the analyst spent four months performing stakeholder interviews and identifying and prioritising requirements.
On completing the requirements process, the analyst then turned to the solutions on the market and identified the eleven leading business intelligence solutions for initial review. These were then whittled down to three primary candidates, which Tessella piloted to evaluate their ability to produce different types of report from three different data sources.
“Tessella played a key role in developing a clear picture of what we actually needed and then mapping the technology onto those needs,” adds Mannering . “The Tessella analyst’s technical knowledge and experience of our organisation enabled him to perform an excellent job in identifying and evaluating the software.”
Following the pilot phase, Tessella identified a clear champion: SAP Business Objects Business Intelligence. This won, courtesy of its ability to sit on top of multiple relational databases as well as its ability to produce flexible reports in web browsers across multiple platforms. It was also the most user-friendly of all the products evaluated.
In late 2011, Tessella began working with SAP to deploy and configure the new solution. This took only a few weeks, without causing any disruption to the business, and its benefits were immediately felt.
“The SAP solution has the ability to look into multiple data sources, including finances and contracts, link them together and present the resulting information via a single seamless dashboard,” continues Mannering. “This makes reporting incredibly easy – and more accurate and up to date. It is saving us time, improving visibility and reducing the potential for human error.”
However, the deployment wasn’t totally plain sailing. This particular version of the SAP software was a brand new release and, as such, there were a few bugs that needed ironing out through the installation and go-live phases. Once again, Tessella was on hand to provide the support for quick resolution to problems.
“It was a learning curve for the Tessella team as it was a new release but they picked it up very quickly and were responsive to issues as they arose,” concludes Mannering. “Tessella proved vital in the successful selection, deployment and maintenance of this business critical platform. It has provided a foundation on which we can build for the future. No doubt Tessella will continue to play a critical role as we further develop the solution.”