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Evolving beyond spreadsheet reporting with ReportsNow
For Ardent Leisure, fun is serious business. The company is recognised as one of Australia’s most successful owners and operators of premium leisure assets, with a diverse portfolio of venues in Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S.
Ardent’s portfolio diversity translates into a complex corporate reporting environment where the various lines of business have specialised analytical needs. At the same time, management has the mission of reconciling and consolidating reports from those multiple entities for a cross-enterprise perspective.
Historically, the business users in Ardent’s different divisions relied on unstructured Excel spreadsheets to analyse data from their JD Edwards applications. Depending on the need and the skills of the business user, the spreadsheets could be very sophisticated and could closely mimic native JDE query capabilities. Some had ODBC connections into JD Edwards and other data sources. Others included embedded Visual Basic capabilities.
Despite their sophistication, the spreadsheets created other challenges. Changes in JDE master data would often require changes to the dependent spreadsheet. Also, when the original creator of a spreadsheet would leave the company, they took their knowledge of how to maintain the spreadsheet with them.
And not all of Ardent’s business users were Excel whizzes – so when a new reporting requirement arose, many would turn to IT for help in creating or modifying the needed tool and answering subsequent questions on use and maintenance.
One of the other areas where the spreadsheet-dependent environment created challenges was in report timeliness.
Some reports extracted data from the production database, but some would pull data from a data warehouse subject to batch updates. Because many data sources weren’t updated in real time, Ardent’s business analysts couldn’t always get the real-time visibility they needed. At the same time, those users who depended on IT to help them develop and modify spreadsheet reports often faced delays during high-demand periods, such as quarter- and year-end reporting season when IT received the highest volume of support requests.
These spikes in demand for support complicated matters for IT as well.
While higher demand during the close of a reporting period could be expected, Ardent’s IT leadership wanted to normalise the volume of requests, so they could better manage overall resource requirements.
Ideally, they would also find a way to help business users help themselves in accessing information in the format they needed. Not only would business users be happier, IT would have more time to devote to the projects that added value to the business and strengthened Ardent’s strategic position.
During its transition from JDE World to E1, Ardent implemented a solid reporting tool that offered advanced capabilities. However, that tool proved to be too technical for the average business user. Ardent was left with a scenario where reporting flexibility improved, but they still faced a backlog of user support requests and spikes in ticket submission during times of high IT demand.
While attending the Quest INFOCUS user group meeting, members of Ardent’s IT team saw a demo of a JDE reporting solution — ReportsNow Data Access Studio (DAS) — that offered the best of both worlds: advanced analytical and real-time capabilities combined with the ease of use that empowered business users to develop and maintain their own reports.
Ardent embarked on a month-long trial of ReportsNow DAS to see whether the solution could live up to its promise.
The company partnered with Fusion5 to help them complete a comprehensive needs assessment. This included defining requirements and pain points for various divisions and stakeholders within Ardent, communicating those needs back to ReportsNow, and providing onsite expertise during ReportsNow’s remote demonstrations and discovery sessions.
Ardent saw the immediate advantages in usability and the ease of integrating JDE data with external data sources – without compromising analytical sophistication or data integrity.
Following the decision to implement and standardise on DAS enterprise wide, Ardent worked with the ReportsNow and Fusion5 teams to get users up to speed.
Via web-based training, users from each division within Ardent were schooled in the solution’s navigation, report design and setup, and ongoing modification and maintenance. Acting as ReportsNow’s local proxy, Fusion5 was on hand at various locations throughout Queensland to provide onsite support throughout the implementation and training processes. The initial adoption rate was strong. Business users who had typically relied on IT for support were creating and running the reports they needed within a relatively short timeframe.
For Ardent, the addition of ReportsNow DAS spurred a fundamental change in how business users access information and in how IT supports them.
When a business analyst now calls Ardent’s IT help line or logs a support ticket, they typically want an answer to a specific question, such as which JDE table to use in a query. Users are designing and building their own reports to do things such as reconcile inventory data with the general ledger and track capex expenditures. Where custom reporting requests used to involve several rounds of requirements gathering, reviews, tests, and modifications, users can now complete the majority of the report themselves and bring in IT only when they have a specific question.
Users are also more self-reliant during high-volume reporting periods. As a result, IT now has more predictability in its own resource requirements. They also have more flexibility and time to devote to the projects that add value and help Ardent build on its core strategic strengths.
Easier access to JDE data via ReportsNow has provided Ardent with more visibility into key customer relationships and market trends in real time. However, because that JDE data doesn’t exist in a vacuum, Ardent is also exploring ways to further integrate the new reporting environment with outside data sources to develop a more complete picture of evolving business conditions.
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