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How to Create an Always-On Solution for Finance Reporting

Guest Author

You're an executive at a Fortune 500 company that designs, manufactures, and sells data storage solutions virtually everywhere data lives - from advanced data centers to mobile sensors to personal devices. You want to close your books, but first, you need an analytics report.

Until recently, this was a common occurrence at Western Digital. "The challenge we had from a business perspective was the availability of data," said Bill Roy, senior director of enterprise performance management for Western Digital.

Get ready, get set, now wait

Speaking at Oracle OpenWorld 2019 in San Francisco, Roy told the audience, "It was taking 24 to 48 hours for our business users to get analytics information out of our data warehouse." That time included the eight-and-a-half hours for an incremental refresh of the company's data warehouse and 15 hours for a full load. In some cases, the data was obsolete when it became available.

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For new users, there was also a search/navigation challenge. "Users needed to know when to log in to our data warehouse to pull a report, what was available, and where to find it. The people who had used the system for a long time knew when, what, where, and how. But, a new user coming in to do a query or run a report would be challenged." For the IT department, this added navigation and report writing guides to their already-extensive list of duties.

Today, the situation is different.

Bill Roy, senior director of enterprise performance management for Western Digital

(Bill Roy)

Improving accessibility

Data is now available within minutes for reporting out of the Western Digital data warehouse. Consolidated data is immediately available to users. And working with the analytics solution, including search/navigation, is much easier—more user friendly.

"We have operational reporting that's real time, and we have analytical reporting that is available within 20 minutes. For a company this size to refresh its data warehouse in 20 minutes is unheard of, but we did it." For a full load, the time has been reduced from 15 hours to three hours. And there are other improvements as well.

Today, turnarounds for extract, transform, load (ETL) changes are faster, and the performance of real-time reports has been enhanced.

What did it take?

The company used Oracle ERP Cloud, Oracle EPM Cloud and Oracle Analytics Cloud, and combined the software with an innovative approach to analytics. "We worked with Oracle to streamline and accelerate the process of getting data into our data warehouse," said Roy. That was the first half of the accessibility challenge. Western Digital then created an "always-on" environment to meet the second half of the challenge.

Roy and his team set up the Western Digital warehouse with two replicated Oracle Databases. "We can load one database with data while the other one is being reported on. Then, we can switch to the first database for reporting and load up the second one. We can do that over and over, 24 hours a day, seven days a week so that the reporting is always on, always available with the latest and greatest data for our users."

According to Roy, the always-on solution is not limited to just working with data from an Oracle technology source. "It can work as a generic solution, capable of handling data from other sources as well."

Implementing self-service

To help improve the user experience with the company's analytics solution, Western Digital now offers self-service tools. Users can quickly and easily search for, access, and work with the company data.

"Our users are provided with starter dashboards that are available through Oracle Analytics Cloud," said Roy. "They can log in, open up a dashboard, and quickly and efficiently access the data. They can point and click and choose their metrics and attributes. And the data is available within minutes."

And it's not just transactional and historical reporting. Finance teams can forecast and plan using the capabilities of Oracle EPM Cloud, and the close process is less painful for finance staff. "When I'm a user and I have to consolidate and bring this data together, I'm feeling kind of robotic," Roy explained, "It's a more enjoyable experience."

The self-service tools have not only improved the user experience, they've also reduced the need for IT involvement. "We've freed up our IT people to focus on other areas of the data warehouse and on BI such as ETL work, data quality, and new AI solutions," said Roy. "I'm extremely proud of our always-on solution."

Learn more about Western Digital's ERP transformation in this story from CIO.com.

To learn how you can benefit from Oracle Analytics, visit Oracle.com/analytics.

 

Guest author Tom Caldecott is a San Francisco Bay Area high technology marketing writer

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