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Analytics and Big Data

Analytics for Business

Organizations look to the cloud to make mission-critical decisions.

By David Baum

July/August 2017

As the digital universe expands to include vast new constellations of data, yesterday’s data warehouses and decision support systems no longer offer the flexibility organizations need for effective decision-making. Forward-looking businesses are turning to cloud-based tools to discover unique insights hidden in the deep fields of the extended enterprise.

“The evolving domain of business intelligence now extends beyond your four walls,” points out Vasu Murthy, vice president of analytics product management at Oracle. “You need to be able to meld internal data with external data from partners, web interactions, and third-party sources to obtain a complete picture of your business. Information is everywhere, and you need an analytic environment that gives you lots of flexibility.”

According to Murthy, Oracle Analytics Cloud makes that easily possible, enabling users of every stripe to import data from multiple sources and quickly combine datasets—while providing enterprise capabilities for developing analytic applications that can be deployed on premises or in the cloud, with automated backups, recovery, and data migration. (See the sidebar “Now I See.”)

 
OUTFRONT Media
New York, New York
Industry: Advertising
Employees: 2,200
Revenue: US$1.5 billion
Oracle products:
  • Oracle Business Intelligence Cloud Service
  • Oracle Sales Cloud
  • Oracle Fusion Applications

Melding On-Premises and Cloud Assets

Oracle Analytics Cloud services are not only powerful but accessible, bringing analytic capabilities that were formerly sequestered in the back office to the front lines of the business. For example, OUTFRONT Media is using Oracle Business Intelligence Cloud Service, part of the Oracle Analytics Cloud portfolio, to distinguish itself in the highly competitive out-of-home media industry. The company’s diverse portfolio of properties includes more than 400,000 digital and static displays that reach millions of commuters every day in more than 150 markets across the United States and Canada. Since spinning off from CBS Corporation three years ago, OUTFRONT Media, an early adopter of Oracle Business Intelligence Cloud Service, has embraced a cloud-first strategy to deliver compelling data visualizations to users at all levels of the company and produce new degrees of analytic insight.

Previously, OUTFRONT Media users relied heavily on the IT department to deliver cross-platform reporting. Despite having access to reporting tools within each system, employees found it cumbersome to consolidate the information needed to perform their jobs. So Apps Associates, an Oracle partner, helped the company deliver a quick win for sales reporting by creating interactive dashboards that had two years of historical data on sales and customer trends.

“Because there was no need to provision hardware or install software, we went from data to deliverable in five weeks,” says Derek Hayden, vice president of application development at OUTFRONT Media. “Daily efficiency immediately improved, since people no longer had to spend time creating and running reports.”

Because there was no need to provision hardware or install software, we went from data to deliverable in five weeks. ”
–Derek Hayden, Vice President, Application Development, OUTFRONT Media

After completing the initial sales dashboard, Hayden and his team used Oracle Business Intelligence Cloud Service to create real estate dashboards that allow lease reps to analyze lease portfolios, and financial dashboards that enable the finance team to view key performance indicators such as gross margin, revenue, expenses, pricing, budget to actuals, and year-over-year performance. Managers now have easy access to performance measures that compare budgeted with actual expenses, and they can quickly generate year-over-year performance graphs to identify areas of improvement. Within six months, dashboards were available to more than 150 users, utilizing a role-based architecture that ensures users see only the information that they are authorized to view.

The company next used Oracle Business Intelligence Cloud Service to replace a legacy on-premises revenue forecasting system, enhancing reporting capabilities with drill-downs and data visualizations. “We now have 250 people using cloud-based dashboards for sales, real estate, finance, and field operations,” Hayden says. “We used Oracle’s out-of-the-box visualizations, yet it was easy to reinforce our brand identity through the tool.”

OUTFRONT’s success using Oracle Business Intelligence Cloud Service has created a demand for additional value-added deliverables to a wider audience. The user base was expected to expand to 700 during the first half of 2017, and dashboards will include pricing analytics and account-executive book-of-business views. Each user will see slices of data relevant to him or her—from the same core data.

Hayden values Oracle’s platform-as-a-service (PaaS) strategy and offerings, which include tools for big data preparation, big data discovery, data integration, and event management. The company plans to use these tools to incorporate data from third-party sources, as well as to use real-time data to enhance its understanding of how an advertiser’s target customers interact with OUTFRONT’s inventory.

The company still uses some on-premises software, but it now looks to the cloud for new hardware and software functionality. “We have no interest in creating an on-premises environment to support new initiatives,” Hayden says. “We want to focus on improving our intellectual property, not on what happens in the data center. Using Oracle Cloud means easier administration, lower capital investments, fewer DBA chores, and the opportunity to make quick wins with relatively small investments.”

 
Skanska AB
Stockholm, Sweden
Industry: Engineering and construction
Employees: 41,000
Revenue: US$17.2 billion
Oracle products:
  • Oracle Business Intelligence Cloud Service
  • Oracle Fusion Applications
  • Oracle Database Cloud Service
  • Oracle Hyperion Financial Management

Global Insight from a Unified Platform

Managers at Skanska AB, a world-leading project development and construction group, came to this same conclusion when they set out to establish a comprehensive analytics strategy for Skanska’s 41,000 employees throughout North America, Central Europe, the Nordic countries, and the United Kingdom.

Conny Björling, head of enterprise architecture at Skanska AB, reports that he was drawn to Oracle Analytics Cloud services not only for their advanced functionality, but also because of the high degree of integration with other Oracle Cloud services, from turnkey application integration to mobile application development. “I wanted an enterprise platform that we could build on,” he reports. “Oracle offers a broad palette of cloud services, which makes it a strategic partner and strategic vendor for us.”

We didn’t have to provision hardware or buy on-premises licenses or put a software infrastructure in place. We simply subscribed to the BI service and started developing right away. Oracle’s BI cloud service makes it incredibly fast to make progress. ”
–Conny Björling, Head of Enterprise Architecture, Skanska AB

Skanska’s first major cloud analytics initiative involved repurposing an important monthly financial report, which helps the finance team report and analyze the consolidated monthly financial results. Previously the team had to manually prepare data from an Oracle Hyperion Financial Management system, and then reformat it in Microsoft Excel with the help of an external partner. Data-entry personnel had to manually add annotations from all the different business units.

Working with just one developer, Björling used Oracle Business Intelligence Cloud Service to re-create the monthly financial report with added analytic capabilities in the cloud, including adding the annotation functionality directly into the solution. “One developer completed this project in 17 days, with me working half time as the business analyst,” he says. “We didn’t have to provision hardware or buy on-premises licenses or put a software infrastructure in place. We simply subscribed to the BI [business intelligence] service and started developing right away. Oracle’s BI cloud service makes it incredibly fast to make progress.”

Once per month, and multiple times per month during the reporting close period, data is transferred from the Oracle Hyperion consolidation solution to Oracle Database Cloud Service via the data sync module that comes with Oracle Business Intelligence Cloud Service. Skanska uses Oracle Application Express to add an annotation form directly to the BI dashboards. “It used to take three or four days every month to run these processes,” Björling says. “Now we load our on-premises data to the cloud in five minutes.”

According to Björling, Oracle Business Intelligence Cloud Service’s visualization tools give all types of users a rich sense of what is happening with the business, whether they prefer simple drag-and-drop functionality or wish to delve into advanced statistical functions. In the future, Skanska plans to delve into more of these advanced functions. For example, the company wants to use Oracle analytics capabilities to visualize as many as 10,000 projects ongoing at any given time in its home markets. Björling also foresees utilizing equipment sensors to monitor the status of thousands of projects. This big data analytics initiative could open new revenue streams for Skanska.

“With Oracle’s cloud-based analytic services, data visualization, BI, and data preparation are all on the same platform,” Björling concludes. “Competing vendors are more focused on front-end solutions, but Oracle gives us one unified platform to tie it all together.”

 
Now I See

The Oracle Analytics Cloud platform provides a broad set of capabilities for visual analysis, discovery, advanced analytics, reporting, and forecasting.

According to John Hagerty, vice president of product management for business analytics at Oracle, in the old world of decision support, you would first create a data warehouse, and then build dashboards and reports—a lengthy process that often took months or years to complete. With Oracle Analytics Cloud, business users have self-service tools to instantly move data to the cloud and visualize it using drag-and-drop techniques.

Oracle Data Visualization Cloud Service, for example, makes easy yet powerful visual analytics accessible to employees at every level of an organization. Individuals can combine data from a variety of sources—including software-as-a-service applications from Oracle and other vendors, on-premises systems, external sources, and personal files, and can author and access data visualizations on any mobile device with no extra work. Drag-and-drop capabilities allow workers to visualize data, change layouts, and present new insights.

“Now with data visualization, we have something that is as visually compelling as it is easy to use,” says Conny Björling, head of enterprise architecture for Skanska AB. “The storytelling functionality is a pivot point in terms of being able to explain your insights effectively.”

In addition to Oracle Business Intelligence Cloud Service and Oracle Data Visualization Cloud Service, Oracle Analytics Cloud includes Oracle Day by Day and Day by Day Mobile Assistant and other Oracle Day by Day features, Oracle Synopsis, and Oracle Essbase Cloud Service. For more information about Oracle’s cloud and on-premises analytics solutions, visit oracle.com.

Next Steps

TRY Oracle Business Intelligence Cloud Service.

READ about Oracle Data Visualization Cloud Service.

LEARN more about Oracle business analytics products.

 

Photography by Hao Wang,Unsplash