Successful Migration to the SAS®9 platform
Early Adopter Ugine & ALZ discovers the value the SAS®9 platform can bring to an ever-changing business environment
As Ugine & ALZ undergoes a complex merger, Kris Vranken, program manager of the data warehouse competence center, faces many challenges, such as standardization, integration and rationalization of data. As participants in an extensive Early Adopter Program, the company determined that the brand new SAS®9 technology solutions are well geared to take up the role of enterprise platform for end-to-end business intelligence.
The reduced development times for new applications and the easier maintenance of SAS®9 will enable an IT department to work much more effectively.
Data warehouse program manager
SAS®9 allows one to feed totally consistent data into a variety of
reporting formats, depending on the IT skills and strategic position
of each corporate user.
Building on Existing Legacy Systems
Ugine & ALZ was established following the merger of French steel company Ugine and Belgian steel producer ALZ. It now constitutes an important part of the Arcelor Group. This merger presented several specific challenges, particularly those involving the different organizational backgrounds within these corporations. Originally a state-owned company, Ugine was organized in a centralized manner. ALZ, on the other hand, was a smaller company with a more entrepreneurial culture. These differences were visible in the IT area as well. Ugine was using an ad hoc query and analysis tool to meet the various tactical reporting needs of each department. ALZ, in turn, was relying on intranet-based applications with reports prepared and managed by the data warehousing team.
"Both the end users and the IT staff are accustomed to working with a particular set of tools. Therefore, our future target is to build a common, integrated platform that will support all of the existing reporting applications," states Vranken. "Early Adopter experiences show that SAS®9 is well suited to take up this role."
One Platform, Multiple Reporting Applications
The initial tests show that SAS®9 technology solutions improve the quality and manageability of data while maintaining and improving all the features and functions that members of staff are used to. The system provides for full end-to-end integration. IT staff can manage all parameters through the SAS server, and consistent information is fed to the full range of reporting tools used at Ugine & ALZ.
It is Vranken's vision to get the right tools in the hands of the right people, while having all of them technically integrated on the same platform by consistent metadata. Management will have complete access to static KPI dashboards and balanced scorecards. A single overview gives them everything they need to make the right decisions within minutes. Assistant managers will have additional drill-down and query functions to analyze figures in greater detail, if needed. Power users on the business side will get advanced drill-down functions, simulations and customizing features such as choice of colors and symbols. Depending on the user's position and IT skills, information can be viewed in a wide range of formats, from static to interactive reports.
Ease of Use and Reuse
"Keeping things simple for each and every user was a key priority," stresses Vranken. "Employees at Ugine & ALZ can continue to view and print their reports in the ad hoc query and reporting application, choose static HTML or dynamic Java reports, or even obtain their data in Excel format. All the information they require is now available through a single portal on our corporate intranet."
The reusability of reports, analysis results, and models has also been greatly improved in SAS®9 Enterprise BI Server. The SAS® Add-In for Microsoft Office enables people to reuse functions written by others in SAS by simply adapting them in Microsoft Excel and Word. An immediate benefit is that the IT department will become more productive since a larger number of employees can produce informative and attractive reports without any SAS background.
SAS®9 Makes the Job Easier for IT Developers
Vranken and his team were among the first to sample the many benefits that SAS®9 has to offer an IT staff. "The Early Adopter experiences showed that SAS®9 can make life easier for us, right from the planning level. For instance, it features all the tools necessary to capture, define and store metadata. This alone will greatly enhance our ability to translate business definitions into IT concepts, which can then be consistently applied across the entire system. All the words and concepts used in reports will have the same meaning for everyone in the company."
SAS®9 Enterprise ETL Server provides thin-client, multi-developer support for the ETL (extract-transform-load) process. The development environment is seamlessly integrated with the metadata repository and can be accessed by several developers simultaneously. It is also more user-friendly, since it uses Java.
In addition, new storage facilities were tested; they proved invaluable in supporting the multilingual and multicultural environment at Ugine & ALZ. A part of the SAS Intelligence Storage solution, the brand new SAS OLAP Server maximizes user comfort and query efficiency, and prepares data for use in a variety of languages.
Doing More With the Same Resources
An enthusiastic Vranken is full of praise for SAS®9, even before the Early Adopter Program ended. "Implementing SAS®9 technology solutions end-to-end is proving to be beneficial for both business and IT users. Every employee at Ugine & ALZ will find a reporting interface that ideally matches both their strategic position and IT knowledge. Because the metadata is now uniquely defined, the consistency of data, and therefore the quality of reports, has dramatically improved. In addition, people wishing to use Excel as their primary reporting tool can continue to do so with greater facility."
Noticeable improvements are also apparent in the IT department. New applications can be developed more rapidly and additional reports can be created by users. This means that the IT team is no longer a bottleneck when it comes to meeting the demand for new reports and applications. "Not only does this free time for us to focus on maintenance and other business-critical IT systems, it also reduces the IT cost of new developments," adds Vranken. "Since developing new applications now demands fewer person-days, we can accomplish much more with the same resources."
SAS®9 - Key Benefits
- Improved manageability of data.
- Better data quality.
- Reduced development time for new applications.
- Additional support for a greater number of reporting applications.
- Easier system maintenance.
- Multideveloper support during ETL process.
- Improved productivity of IT staff.