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Zarlink Monitors Corporate Performance, Manages Expenses, Drives Accountability with Cognos EBI Series

  Product Review published in DM Review Magazine
May 2004 Issue
  By Bill O'Connor
Cognos Incorporated
Review of: Cognos Enterprise BI Series from Cognos Incorporated

CATEGORY: Business Intelligence

REVIEWER: Bill O'Connor, CIO of Zarlink Semiconductor.

BACKGROUND: For almost 30 years, Zarlink Semiconductor has delivered silicon solutions that drive the capabilities of voice, enterprise, broadband and wireless communications. The company's success is built on its technology strengths, including voice and data networks, consumer and ultra low-power communications and high-performance analog.

PLATFORMS: The Cognos solution is running on Windows 2000 and a dual CPU server with 2GB RAM.

PROBLEM SOLVED: In 1999 and 2000, Zarlink made a significant investment in a large enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. In 2001, as a result of a global economic downturn across the entire telecommunications industry, Zarlink was faced with a severe decline in its revenues. Economic realities demanded a reduction in IT spending and an increasing return on IT investment. At the same time, Zarlink management required an increased level of visibility into our financial performance. In the face of these challenges, Zarlink deployed Cognos Enterprise Business Intelligence (EBI) Series scorecarding to create customized dashboards that provide a single, highly graphical view of each decision-maker's area of responsibility. The system has a dramatically low total cost of ownership, allowing managers to more closely track sales and expense performance to a product line, product family or customer level.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Zarlink uses Cognos scorecards across its global R&D, product marketing, sales, operations and finance organizations to provide employees with a single, consistent view of corporate performance. Employees have daily access to bookings, billings, backlog, receivables, cash, inventory, margin, expense, product and headcount information in either scorecards or interactive reports. Information around DSO, ROI, cash flow, compensation and bonus projections is also available daily at any organizational level, geographic region or legal entity. Cognos EBI Series gives stakeholders daily insight into business trends and issues via Web-based access to managed reports and analysis. Increased efficiencies stemming from our Cognos implementation have helped us save approximately $40 million dollars in IT and operational costs within 30 months. Cognos has helped IT provide company decision-makers with an unprecedented view into the performance of our business. This has allowed us to quickly identify opportunities and dramatically reduce time to market to help meet the product needs of our customers.

STRENGTHS: Cognos BI tools enable the graphical representation of Zarlink's key corporate performance information, which allows us to provide information across a whole band of users. This was key to the project's success. While it was one of the easiest features to roll out, the graphics element had the most profound effect on usability. It was one of the most pleasant surprises of the program as the change from interactive numeric reports to interactive graphics drove the number of system users from 40 to almost 300 (our total target group) in just three months.

WEAKNESSES: One of the important features of the Cognos solution is the high level of user self-sufficiency. However, we've found it challenging to understand the impact on user-created reports when we make a change to the underlying data structures.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We evaluated a number of solutions before selecting Cognos. We liked the breadth of Cognos EBI Series, its flexibility and its ease of use. The integrated dashboarding and scorecarding capabilities meant that Zarlink could quickly develop a tiered graphically oriented scorecard presentation for all areas of the business. These scorecards are now presented at most management meetings.

DELIVERABLES: We provide daily comprehensive scorecards for all business units. We also provide specialized scorecards/dashboards and reports in the following areas: cash flow analysis; accounts receivable; project and product ROIs; revenue budget and forecast; inventory budget, forecast and analysis; material budget, forecasting and planning; headcount budget, forecasting and analysis; project expense budget, forecasting and analysis; and compensation/bonus plan budget, forecasting and analysis.

VENDOR SUPPORT: We've had a long-standing relationship with Cognos, and it has been excellent. For example, based upon a "chalk-talk," we tasked a very small internal team with support from Cognos to develop a single interactive numeric scorecard for daily bookings, billings and backlog. Within two months, the team developed a daily interactive numeric report with drill-down capability far exceeding what was being presented in a static spreadsheet format on a weekly basis. This proof of concept allowed for a quick adoption of the project.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is very clear and intuitive.


For more information on related topics visit the following related portals...
Business Intelligence.

Bill O'Connor, CIO of Zarlink Semiconductor.

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