Newell Rubbermaid wants to get smarter

Diversified home and business products manufacturer Newell Rubbermaid hopes to double the numbers of its Asia-based staff using business intelligence tools as part of a software upgrade project. The company is currently migrating its Asian operations -- including Australia as well as China, Korea and Japan -- from version 7 onto the new version 8 of Cognos' business intelligence (BI) platform, which was released late in 2005.

Diversified home and business products manufacturer Newell Rubbermaid hopes to double the numbers of its Asia-based staff using business intelligence tools as part of a software upgrade project.

The company is currently migrating its Asian operations -- including Australia as well as China, Korea and Japan -- from version 7 onto the new version 8 of Cognos' business intelligence (BI) platform, which was released late in 2005.

The company's director of corporate information services for Asia, Phillip Bradwell, said he currently had between 120-150 staff using BI tools, with some further staff set up to use -- but not actually using -- the software's so-called data 'cubes'.

"We've got a number of cube users out there who don't use it," he told ZDNet Australia. "I'm hoping that we'll build over the next 12 months or so up to around 300 users."

For Bradwell, the impetus to upgrade to Cognos 8 was about the ability to support multiple languages from a single platform.

When Newell Rubbermaid had started rolling out Intentia's Movex ERP system across Asia several years ago, he said, the company started facing issues with Impromptu, the reporting system included in Cognos version 7.

"It didn't properly support the double-byte character sets of Japan, China and places like this," said Bradwell.

"We were first confronted with a solution that said you can have a different version, a different language set for every single different country.

"This really wasn't where we wanted to go, we wanted to have a central system supported by one group."

Cognos replaced Impromptu with new software, ReportNet, back in 2003.

"So we moved all those countries onto Reportnet as their ad-hoc report writer, and for [Cognos'] Powerplay we used VMWare solutions to transform the different languages. So we got onto ReportNet then," said Bradwell.

Describing this fix as "a bit of an ad-hoc environment", Bradwell said the next move was to move towards a more integrated environment.

"This is where we got onto the version 8 beta testing, because this was the first integrated Unicode environment, that allows us to support from New Zealand through to India," he said.

The ongoing migration is expected to be completed by the middle of 2006.

"Our last Movex implementation should be complete by April, and then it's really, we're bolstering the BI team now, to be able to get onto these more integrated solutions. That's our project for the first half, is to migrate up onto Cognos version 8," said Bradwell.

Newell Rubbermaid runs Cognos on top of a Microsoft SQL Server 2003 database, with Movex running on an AS/400 platform.

Under the dashboard
Bradwell initially found Cognos 8 to be slower than its predecessor.

"We found initially in the testing that 8 was slower than 7," he said. "But that's fairly normal -- betas tend to be slower than production and then they work on the speed, once they get the functionality."

"That was probably the major issue for us, in that you've got dial-up people, you've got people across the network, therefore you want a reasonable performance."

However the new version has other advantages.

"In version 7 of PowerPlay, for instance, they have a Windows version and they have a Web version," said Bradwell.

"Now historically the Windows version has been more powerful. It has more functionality than the Web."

"That has been a problem for us, people say they don't want the Web version, even though it's simpler to maintain," he added.

"They say: 'I'd rather this one so I can develop my own reports, and I can save them, and it's not as cumbersome as the Web.'"

"So with version 8, it brings the Web up to where the Windows was. So that's good for us, it means that we can get a consistent platform."

Bradwell also said he was looking forward to utilising the increased capability of version 8's dashboard interfaces. The high-level style of report is often used by upper management.

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