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Why one CIO hopes self-service analytics will make IT irrelevant

Clint Boulton | Dec. 4, 2015
With the help of cloud software, Merck Animal Health’s Dave Williams is striving for self-service supply chain analytics.

It’s also saving time in the IT department. Traditionally, Williams’ team would figure out where data was in their SAP ERP system and how to extract it, normalize it and analyze it. Then they would configure servers and business intelligence applications to build reports from the data. FusionOps’ SAP connectors ingest data into the vendor’s cloud in a standard, normalized view based on pre-defined business rules. Then algorithms crunch the data for insights and populate the findings in bar charts and other graphs in Web dashboards. “The amount of time we spend analyzing versus hunting and gathering data has shifted dramatically,” Williams says. “Now it's ‘how do we improve this metric to drive value on the balance sheet.’”

Combatting change management with collaboration

Initially, Williams’ introduction of FusionOps put off IT staff accustomed to setting up its own systems and combing through the data. “Cloud makes people uncomfortable,” Williams says. “People on the tech team see it as threat.” Moreover, changing how the department delivered information presented a challenge for business users who were accustomed to viewing data a certain way and become frustrated when they can’t find data because a different tool has a different user interface and format.

Williams says he addressed this issue by partnering with the business and his team, getting senior leaders from manufacturing and other departments behind the effort before it started, and easing the rank-and-file users into the transition. It helped that Clark Goldestani, Merck’s global CIO, recommended the product. “We had top-down sponsorship right out of the gate,” he says.

And while the IT department is still adjusting to the change, employees in manufacturing, marketing and procurement love the speed and agility with which FusionOps enables them to generate business insights. In fact, they love it so much that they are putting more pressure on the IT department to add new features and functionality. Williams is prioritizing the requests.

Williams says he’d like FusionOps to add functionality that will enable, for example, manufacturing personnel to query deep into SAP without help from IT. He says that while FusionOps isn’t quite prepared for this capability, some recent demos he’s seen of future functionality left him confident that this type of self-service analytics will arrive at Merck Animal Health in the near future. That, he says, will help shift the IT department’s emphasis away from building things internally and enable them to focus on more strategic projects, ostensibly to drive more value for the business.

 

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