Utility Provider ActewAGL Shares Its Strategy
In asset-intensive industries like utilities, oil and gas, project managers and executives need up-to-the-minute project data, as they usually manage a myriad of capital expenditures. But what happens when an ERP software reimplementation pressures project management processes, reporting and strategy?
Emergency Reporting Alternative
For ActewAGL, a Canberra, Australia-based provider of electricity and gas, the reimplementation of Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) version R12 from a customized R11i version impacted access to Oracle projects data. After Oracle discontinued its Business Intelligence Discoverer (Discoverer) reporting tool, ActewAGL purchased Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE), but it failed to deliver the necessary reports at the critical R12 go live. ActewAGL needed an emergency alternative for reporting.
Popular Reports Go Missing with R12
In R11i, ActewAGL used Discoverer for reporting data from Oracle’s Projects module, along with web-based views of Projects data created by a skilled in-house SQL developer.
“The web views let project managers easily enter information in a form that masked the background tasks and SQL for retrieving data,” described Donna Christie, Finance Applications and Reporting Specialist for ActewAGL.
While the highly customized web views were popular with project managers and Finance staff, an important R12 reimplementation goal was to minimize customizations. Because of Oracle’s discontinued Discoverer support and major R12 changes to Oracle database tables, the previous SQL was unusable, so ActewAGL implemented OBIEE for its reporting needs.
OBIEE Fails as R12 Launch Loom
OBIEE is a complex business intelligence (BI) tool that typically requires consulting expertise for implementation and report migration. ActewAGL needed to prioritize which of the 200+ reports /views from the old system were needed from R12, which initially looked promising.
“Based on the R12 demo, our business representatives thought standard Projects reports or OBIEE would provide what they needed, but didn’t realize what they saw required expensive customization by consultants,” Christie said.
Ultimately, specifying reports proved difficult, consultants couldn’t deliver usable ones within the allotted timeframe, and OBIEE’s data inherently arrived a day old, displeasing business users.
“We were near R12 go-live with no transactional and project management reports,” Christie described. “Oracle Projects standard reports couldn’t immediately provide information like total capex spend, margins, burdening and commitments for project managers, and creating custom Oracle reports would be lengthy and complicated.”
Excel-Based Reporting Ramps Up
With the R12 launch looming, ActewAGL turned to Reports Wand, a reporting tool that lets you retrieve data directly through Excel using custom SQL or a library of 1000+ customized views.
“Running reports from familiar Excel was advantageous for Finance and Project Management, plus Reports Wand provides real-time data,” said Christie. “It also includes NoetixViews -- pre-built Oracle views that let users create reports without a developer.”
With Reports Wand’s direct links to R12 and no data warehouse or extra hardware requirements, its fast installation let two consultants immediately began creating reports across Oracle modules with R12-compatible SQL. Project management reports were in particularly high demand.
“We could internally create/cut down SQL from those initial reports to produce report templates in-house that were specific to each business area and included various columns, calculations, graphs and dashboards requested by project managers,” said Christie.
Clarifying Complex Project Reports
A series of complex reports was created in Reports Wand for ActewAGL’s project managers. They are grouped into: Project Summary (single or multiple projects), Project Task Summary (single or multiple task), and Project Expenditure (expenditure category).
For a clear view of areas with the most spending, the expenditure-by-category reports sum project expenditures into a group of business specific categories by period-to-date (PTD), year-to-date (YTD) and inception-to-date (ITD). These reports required custom SQL that combines large numbers of expenditure types into a series of six categories.
Another series of templates was created for ActewAGL’s Corporate Services group to show capex and opex amounts per task on each project, allowing a better understanding of total capital costs versus operating costs. Using Reports Wand, this group can drill into Oracle details behind the numbers with a mouse click.
From a purchasing standpoint, ActewAGL can now track blanket purchase agreement (BPA) commitments and actuals for a project using a DFF function in the Purchasing module and custom SQL to pull back the BPA outstanding commitment amount.
Another report checks internal orders in the Inventory module to identify items not yet picked and shipped, but assigned to a specific project. “For example,” described Christie, “if a project manager is building a new substation and has ordered 10 poles that aren’t needed for three months, the project report still reflects the cost of the poles assigned through inventory.”
All ActewAGL report dashboards require PTD, YTD and ITD actuals and budget amounts with drills to the underlying details. Overall, Reports Wand has met high approval.
“Our project managers appreciate real-time data delivery in Reports Wand and continually think of ways to fine-tune reports,” said Christie. “Also, accountants claim that just one report has saved three hours on each monthly close.”
Additionally, Christie says the user experience continues to improve as Excel4apps enhances Reports Wand with functionality like the ability to use Oracle List of Values.
Tip of the Savings Iceberg
In addition to rescuing critical reporting capabilities going into the R12 reimplementation, Reports Wand has reduced costs.
“We saw considerable savings after discontinuing Discoverer and OBIEE licenses and support and purchasing Reports Wand,” said Christie. “Given more time to explore NoetixViews, we could’ve saved even more time and money, as we may not have needed additional developers to create custom views and packages because NoetixViews lets you build reports without writing SQL.”
Christie believes additional savings are possible by exploiting NoetixViews in the future.
“NoetixViews pre-built data views should assist us in quickly generating ad hoc reports, said Christie. “It took me just 20 minutes, for example, to create a report with outstanding acquittals for a specific corporate credit card. We’ll also leverage new Reports Wand pre-built dashboards that users can incorporate with little effort.”