Absa's business intelligence is powered by Oracle
Absa Group (Absa), one of South Africa's largest financial institutions, is using Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition Plus (OBIEE) as a strategic tool to measure its performance and make better business decisions.
According to Arthur Britz, head of Business Intelligence and Advanced Business Analytics, Absa Group Technology, says the bank is continuously looking at new opportunities, and in doing so, learns more about the business and its working dynamics.
“This business imperative drove the need to view trusted, key performance indicators from multiple data sources, combined and integrated in an intelligent workspace that supports an intuitive and user-friendly Web interface to access information. We also required a centralised solution that can be governed, yet provides high performance for multiple users,” he adds.
Britz says Absa also needed a solution that was capable of publishing dashboards and reports with “slice and dice” functionality, with alerting, collaboration, as well as seamless integration with Microsoft Office and additional capability for performing advanced analytical calculations over and above the standard functionality.
Absa has been utilising an alternative solution for a number of years, but due to both costs and technical reasons it could not deliver self-service BI reports.
Bev Scott, Financial Services Technology Manager at Oracle, says the company was given an opportunity to do a 'Proof of Concept' to demonstrate that Oracle's BI solution could truly integrate across a number of different technologies, such as Oracle, IBM, and SAS, to name a few.
“Oracle could incorporate both Oracle and SAS data into a central repository to enable Absa to build its BI reports. It could also quickly and cost-effectively deliver dashboards for all lines of business (LOBs). Oracle was able to meet both Absa's technical and business requirements at a fraction of the cost of other solutions. Additionally, the initial project took only seven days to deliver,” she says.
Britz says Absa's knowledge and the use of the Oracle BI Enterprise Edition was limited within the Absa team, although they had exposure to other BI technologies, which were rapidly complemented with experienced Oracle professionals that joined and contributed hugely to the success of the project.
“The combination of skills and knowledge, drive and commitment that the collaborating team have shown and their effective use of the technology, made it possible to deliver the required dashboards within a record-breaking time of less than a week - from installation, configuration, analysis, development and implementation. The integration process was straightforward and seamlessly implemented."
“Absa Group Information Services (GIS) can now empower the different LOBs to do their own ad hoc reporting, a standard tool in which to deliver the data to business from the warehouse,” he says.
Britz says the dashboards are utilised on a daily basis and requests for more information are coming in 'fast and furiously' - allowing GIS to be responsive in making information visible to decision-makers from any source through a reliable single viewpoint. The solution allows decision-makers to get access rapidly and have access to behind-the-scenes design to develop sustainable, trusted data integration of the most highly used data into the enterprise data warehouse.
“The seamless switchover from information in Microsoft Excel, our enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM) systems, budgets, to name a few, have been formalised into reliable and trusted operational data stores, complete with enterprise data warehouse and data marts, without impacting the customer experience,” he adds.
Britz says other benefits in implementing the solution was the sense of achievement that the delivery team experienced and had unleashed creative energy within them - glowing, smiling and feeling great in making a difference to Absa.
“The level of integration that is being done is to any new source we might come across, to decrease delivery time in making information available, with a conscious engineering effort to integrate new sources into the Absa Information Warehouse, to reap the longer-term benefits of increased understanding of the data, as well as integrity, quality and security,” he adds.
Britz says the number of requests to be serviced with data and information using the Oracle BI platform from business units is increasing dramatically and it is being rolled out to a wide variety of divisions within Absa (Card, Risk, and Absa Financial Services at present).
“The GIS professionals' satisfaction with the solution is very high and they are eager to make impact in using the technology to make a difference to their customers. Each day we get closer to realising the dream of providing a robust, reliable, scalable, secured, and sleek self-service BI platform to the Absa decision-makers that makes every member of the value chain's (from BI professionals to decision-makers) life easier,” he says.
Additionally, feedback from the user community has been positive and they appreciate the speed of delivery, ease of use of the interface and have expressed their appreciation for the aesthetic appearance of the interface.
“We are seeking to create a BI ecology operating from a single enterprise information model providing one version of the truth, enabled through consistent definition of business measures, metrics and calculations. We also want to optimise delivery times through the concept of 'model once, deploy everywhere'. We hope to achieve this and provide a consistent view of information across divisions and departments, assuring enterprise-wide alignment,” he adds.
Commenting on the relationship with Oracle going forward, Britz says Oracle Account Manager, Bev Scott, and Service Delivery Manager, Marius Joubert, and their support teams are delivering a very professional service to Absa.
“They are part of our team, knowing and understanding where we are heading, facilitating and supplementing our knowledge and skills with theirs and their teams.
“The relationship is going from strength to strength as we collaboratively share our company visions and strategies with one another and we are working as partners to create new vistas within the BI domain through the development of three-year strategic agendas supported through well-prepared business cases facilitating strategic investment into information management as a core competence,” he concludes.