Transparency eases process pain
By Enterprise Innovation staff | 2009-01-08
Pharmaceutical company Merck struggled to make business decisions in the absence of timely information. The cure came in the form of a business intelligence solution The management team in Singapore at pharmaceutical and chemical company Merck Group embraces business opportunities and challenges with an air of confidence and assuredness. Backed by its current IT infrastructure, it can access information on each division instantly and optimize resources to best suit each project.
Its sales and marketing teams are happy too that their backend infrastructure gives them access to information quickly as it allows them to make informed decisions that support the company's growth.
In addition, the IT infrastructure helps to improve order processing and customer support and allows the organization to manage inventory more effectively, thus improving cash flow.
Lack of integration
As recent as 2001, Merck's offices across 15 countries in Asia Pacific were submitting their reports in Microsoft Excel-based tools.
It was a quick and easy solution, Merck regional IS manager, Asia, Information Services, Milind Neurgaonkar admitted, but he realized that with this solution, unstructured data could be manipulated by different people at different levels and generating data takes a lot of effort.
"Our reports were mainly paper-based and they took a few days to generate consolidated information."
On top of that, generating custom reports for SAP was an expensive exercise. "Combining SAP and non-SAP data for reporting and consolidation was a time consuming process."
Merck Group has 242 companies in 63 countries, production facilities in 61 locations in 26 countries and 32,000 employees. Its corporate headquarters is located in Darmstadt, Germany.
The Singapore office operates two core business segments: Pharmaceuticals and Chemicals. Its regional IT function and clinical development - a regional function which conducts research and clinical trials for new drugs in South East Asia and Pacific Regions, is located in Singapore as well.
Its diversified business divisions in the Asia Pacific market resulted in the implementation of local solutions in various countries.
"Analyzing the product, sales and financial data generated in these countries was a major challenge for us," recalled Neurgaonkar.
In 2002 Merck realized that with its wide product range of more than 50,000 products, users were struggling to analyze data real time.
That was when it got serious about implementing an analytical business intelligence tool. According to Neurgaonkar, Merck considered at least three OLAP-based tools during the selection process. The company finally opted for QlikView in 2002 because of its ease of developing templates and extracting data. On top of that, the technology behind QlikView enabled efficient compression of data, said Neurgaonkar.
The Merck management team in Singapore had its reservations about implementing a solution like QlikView initially.
"Analysis tools, unlike ERP solutions, are not bread and butter tools for the company, and the management was hesitant to make a big investment for the tool."
But at the same time, the company recognized that there was a need for such a solution. In the end, the proof-of-concept was completed within a very short time as the management in Singapore was impressed with the capability of the solution.
The solution was first implemented to a pilot group consisting of a few top management members. Subsequently, it was rolled out to the middle management.
The pilot group was won over by the user-friendly QlikView templates, which were common to SAP and Epicore (Scala) ERP solutions.
Neurgaonkar recalled that it didn't take long after the pilot was over for the management to decide to roll it out to the middle management and sales team in Singapore.
The pilot templates were then demonstrated to other Asian companies of the Merck Group, which adopted the solution very quickly too.
Each business unit took approximately three weeks to implement the QlikView solution. "[To simplify the implementation,] our strategy was to develop 80% of the template regionally and then rolled out with minor country based modifications."
Ease of use and low cost of ownership were the main success factors while rolling out QlikView, stressed Neurgaonkar.
He said companies in Asia have now been using the tool for over five years. Today, about 250 users in Asia Pacific are using QlikView in Merck.
With QlikView in place, management can now access information in real time to conduct daily health checks on each division and react more quickly to them.
"Our major implementation issue was to visualize the requirements to be covered in the template. Template development could take anywhere from one to three months, depending on the user's involvement and inputs."
But he added that once the template was developed, rolling out the solution was easy. He is now working towards hosting the solution as a centralized enterprise solution for all the companies in Asia Pacific. He aims to have template creation and roll out controlled centrally.