Milaha boosts its analytics capabilities

Qatar’s Milaha rolls out IBM Cognos to harvest data from across its diverse businesses and turn it into powerful business intelligence reports.

Tags: Gulf Business MachinesIBM (www.ibm.com)QatarQatar Navigation (Milaha) Q.S.C.
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Milaha boosts its analytics capabilities Chebib: IBM Cognos TM1 is sophisticated, yet easy to use.
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By  Mark Sutton Published  July 19, 2012

Qatar’s Milaha rolls out IBM Cognos to harvest data from across its diverse businesses and turn it into powerful business intelligence reports.

Milaha, the Qatar-based shipping, logistics and maritime services company, has completed the deployment of IBM Cognos TM1, to greatly improve the company’s analytics capabilities. The project, which was carried out in partnership with systems integrator Gulf Business Machines (GBM), involved integration of a wide range of data from diverse systems, to provide Milaha with fast and detailed business intelligence across all of its operations.

Milaha, which was formerly known as Qatar Navigation, has operations in diverse areas including maritime and logistics, trading, real estate and investments. The aim of the project was to bring together data from across all of these operations, into a single business intelligence application that is easy to use for staff, and provide up-to-date analytics information.

The Cognos TM1 solution captures actual financial data that can be easily analysed for decision making, including current month data, coming from Milaha’s Oracle ERP System; along with non-financial metrics and data, pertaining to the company’s marine and logistics operations. In contrast to the financial data that resides in the Oracle ERP System, this data is taken from Milaha’s operational systems.

The company selected GBM for the project, which included installation and development, along with training for users. IBM Cognos TM1 was deployed on an HP Proliant server at Milaha’s head office, and in total, the project took 17 weeks to deliver, including two weeks of developer and end user training.

“The project’s primary aim was to provide Milaha an automated solution to extract their data, report on it, and budget. They needed a sophisticated, yet easy to use, system to analyse their data. The multi-dimensional OLAP functionality of IBM Cognos TM1 fitted their requirements very well. With this solution, Milaha is now able to look at the information in a different manner and analyse it in any way they need. In addition, Milaha’s user base was looking for a tech-easy solution which the business could manage, instead of relying on their IT department, which was the case for their ERP system,” explained Soubhi Chebib, country general manager, GBM Qatar.

“The implementation required creating the planning and forecasting model as per Milaha’s business processes, at the same time making it simple enough to be easily used enterprise wide by each department,” Chebib added.

“The biggest benefit to Milaha comes in the form of time savings. In the past, it was time consuming to run multiple reports, cut and paste in Excel, manipulate data, and so forth. Previous to the deployment of this project, it would take much longer for Milaha to complete the necessary processes; however, with the implementation of the project it can now pull out all necessary information from the multiple source applications within seconds. Milaha will now have the ability to have access to statistical data that wasn’t readily available before, from one system,” Chebib said.

Another important aim of the project was to be able to utilise it for budgeting. Milaha already had an existing budgeting solution that allowed highly focused management of budgeting across the company’s different business units. The company also has a large general ledger, manpower in excess of 3,000 people and considerable annual capital expenditures. To accommodate this, GBM and Milaha invested considerable time in customising Cognos TM1, with multiple testing phases, to ensure it provided the right capabilities to all business units.

Sami Shtayyeh, vice president, financial planning & analysis at Milaha, commented: “We didn’t want to lose any functionality that we had with our previous budgeting solution. In addition, we also wanted to enhance the system and process. We wanted linkages from our manpower and capital expenditures budgets direct with the financial budget. As a company, we budget to the lowest level ie. individual, account number, capital requirement, hence capitalising on linkages was critical.”

The BI application now gives Milaha much faster access to reports, as well as access to reports on data that wasn’t previously easily accessible. The flexibility of Cognos, and its strong integration with Microsoft Excel, also meant that the solution is able to easily provide reporting to users in different formats, so that they can get to the data that is most relevant to them.

“Many finance professionals can’t work without Excel – having a strong interface with Excel makes it easy to view live data, and at the same time utilise all the other aspects of Excel for analysis. In the past, our reports had always been static, and to update or change them, we had to run new reports. That is no longer the case,” Shtayyeh adds.

“We can quickly view results on different hierarchical levels, over various timelines, using multiple dimensions. This is the main benefit of a multi-dimensional OLAP tool. Milaha has multiple business units, each with several responsibility centres. Different managers want to view their results in different ways. Some prefer to look at detailed results by account number, by responsibility centre, through different time periods. Others prefer to view high level results at the business unit level. We can now accommodate both, very quickly.

“In the end, the system is really about enabling us to make better decisions, more quickly. We have not achieved the end state, but implementing IBM Cognos TM1 has helped move us in the right direction,” Shtayyeh concluded.

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