Volvo UK asks business users to design BI apps

Volvo Car UK is asking its most capable business users to design business intelligence (BI) apps in an attempt to take pressure off the IT department and create applications that cater to specialist departmental needs.

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Volvo Car UK is asking its most capable business users to design business intelligence (BI) apps in an attempt to take pressure off the IT department and create applications that cater to specialist departmental needs.

Computerworld UK spoke to Andy Johnson, support and project analyst at Volvo Car UK, who explained that he and only one other member of IT had been in control of developing the company's BI QlikView applications for the past seven years.

Volvo UK currently uses QlikView version 10.4, but is in the process of upgrading to 11.0.

When first deployed, the BI tools were being used to carry out reporting on car sales, car registrations and stock levels. However, this has since expanded into general KPI reporting across the business, analysing after-sales performance.

“There's a lot of information we want to capture and report, within the business itself, but also for the dealers. Management definitely understands that it was previously having to scrub around to get data out of spreadsheets, which was taking a lot of time,” said Johnson.

“It also might not have been complete. It might not have been accurate. Whereas now, they know that the data they are getting is coming to them in an ordered fashion, it's timely, it's correct, it's up to date.”

Approximately 50 percent of Volvo UK is using the QlikView tools (100 users). All dealers also have at least two licences.

Enabling power users

However, the management team at Volvo has a QlikView wishlist “as long as its arm”, according to Johnson. Given that there were only two people developing the BI tools within the company, Volvo has begun tasking 'power users' within the business and training them to create applications.

“In June we identified three users that know their area of the business very well. They went on QlikView's designer training, so they can start to create their own applications from the data they can have access to,” said Johnson.

“We have one guy from the finance department, he's been very quick to get an application up and running and that's now saving their department at least a day's work every month.”

He added: “That's simply by him being able to get the data he understands and knows about out of SAP and loading it into his QlikView application. Getting it out there.”

The finance department employee spent just two weeks creating the application. Johnson said that this development process was 80 percent carried out by the business user, with the remaining 20 percent of time coming from IT support – mostly extracting data out of complex databases.

“That will sometimes mean that myself and my colleague, both of which have been in IT for ages, will have to do a bit of background work to get the data – to prime the pumps,” he said.

“We don’t want them meandering through complex databases to find the data they want, but what we are trying to do is make sure that it saves our time to let people like that develop their own stuff without it impacting on us working at the coalface.”

Making QlikView fly

Volvo UK is now considering sending more 'power users' on the design course, because Johnson believes it is an effective way for the IT department to balance the supply of resources with demand from management.

Johnson said: “If the business wants it. There's only one of me – we can't spend all of our time working on QlikView, we've got other responsibilities to work on as well. And I don't claim to know much about finance, for example.

“If I can bring my experience to bear with using the app, combined with the imagination that the end user has got, that's when you can start to make the thing fly.”

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