BBC management gains tighter cost control with dashboards

BBC managers are gaining tighter cost control with SAP Business Objects Web Intelligence dashboard

BBC managers are gaining tighter cost control with SAP Business Objects Web Intelligence dashboards.

Simon Griffiths, data and reporting improvement manager at the BBC, presented the corporation’s home services management information (MI) strategy at the recent SAP UK and Ireland user group meeting in Manchester. 

Simon Griffiths said the BBC MI strategy goal was to focus managers more on decision-making for future programmes and less on manipulating data.

The dashboard project began in December 2011, and has become part of a Finance Effectiveness programme, headed by John Turner, programme change director at the organisation.

Griffiths initially carried out a proof of concept dashboard, on cost centre reporting, to get the project started, “without involving consultancies”. 

His is a “relatively small team”, consisting of six data warehousing and business intelligence (BI) professionals, with three other contractors from the finance effectiveness effort.

He is a trained accountant with a background in engineering. He joined the BBC in 2006 as a continuous improvement consultant. Though more on the business side of the organisation, he said that he knows enough about the detail of the technology to know when he does not know enough. 

And the challenge, he said, is to knit together those who know how to grab and filter the data with those who know what to present to which end-user group. 

“It is difficult to find people who can take the data all the way from the data warehouse to the dashboard," said Griffiths.

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He recommended the approach of getting stuck in to real data and proving the value fast. 

“Don’t sit back and do an involved cost-benefit analysis. You can do a proof of concept for free. It doesn’t have to be SAP. I’ve used QlikView, too. The tools are much of a muchness," he said.

His team is now creating one dashboard per month. The core idea is to provide a dashboard targeted for each audience inside the business. The dashboards are spread across 1,300 cost centres and 600 managers are using them. 

“We’ve got managers asking for them, and that is new," Griffiths said.

Managers can now see things like top 10 expenses, and can quickly see what is in policy or not. But the dashboards are not just for finance. Dr Who is but one programme run as a project in an SAP environment, he said.

Griffiths said that his team has “good statistics on take up, coupled with good anecdotal evidence [of interest]."

The dashboards are at the end of “a long chain”, stretching from a BW warehouse through business objects to web intelligence, where the data is modelled.

The dashboards are proving their worth, he said, in cutting down on training. 

“It’s more efficient to have one system, rather than three or more. New starters are used to buying stuff on Amazon and it is as easy as that. The dashboard knows who the manager is. And the manager can write notes within the dashboards, which is an aid to working more effectively with colleagues."

The next stage is mobile access, delivering dashboards on tablets. “The business case for mobility remains a challenge," said Griffiths. 

"It is almost an act of faith. I’ve not seen one killer application for that, but it would improve the user experience”.

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