NAB BI banks on SharePoint smarts

NAB Finance has worked with consultants Pitcher Partners to develop a Proof of Concept (POC) showcasing the business intelligence capabilities of SharePoint 2010.

The new tool was developed to provide over 200 users with the ability to select from one of 10 Self Service Reports. It also provides access to 100,000 documents for Knowledge Management with Search refiners implemented for Companies and Authors.

It allows for the development of many real-time reports versus the previous Power Point BI in place.

“Business intelligence has become a paradox where mining of business information has become mining of business reports,” according to John Brand, Vice President, Research at Springboard Research. In order to find the most appropriate data, users must first find the most appropriate report that presents that data. This can be as fruitless as looking for a needle in a haystack.

“Organisations have an explosion of information sources which can be accessed and dynamically produced. Navigating through this vast volume of higher level reports can be just as difficult (and time consuming) as rummaging through low level source data looking for insights.”

The NAB POC also utilised SQL Server 2008 R2, and SQL Server Analysis Services to deliver a range of self service reports including a Microsoft Silverlight-based pivot for visual navigation of complex data. A rich interactive banker dashboard was employed as a navigation tool to extract intelligence from a cube serving 200,000,000 rows representing 60GB of data sourced from an Oracle transactional database.

The POC was developed to demonstrate key business and service orientated solutions on the SharePoint 2010 platform using the collaboration features and enterprise search.

Pitcher Partners Consulting began by working with NAB Finance Service & Operations (FS&O) to establish the scope of the POC and understand how head office staff interacted with data.
It also engaged with the NAB Business Intelligence Service Centre (BISC) to understand broader business intelligence issues and the need for an enterprise reporting framework.

Developer support

NAB Business Intelligence Service Centre Development department has approximately 60 developers (40 offshore/20 onshore). Within this department David Byars, Business Architectures and Solutions, National Australia Bank, heads a team working on the Microsoft stack for internal decision support analysis. SharePoint 2007 has been deployed across NAB for a number of years.

“Sometimes SharePoint is delivered without the appropriate controls and you end up with TeamSites popping up across the organisation so that sometimes you cannot find what you need. We came up with the concept that we just want one place for our internal customers to go for Finance,” said Byars.

“After being one of the first companies involved in the Micosoft Customer Immersion programme it became apparent there was a larger enterprise deployment to be considered. There were many exciting new features for example the ability to have multiple people editing an Excel spreadsheet at the one time, and a directory of people with specific expertise. Given the scale of an enterprise wide SharePoint development we decided for a modular approach to implementing a new shop front as our service delivery platform and look to incorporate into the enterprise vision when it becomes available.”

Rita Arrigo, Principal Consultant with Pitcher Partners Consulting, said, “This is a BISC initiative with a view to expanding enterprise-wide and a way of making this financial information easier to access across NAB. We really focused on knowledge management and providing a service centre, with FAST search bringing the whole thing together.”

“NAB Business Intelligence really wanted to reposition themselves as a service delivery organisation.”

The scope of the reporting job is underlined by the number of staff inside NAB, approxiamtely 40,000 worldwide sourced from the NAB 2010 Profit Announcement.

“This POC has been developed to make it easier to provide access to financial information across NAB, including access to BI applications, a support page, dashboards, and KPI scorecards,” said Byars. “It also provides the tools for power users to go in and generate new reports and distribute these to our large employee base.”

The Knowledge Management Repository includes forums, wikis, a corporate taxonomy for the document library and provides for Set-up of Document Libraries.

“FAST search was implemented for 100,000 documents with entity extraction which made excellent use of metadata” said Shyam Narayan, Solution Architect at Pitcher Partners Consulting.

Through better information, the NAB Business Intelligence Service Centre (BISC) believes it can improve customer relationships and enhance decision making to dramatically affect profitability. The comprehensive search capability and the use of visual tools in the proof of concept (POC) will improve the ability to find both structured and unstructured data.

Part of the POC has now been deployed into the NAB development environment so that users can experiment and use the key features to establish the value for the next phase.

This included features such as a Silverlight Pivot to make it easier for NAB Finance internal clients to find the 200 reports available. These are categorised into daily, weekly, quarterly, monthly etc with a colour coded design. As this is launched, and user feedback is gathered, the insights gained will allow the careful planning of next steps.

According to John Brand, “ In order to allow users to find the information they require more efficiently and effectively, organisations are now seeking new ways to manage, not only business data, but the reports and outputs that that data generates. A more holistic view, that incorporates all forms of business data, whether numeric or textual, will be a key differentiator for high performing knowledge-driven organisations in the future.”