Hyperion Solutions used acquisitionsand some self-reflectionto improve its business intelligence offerings.
In 1998, the company merged with Arbor Software, maker of an online analytical processing (OLAP) software tool called Essbase. Five years later, Hyperion bought Brio, a business intelligence software rival. In between, Hyperion altered its business intelligence approach, switching from producing what chief technology officer John Kopcke characterizes as standalone, pre-built solutions for different business units, to a customizable product aimed at reaching a broader, cross-department user base.
Along with the new platform, System 9, Hyperion still supports pre-built modules. And that’s where the discord begins.
Robert Cox, senior director of business process improvement with Erickson Retirement Communities, a manager of communities in 10 states, deployed Hyperion’s Essbase and Analyzer tools to monitor revenue by location and improve budget planning.
Some 400 non-technical stafflike dining and housekeeping managers, who oversee their department’s finances on the softwareare able to walk through a step-by-step process to create budgets and reports.
Before deploying the tool, Erickson used to send six accountants to each new community to track building and labor costs. Now, Cox says, only one is needed.
He sees one hitch: System 9, with both its customizable and pre-built interfaces, is more cluttered than earlier offerings, which had one or the other. “It’s all more complicated now,” he says.
Kopcke says Hyperion supports “the entire spectrum,” and does so due to customer demand. When he hears from customers with any difficulties, they tend to talk about switching from one architecture to another, like moving from Brio Version 6, which was client/server-based, to the Web-based Version 8.
Other customers embrace Hyperion’s approach. Prince Knight, manager of business intelligence administration with Independence Blue Cross of Philadelphia, implemented Hyperion to standardize reporting in the medical informatics department. Knight cites Hyperion’s ability to provide both structured and customizable tools as a key selling point.
Claire Ashby, data warehouse and business intelligence specialist with American Suzuki Motor Corp., also likes Hyperion’s dual offerings. She says she’d like Hyperion to improve its support efforts for Brio products. Ashby uses Brio Intelligence and Hyperion’s Essbase.
“I’m probably more forgiving than most users. And I understand the time line with mergers,” Ashby says, referring to the challenges of merging Hyperion’s and Brio’s personnel. But she says Hyperion usually takes days to respond to her calls; when the calls are returned, she adds, the support staff seem unfamiliar with the technology.
Kopcke admits the company struggled after the acquisition, primarily because Brio trimmed its workforce. Hyperion retained Brio’s technology staff, but building up technical knowledge across the support ranks remains a challenge. “We continue to build that and work on that,” he says.
Kopcke points to Hyperion’s 91% renewal rate on maintenance agreements: “You don’t get that kind of renewal rate if you’ve got big problems.”