“Towards Corporate Performance Management”
Interview with Francisco Delgado Azuara, IS Manager, INSS
The INSS is a Social Security administrative body affiliated to the Spanish Ministry of Employment and Social Affairs. It is responsible for managing and administering benefits paid by the Spanish Social Security system. It currently administers more than 7.5 million pensions, including around a million new benefits annually, has 13,000 employees and a budget of over €79,000 million.
As a systems integrator, Bull has helped INSS to define and deploy its BI solution.
Why did you launch a BI project?
Our initial project was known as the ‘Information System for Directors’ (ISD). Its main aim was to facilitate the introduction of ‘dashboards’, enabling senior management to monitor the main performance indicators for our system of management by objectives. The important work of identifying objectives and developing indicators had already been carried out. At the beginning, the system was only available to senior executives within the organization’s central departments, and then it has been extended. The information is organized according to our hierarchical chart of general subdivisions and, at a lower level, by key results areas.
What is your BI strategy to meet these objectives?
Rather than a strategy as such, we are talking about a maturing process, as much for our organization as for the technology. Some things are possible nowadays, that years ago would have been impossible to imagine. In overall terms, our information system is based on several independent transactional subsystems. These systems capture and process the operational data of our organization. As a complement to this system, a data warehouse and a set of tools geared to analyzing this information on-line provide an integrating, chronological and thematic vision of the organization as it evolves. This kind of data warehouse is organized around a suite of multidimensional datamarts focused on different areas of business activity within the organization. In other respects, OLAP tools make it easier for end users to put together customized graphics in a simple and intuitive way, and simplify routine analysis tasks. As for the dashboards, these are usually pre-defined reports that include graphs and maps highlighting the main performance indicators that show the current status of one or several business activities.
According to your experience, what are the pitfalls to avoid and the best practices to adopt for a BI project to succeed?
We can separate out our experiences in the technical area from those more related to organization.
From a technical point of view, it is an ongoing challenge. Technology is evolving at such a pace that even before a product is installed new alternatives are already appearing. Of course, it is our responsibility to be constantly on the look out for ‘state-of-the-art” developments, and to dedicate resources to researching market developments and looking at what our competitors are doing.
From an organizational point of view, in this kind of system it is necessary to pay special attention to ensure that the new system is fully accepted and used. Not just to ensure that our investment pays off, but because the highest possible level of penetration within the organization will make it easier to have a good overall picture of our information. It is essential to identify key personnel to act as facilitators, coordinating and supplying information, and helping to build awareness of how useful such as system can be. Of course, senior management commitment is also essential.
As far as the IT department is concerned, we must be prepared to come under pressure. For example, managers are going to ask us more than just once for information they already have in the BI system, but either they are not aware of the fact that it is there, or they want it in a slightly different form. We have to be realistic, understanding the environment in which we are operating, and we must tolerate a certain degree of frustration from a technical point of view.
Also it is very important that the IT Director takes a broad view when approaching any new projects. Nowadays, only a horizontal area such as ours can have this generalized view that is so necessary when approaching projects like CPM (Corporate Performance Management).
In what ways has your business benefited from your consolidation project and BI applications?
The first major advantage we have seen is that we work more effectively and less expensively. We can now be sure that we always have consistent data and information distributed seamlessly throughout the organization. Secondly, we now have access to information at a level that in the recent past seemed like science fiction for us, both in terms of content and availability. Now, for example, we have daily statistics on how management is evolving and the degrees of compliance. The benefits gained once we dedicate our resources to better management and monitoring, and significantly manage organizational changes, are considerable.
Do you now plan to grow your BI applications in the future?
The immediate target is to achieve a global system for consulting indicators via Intranet from every corner of the Spanish territory, thereby removing the obligation we currently have to distribute these monthly. But our system still has a long way to go in terms of consolidation and refinement, and this is without even casting so much as a glance in the direction of how technology itself is changing. We foresee to use a PDA version in the future (products of this type are already available) and SMS versions for corporate mobile phones. We also think long-term about moving over to a service-oriented architecture, with global data and process integration.