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BI on Cognos goes mobile for steel manufacturer Ispat Industries

Yuga Chaudhari, Principal Correspondent

Considering the steel manufacturer's business volumes, it's but necessary that Ispat Industries demands that its employees be available 24/7. As part of this requirement, its IT team decided to leverage business intelligence (BI) on Cognos

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for availability on mobile devices. However, this was not the company's first dabble with BI using Cognos.

Driven by the belief that technology plays a key role in business development, Ispat deployed BI on Cognos in the year 2006. The name of the project is 'Business in Motion'. This BI solution from Cognos creates business reports which are critical in nature for Ispat. In 2009, the IT team at Ispat developed a BI application to help core decision-makers in accessing critical business reports on their mobile devices. To take this plan ahead, the company decided to provide Blackberry devices to its employees. "It took us two years to develop this application, as it required maturity at the Cognos level," says Atul Kumar, the president and CTO for Ispat Group. A small team of six people worked on developing this application which leverages BI using Cognos.

According to Kumar, this BI technology using Cognos is basically for travelling employees who don't have laptops to access critical business reports. The company's IT strength is around 200 people, and most BI applications are developed internally. The company's core applications are SAP-based (with integrated BI functionalities), and it also leverages IBM Cognos. "We are one of the few companies who are using Business Intelligence applications from two different vendors, and the only company using IBM Cognos for BI on mobility devices," states Kumar.

Ispat's BI app on Cognos has been designed using the Blackberry engine. "In a few cases, some protocols were not supporting the hardware. So such applications were developed by our team. We used Mobile Java – J2ME and J2EE for application development. Our BI app on Cognos has the ability to support multiple devices," explains Kumar.

Currently, Ispat has provided 2,200 handhelds to its employees. However, Kumar informed that only authorised people are allowed to access reports using BI on Cognos using the Blackberry. "We have a select group of people who need to know where the business is going. The best part about this application is that users can get access to Cognos' BI reports as well as the pull-in reports generated from SAP. The end-user does not come to know the source of this information. BI on Cognos helps users get right and relevant reports," informs Kumar.

We are one of the few companies who are using business intelligence applications from two different vendors, and the only company using IBM Cognos for BI on mobility devices.
Atul Kumar
president and CTOIspat Group

 The user can get access to all kinds of information through this BI application. Reports like sales, production, availability of stock, cash flow, pending orders, and customer orders can be easily viewed. According to Kumar, BI on Cognos definitely helps users in taking faster decisions anywhere and anytime.

Also, security plays a major role in this Cognos BI deployment for mobile devices. "We have ensured that people access data of their relevance only. As far as mobility devices are concerned, I think Blackberry is a very secure device. On top of it, we have user authentication to determine who logs in to view the reports. To make things more secure, we are also evaluating vendors like Fortinet and Juniper who will make the BI application more secure," states Kumar.  
 
Generating reports on one platform from different BI applications was the major challenge for the IT team at Ispat. "We got the team trained in BI on Cognos. Apart from this, we also received good support from our vendors. We have a middleware that connects both these (SAP and IBM Cognos) applications," says Kumar. Ispat plans to add 400 more Blackberry devices by July 2010. "Our project for BI on Cognos using mobile devices has empowered people to make faster decision-making," Kumar concludes.