Medtronic's Parallel Universes

Medtronic, a leading medical technology company that specializes in devices such as pacemakers, has been using BusinessObjects since 1994 to help with decision support. The company's headquarters are in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and it has more than 14,000 employees worldwide.

Medtronic has been selling medical devices for half a century and using various Oracle databases to store several hundred gigabytes of information on every implantable device the company sells. Approximately 275 Medtronic employees use BusinessObjects to generate large reports in batch mode.

"Our shortest query takes about five minutes," said Kumar Kannankutty, Medtronic's business systems project manager. Kannankutty is pleased with BusinessObjects' new Document Agent because it lets employees route reports to other employees via email or over Medtronic's intranet. Kannankutty expects that increasing use of electronic reports will save a few trees by replacing the 50-page printouts some analysts receive daily. Medtronic has assigned a database administrator-level developer to work on BusinessObjects full time, handling administration and new report development.

Although Medtronic has almost two dozen BusinessObjects 3.1 universes defined, the 20 power users participating in the BusinessObjects 4.0 beta pilot program have migrated only one universe and defined just one new mega universe that gives them easy one-stop access to a maximum amount of data. According to Kannankutty, Medtronic's current Oracle databases can't take advantage of all BusinessObjects 4.0's new features, so Medtronic will have to use new star and snowflake schemas to redesign many of its existing BusinessObjects 3.1 universes. These schemas simplify access to relational data, OLAP style.

BusinessObjects, like most reporting and query tools, lets developers and users store report templates. Kannankutty estimates that Medtronic has about 100 active, structurally unique reports. When Medtronics combines these reports with the different universes, the company has about 300 different reports. About 70 percent of Medtronic's users run canned MIS-prepared reports. The other users do further analysis, sometimes using the OLAP features that support multidimensional analysis and drill-down capabilities.

At Medtronic, new BusinessObjects users attend a one-day training course based on the standard BusinessObjects training manual. They then spend another one to one-and-a-half days training on the Medtronic-specific data and universes. Over the years, Kannankutty has made a few discoveries. He says that users are more comfortable with Excel terminology than BusinessObjects terms (e.g., pivot table rather than matrices). He's also learned that designing reports with one tab that offers a two-dimensional view of data and another tab that offers a drillable view of the same data is useful.

Overall, Kannankutty is enthusiastic about Business Objects and believes the company has a sound strategic vision. He hopes to shift some of Medtronic's 1000+ executive information system (EIS) users, who typically aren't interested in investing two days to learn about BusinessObjects, to the Web-savvy, thin-client version of BusinessObjects when it ships. For more information about Medtronic, point your browser to

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