Empowering Users to Create Information Dashboards

  • June 10, 2013
  • SaeJong USA Inc
  • Case Study

By Bill Lydon, Editor

Over the last two years, Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) UK Petrochemicals in the United Kingdom has empowered users to create custom dashboards based on Excel spreadsheet data and calculations using software from Sabisu. SABIC, a manufacturer of chemicals, fertilizers, plastics and metals, was founded in 1976. Today, SABIC has operations in more than 40 countries with a global workforce of more 40,000 people. I recently talked with SABIC’s Paul Ettridge, their Manufacturing Automation Manager, to learn more about the Sabisu implementation.

Paul Ettridge described how SABIC has a large manufacturing environment complicated by systems from multiple vendors.  That, in addition to legacy systems, made extracting and sharing data across the organization difficult and time consuming. By deploying Sabisu software, SABIC users can now quickly create dashboards, populating them with data from spreadsheets. Ettridge commented, “The IT approach typically is to eradicate all the satellite systems and come up with a big monolithic BI (Business Intelligence) system…I have a lot of sympathy with that approach but you’re losing a lot of value while you try to get there, and when you get there it doesn’t usually meet your needs.”

Ettridge explained that Sabisu’s software is more agile and offers a more incremental approach than traditional IT methods. One option provided by Sabisu is for users to build an information source for their dashboards with spreadsheets based on calculations and aggregated data from a wide range of sources including DCS, business systems, and databases. There is a very low learning curve since users already understand and are familiar with spreadsheets and how to access data from databases and systems using add-ins.

The software enables people to organize their data around “Communities” related to areas of interest; like energy management, CO2 emissions or site improvement initiatives. Sabisu automatically updates spreadsheet and dashboard information so users are not required to request updates. Ettridge noted, “We get value very early, we get really good prototypes and accurate applications.” He described how, through using this software, they are creating value for a much larger part of the company in contrast to a Business Intelligence system which typically only serves the top 10% of the organization. Users are now up and running very quickly acquiring the information they need. Over time, the IT department will refine the access to the data sources for efficiency. By using analysis methods and insights, complex systems are hidden from the user and they can focus on the data they know is important. This data is now easily shared with other people in the company.

Dashboards are configured by users and published to communities

Sabisu is a software company based in the United Kingdom that has been providing visualization and collaboration software for customers in process industries since 2010. The software integrates with many systems common to the process industries including Historians, DCS, ERP, and Project Planning. Once the data is displayed in Sabisu, people can see easy-to-understand visualizations, share dashboards and collaborate with their teams. The Sabisu Publisher connects to Sabisu’s Cloud and On-Premise services, allowing users to create KPI dashboards from Excel reports and share them with team members. Once shared to a Community dashboard, the Sabisu Publisher will automatically update the data whenever a change is made in the spreadsheet ensuring everyone stays up to date.

Thoughts & Observations

Dashboards that provide various types of information and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) have grown in popularity over the last few years. I have talked with a number of user’s where the ownership of these can become an argument between automation and IT people. SABIC has developed a productive collaborative approach using Sabisu software that gives users the ability to meet the needs of their “communities” within the company. This approach makes sense since it empowers the subject matter experts in all areas of the company to create relevant analysis and dashboards with spreadsheets as the data source and aggregator. In the old model, the subject matter expert users would need to explain to an IT person what they wanted and hope the end result met their needs. In a sense, this new approach uses the subject matter experts as an extension of the IT development group.

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