• United States
by Jeremy Kirk

Nike BI project seeks standardization

Feb 06, 20062 mins
Big DataEnterprise Applications

Nike, the shoe manufacturer that has experienced robust revenue growth in recent years, has tapped business-intelligence applications to arrive at “one vision of the truth” for analyzing its financial health.

The shoe giant was swamped with different reports from different units of its business around the world, many of which used vastly different methods to report their figures, said Marianne Faro, Nike’s European information manager, speaking at Gartner’s BI summit in London Monday. Nike was also dealing with how to incorporate new acquisitions into their system, she said.

To cope, it initiated a plan, called the Nike Business Intelligence Strategy, to enable faster and more standardized access to its data worldwide, Faro said. The company has replaced its transactional systems and enterprise resource planning system region by region over the last five years, she said.

Nike has five different datamarts that will eventually be consolidated into one Business Workflow-based warehouse from SAP, Faro said. The company also hopes to trim down the number of reports it generates. The 3,000 reports that the Europe, Middle East and Africa division generates on its business operations will be cut down to around 1,000 by fiscal 2008, Faro said.

Part of the difficulty is how different parts of the business used terms in different ways for their reports, she said. Nike is creating a common dictionary for terms to standardize those reports, she said. Faro said even defining a term that should be easy, such as a “month,” can be vexing: some company units use a calendar month in reports, while others vary the days according to their own needs.

“Suddenly you realize how different you are and how silo-based you’ve been working,” Faro said. “Data alignment sounds like the most boring stuff in the world but it’s the most important and the most perfect way of getting people to speak the same language.”

The definitions are needed to arrive at the “truth” — the single, standardized way of reporting numbers that mean the same throughout an organization, she said.

The Nike BI program has been endorsed by the management and most of all by the finance section, Faro said. While the finance systems are aligned together, they must deal with the different kinds of reports from the business units. “They feel the pain themselves,” Faro said.