User Spotlight: Ion Media NetworksPowerOLAP brings Real-Time Reporting to Prime Time
PowerOLAP solution is an all-around hit—for report-creation, operating and capital budgeting, and project accounting—with data dynamically sourced from Epicor.
“THERE’S NO WAITING FOR THE POWEROLAP REPORTS—WE SEE THEM INSTANTANEOUSLY.”
~Mandy Chan, Vice President of Financial Systems. Ion Media Networks
User Story: PowerOLAP is Ready for Prime Time
PowerOLAP has proven to be “ready for prime time”—and more—as an all-around business intelligence solution at Ion Media Networks, formerly known as Paxson Communications—a broadcasting company with the largest television station group in the country. “With PowerOLAP, we can react more strategically, moving from data analysis to management by instantaneously checking our operational and financial performance numbers, sourced dynamically from Epicor as well as in-house systems,” noted Mandy Chan, Vice President of Financial Systems. Chan oversees the customized solution that provides immediate reporting via Excel; online operating and capital budgeting capabilities, also through Excel; and project accounting that can break down budgeted expenses to the single staff level—all achievable via PowerOLAP’s integration with Ion Media’s underlying database systems.
With over 100 different stations in markets throughout the country, Ion Media has emerged as one of the premier national broadcast networks. The company continues to grow through the acquisition of additional stations and the expansion of its distribution through cable agreements. Its information needs are impressive, ever changing and immediate, not least because revenues are based in part on a highly perishable product—advertising, the costs for which depend on time-slot, ratings, and sell-out rate.
“WITH POWEROLAP, WE CAN REACT MORE STRATEGICALLY, MOVING FROM DATA ANALYSIS TO MANAGEMENT BY INSTANTANEOUSLY CHECKING OUR OPERATIONAL AND FINANCIAL PERFORMANCE NUMBERS, SOURCED DYNAMICALLY FROM EPICOR AS WELL AS IN-HOUSE SYSTEMS”
Ion media had to perform timely, cumbersome imports of data to their Epicor ERP system. “Previously we used file formats to import data into Epicor, which could take up to 30 minutes for each station. We are able to import files into PowerOLAP, in as little as one or two minutes.” The television and media giant did not also have a capital budgeting software solution that integrated easily with Epicor. “We didn’t have a tool for capital budgeting this—we created it entirely within PowerOLAP through its integration with Epicor,”
“WE DIDN’T HAVE A TOOL FOR CAPITAL BUDGETING THIS—WE CREATED IT ENTIRELY WITHIN POWEROLAP THROUGH ITS INTEGRATION WITH EPICOR”
Chan first addressed the company’s reporting requirements. PowerOLAP’s front end use of Excel—requiring less training than other products—and its back-end integration with Epicor made the PARIS solution an optimal choice. “Excel-based reports from PowerOLAP cubes, with data sourced from Epicor, have replaced the pre-formatted reports we did before. There’s no waiting for the PowerOLAP reports—we see them instantaneously. Along with speed, PowerOLAP provides us with a greater choice in what tool to use for new reports, based on performance.” PowerOLAP’s integration tool, OLAP Exchange®, also sources data from Ion Media’s in-house databases—Sales, Billing, Advertising—enabling Chan to “slice-and-dice” data from Epicor and from these systems and then combine them easily within standard or ad hoc reports. The reports can be customized with all of Excel’s graphical and formatting features.
“THERE’S NO WAITING FOR THE PowerOLAP REPORTS—WE SEE THEM INSTANTANEOUSLY.”
Ion Media leverages the PowerOLAP-Excel connection for an operating budget system as well. “Previously we used file formats to import data into Epicor, which could take up to 30 minutes for each station. Now staff enter figures directly into cubes via Excel templates, showing immediate results. We are also able to import files into PowerOLAP, in as little as one or two minutes.” Chan added: “We now use our budgets proactively—since we are able to see variance data so quickly, we can alert people who have gone over budget and get them to cut back.” This is a prime example of how PowerOLAP enables firms to strategize via online budgeting, reacting quickly on the basis of up-to-the instant data.
PowerOLAP is used for capital budgeting as well, with data from Epicor’s AP and PO components. “We didn’t have a tool for this—we created it entirely within PowerOLAP through its integration with Epicor,” Chan noted. “We now can do variance analysis to determine what has been committed that has been budgeted or not budgeted, and we are able to re-forecast on the basis of ‘what if’ scenarios.”Another benefit of Ion Media’s PowerOLAP solution is for detailed project accounting. “This capability isn’t available on the budgeting side in Epicor, only in Actuals. Now we create detailed budgeting for travel and expenses at the staff level, sourcing each person’s name from Epicor into PowerOLAP, and see the variances with Actuals.”
“WE NOW USE OUR BUDGETS PROACTIVELY—SINCE WE ARE ABLE TO SEE VARIANCE DATA SO QUICKLY, WE CAN ALERT PEOPLE WHO HAVE GONE OVER BUDGET AND GET THEM TO CUT BACK.”
Beyond the numerous solutions that PowerOLAP has provided already—for reporting, budgeting, project accounting—Chan foresees extending the product’s use at Ion Media. For one, there is the ongoing integration with other in-house systems beyond Epicor. This points up one of the main benefits of the product: because PowerOLAP can source data from many underlying systems at once—via OLAP Exchange® or the lightning fast importation of text files—companies like Ion Media can continually extend their solution without purchasing additional modules or cobbling other products onto their system. “And we foresee Web-enabling our capabilities,” Chan added. “For example, so that we could send a file showing the details of capital expenditures awaiting approval, and then allow the management person to add an electronic signature to indicate OK.” This could be accomplished via PowerOLAP’s Web Portal, which extends a users’ real-time capabilities, through a Web browser alone, to create unlimited reports and analytical views, including graphs, of data made available to them. Web Portal also allows clients to enter figures into PowerOLAP cubes—from wherever they can make an Internet connection.
“WE FORESEE WEB-ENABLING OUR CAPABILITIES, SO THAT WE COULD SEND A FILE SHOWING THE DETAILS OF CAPITAL EXPENDITURES AWAITING APPROVAL, AND THEN ALLOW THE MANAGEMENT PERSON TO ADD AN ELECTRONIC SIGNATURE TO INDICATE OK.”
While it might be overstating matters to say that PowerOLAP has made Chan feel (to borrow a title of one of Ion Media’s hits) “Touched by an Angel”, we might say that the overall solution at Ion Media is turning out to be—a “Bonanza”!
Name: Ion Media Networks
Location: West Palm Beach, Florida
Product/Service: Ion Media Television, Ion Television, Ion Life, Quobo
Revenue: Over 270 Million
Employees: Over 430
Quick report generation system
Create a streamlined budgeting system and data import from data sources such as Epicor
Develop a capital budgeting solution for variance analysis and forecasting.
PowerOLAP integration with Excel and ERP system Epicor allows for instant reporting in Excel using data sourced from Epicor.
Flexibility to create different report formats and utilize formatting and graphical features of Excel.
Quick data imports from ERP system for budgeting, analysis and ad hoc reporting.
Ability to perform data analysis such as; forecasting, variance analysis for budgeting, what-if-analysis among others.
Ability to speed up data imports from Epicor ERP system.
Flexibility and integration with Excel and existing ERP system.
Quick Development of analytical and budgeting data models.
93% decrease in data import times from ERP system–decrease from 30 minutes to 2 minutes.
Capital Budgeting capability, Ion Media can perform variance budget analysis, re-forecasting among others.
Integration of PowerOLAP to Epicor and other in-house systems and databases.
Ability to enable web report sharing and analysis through PowerOLAP web portal.
No Capital Budgeting tool for forecasting and variance analysis
Timely Data imports from ERP system
Third Party Integration
Analysis/Reporting: Microsoft Excel