In early 2004, P&G's IT organization set out to develop BI portals for every P&G information worker. Killer idea, but "six years ago, no one had a clue how we would achieve that," says Andrea Simone, chief enterprise architect, whose job at the time was to deliver that project. By mid-2005, after an 800-user pilot, the harsh reality set in. "The promise was bigger than the actual delivery," Simone says.
The software they were using would never scale to tens of thousands of users. And even if it could, it would never deliver the action-oriented visualizations the company wanted. Simone's team made a lot of tabular, spreadsheet-type data available in one place, but that configuration didn't meet the grand vision of a highly visual "cockpit."
Getting it right would take a complete architectural shift--away from BI as a platform and more toward a portal. And to build that portal would take more than a year. "I told Filippo, 'I'm going to go underwater for 18 months. You have to have my back,'" Simone recalls.
This approach--setting a huge stretch goal, with no clear idea how you'll get there--happens all the time in other parts of the business, such as marketing, Simone notes. In IT, people tend to get hemmed in by the reality of what's possible today. Not so Passerini. "He always asks you to push beyond your comfort zone," Simone says.
Today, 38,000 employees use the cockpit. The idea is to put an end to people fine-tuning which metrics and results get the most emphasis in the spreadsheets they would otherwise e-mail around. It also lets people focus on the biggest problems--regions that are losing market share, so that execs can drill down and find out why, or areas that are booming and might merit more resources. "Cockpits let us manage the business by exception," Passerini says.
The cockpit concept powers the business sphere, the 16-seat executive briefing room that McDonald and the most senior executives use weekly. Often, their discussions center on one of McDonald's business goals of "growing share profitably." The discussion might start with a look at what has happened to market share and profit in various regions, then look to forecasts. That leads to scenarios--say, four views of Western Europe based on whether the overall market rises or falls and whether P&G hits or misses its goals for share of that market.
The data, as Passerini mentioned, isn't perfect. The team takes a hybrid approach to data, says Guy Peri, a director who oversees the business analysis systems. Where it has live data, such as sales data direct from a retailer, it uses that. Where it doesn't, the team creates models to project results. And where it has to model, it's looking for ways to get that real data.
BI is one of the key elements of McDonald's push to digitize "end to end." And there's plenty of work left to do. The cockpit's only on the PC today; it must be mobilized for use on smartphones. The business sphere exists only at headquarters today, but the IT team's working to create 20 smaller-scale spheres around the world over the next three months, so that business leaders can get the same immersive data experience and share it over videoconferences. (P&G has more than 80 Cisco telepresence studios worldwide.)
So what became of Simone, the team leader who told Passerini he needed to disappear for 18 months to get the cockpit done? He got promoted. And his new task is nothing short of digitizing the company--the point man for CEO McDonald's mandate.