National hardware chain Mitre 10 implemented a business intelligence system in eight weeks to centralise its reporting while maintaining compatibility with existing spreadsheets.\nFormed in 1959, Mitre 10 distributes supplies to some 450 Mitre 10 stores, making it the second biggest hardware network in Australia.\nCommercial manager at Mitre 10, Rob Pistritto, said the organisation\u2019s BI problems were fairly typical with most planing and reporting done in Excel.\n\u201cWe have data warehouse analysts that spend time generating reports,\u201d Pistritto said, adding budgets are also done in Excel.\nMitre 10 segments its product database in to a "family tree" hierarchy manage its products. As changes are made to the hierarchy, reports and budgets also need to change.\nDue to the significance of product hierarchy changes, it would take Mitre 10 four to five months to re-write all the reports each year -- and there was only one person in the organisation capable of doing it.\n\u201cWe had one subject matter expert who decided to leave,\u201d Pistritto said.\nMitre 10 partnered with Melbourne-based software integrator Naked Data to implement the Palo open source BI product from software company Jedox.\n\u201cWe needed a robust permanent solution in a timeframe of eight weeks,\u201d Pistritto said. \u201cPalo was quick to implement and has a lot of functionality. There is now one version of the truth and changes can be made in a day, not a week.\u201d\n\u201cWe use Excel templates to populate the database so it\u2019s easy to integrate. Excel has a lot of other functionality to enhance the reports so it\u2019s good for analysts.\u201d\nMitre 10 started using the open source components of Palo and then moved to the commercially-supported premium product as the demand for more functionality grew.\nThe application now supports sales and operational planning and merchandise reporting and can report any combination of products all in the one place.\n\u201cThis is information that people need to make decisions that will make money,\u201d Pistritto said, adding Mitre 10 is unique in that its stores are not mandated to buy products from the group.\nThe BI system reports on 250 product categories from a database of 2000 suppliers. Categories then roll into departments, which roll into business units which go into the company as a whole.\nStock turns and margins are all handled in Palo and the numbers are automatically calculated.\nWhat did Mitre 10 learn? Firstly, Pistritto says, eight week implementations are not good for you health.\n\u201cEnsure IT is fully involved from the beginning and be flexible enough to change your requirements,\u201d he said. \u201cBusiness ownership is also critical, as most of the reports were given to people, now they can be run directly from Palo.\u201d\nMitre 10 did look at other options, but it \u201cneeded something quickly\u201d and its IT team was supportive of an open source product.\n\u201cMost of what we saw couldn't do what we needed, but Palo was quite flexible,\u201d Pistritto said.\nMitre 10 is using Palo to include general ledger information from its FinanceOne application for a \u201ccomplete picture\u201d of the business tied back to accounts.\nIt is also using the Palo ETL server -- an Apache Tomcat Catalina servlet written in Java -- for getting data from the warehouse to Palo BI.\nNaked Data managing director Chris Mentor said Palo open source includes a Web-based spreadsheet with full cell formatting functionality, as well as the functions found in OpenOffice and Microsoft Excel.\n\u201cWith the charting capability you can a save report and make it available to any user or group in the organisation,\u201d Mentor said. \u201cIt is developed in PHP and Ajax. I\u2019ve been in the BI space for 10 years and never come across a system that is so fast.\u201d\nMentor said the Palo controls can be monitored and maintained through the Web and the ETL client interface is also all Web-based.