Silvon Moves More of BI Tool Out Onto the Web
October 1, 2013 Alex Woodie
Silvon Software is in the process of rolling out new Web and mobile interfaces for the planning and forecasting components of its Stratum business intelligence suite. The new Web interfaces were delivered earlier this year, and this week the company is expected to announce a new iPad interface.
Stratum is a BI tool used primarily by manufacturers and distributors that rely on the IBM i server. The software is based on a relational online analytical processing (ROLAP) database–deployed either on DB2/400 or SQL Server–that gives customers the capability to store and summarize a granular level of detail. On top of this foundation, Silvon delivers pre-packaged dashboards, analytic KPIs, and sales and operations planning (S&OP) capabilities.
Prior to the new releases, the company had its dashboards and KPIs available for consumption over the Web. However, the S&OP and forecasting functionality was still confined to the fat-client Windows interface that customers have traditionally used. That changed with the July launch of Stratum 6.2, which enables the S&OP and forecasting capabilities to be accessed from a Web interface.
Stratum Planning is used to create budgets and plans. The product provides several ways to do that, including by seeding them with historic sales results, by inputting the results of Stratum’s forecasting capabilities, or by manually inputting new targets for sales and other operations.
The software allows users to compare their actual results against their budgets, and to make changes to the plans as needed, either at the detail or summary levels. Stratum also allows users to extrapolate their high-level plans down to the detail level (or vice versa) by applying historical proportions or user-defined percentages. Conversely, it allows users to “explode up” from low-level details to higher levels with their data models and plans.
Stratum Forecasting, meanwhile, is designed to help users in sales, finance, and operations create accurate baseline forecasts for things like seasonal demand, product hierarchies, product promotions, and slow-moving items. It supports multiple statistical models, including approaches like expert selection, exponential smoothing, Box-Jenkins, and event models, among others.
The upcoming version 6.3 release, which could be made as early as this week, will extend the S&OP and forecasting capabilities to the iPad. It will be particularly useful for helping employees make changes to plans while out in the field, says Frank Bunker, Silvon’s vice president of pre-sales, strategic customers, and IT.
“Imagine a guy with an iPad going out to talk to key customer. He learns they’re going to open a new facility, and that they’re going to order more product than originally expected,” Bunker says. “He can go right in to the planning application with the iPad and update Stratum with what he thinks this guy is going to do for the next three months.”
This is much more nimble approach than Silvon could previously offer. “I’m working with the customer, collaborating out in the field, whereas with client-server, we’re limited,” Bunker says.
This mobile approach brings other benefits too. For example, Stratum could enable an executive to receive an alert whenever a plan has been changed by more than 10 percent. This allows Stratum users to manage by exception, Bunker says.
The collaborative S&OP functionality is delivered from the Microsoft IIS Server, says Silvon CEO Mike Hennel. While the company has a strong heritage in IBM i and has many IBM i customers, many Stratum customers are electing to deploy in a Microsoft stack, he says.
“A lot of customers have invested heavily in Windows,” Hennel says. “As customers gain experiences in a SQL Server environment, what we found is customers are very comfortable deploying it . . . . We don’t see as many iSeries deployments.”
For more information, see www.silvon.com.