DataAssist Business Intelligence roll out across Africa

DataAssist has rolled out several instances of DataAssist Business Intelligence (DataAssist BI) to various Celtel offices in Africa. DataAssist will help the telecommunications company by improving the day-to-day management of the information generated by its millions of subscribers.

DataAssist BI Module is an information management tool which provides a business with all its information management and reporting requirements in a single environment. It was designed to operate seamlessly across all business functions and is able to extract data from almost any source or multiple sources simultaneously.

The product offers companies the capability to draw reports from any ODBC (open database connection) database, using a comprehensive dialect manager. Companies can use DataAssist BI irrespective of their database of choice, assured that their current reports can easily migrate to new systems with little or no impact on users.

Celtel is a mobile telecommunications company operating across several African countries. The company was acquired by the Zain Group and is in the process of being rebranded as Zain, to further the parent company’s drive to offer customers one network which spans throughout two continents, the Middle East and Africa.

Zain currently serves 50 million customers in 22 countries on both continents.

After the proof of concept exercise was completed, Celtel moved quickly to deploy the DataAssist BI Module at other sites. Although each site was different and the individual requirements varied slightly, the basic implementation was the same.

In the first phase DataAssist BI will supplement Celtel’s billing system. The current post-paid billing solution is capable of handling this very important financial aspect of mobile communications, but does not provide the reporting functionality Celtel requires. During phase two DataAssist will integrate DataAssist BI into Celtel’s Ericsson Pre-Paid Billing environment.

The exercise was well received and DataAssist was retained to complete installations at sites in the following countries: Burkina Faso, Chad, Congo (Brazzaville), DRC, Gabon, Kenya, Niger, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. The merger and integration into the Zain fold caused some delays in the implementation, but these were overcome by co-operation between DataAssist and the relevant Celtel management structures.

Learning the Benefits

As the projects were launched, both sides realised they had much to learn. Celtel supports the largest telecommunications customer base in Africa and the implementation team had to adapt the rollout plan to meet additional requirements from the client. The requirements Celtel listed grew as more was learnt about the functionality available in the application.

Data integrity is critical and non-negotiable for the telecoms operator in every region, as is the need to reduce delays in providing accurate and up-to-date reporting data for financial and management analysis, as well as for auditing purposes. Since data integrity and the ability to collect and deliver current and accurate information is part and parcel of any DataAssist BI implementation, DataAssist was able to meet Celtel’s needs and even exceed them. In the DRC, for example, DataAssist’s presentation of the report designs, and the billing analysis which the DataAssist BI application can assimilate from its billing system, fully demonstrated the value of DataAssist BI in that environment.

Revenue management reporting and analysis, a process which previously took weeks, is now readily available from DataAssist BI when required. Furthermore, the printing of invoices for corporate customers previously consisted of a large number of pages for each customer account in the DRC market. This was due to the region’s unusually high number of post-paid billing clients. The printing of one account could sometimes result in almost 45 minutes delay. DataAssist BI was able to assimilate this information and print a corporate customer’s account in less than 40 seconds.

DataAssist BI

“DataAssist BI has been designed to operate seamlessly across all business functions and is able to extract data from almost any source, or multiple sources simultaneously,” says Manny Moreira from DataAssist. “It is, therefore, able to access information from the billing solution and deliver more in-depth management and production reports that the company’s leadership can use for improved decision-making.”

The DataAssist BI Module’s normal reporting functions include WYSIWYG report layouts, totals, subtotals and output formatting. It also supports sub-reporting and embedded objects, as well as a powerful scripting language which provides precise control over report output. The data can be exported to multiple formats, including HTML, PDF and Microsoft Excel.

To meet the needs of modern, dispersed organisations, DataAssist BI is fully web-enabled. It can be run from a web browser, without any loss of functionality, or set to execute remotely and publish the results on the web.

DataAssist BI not only offers users the capability to print text reports, but also provides leading-edge charting capabilities that allow the user to create interactive graphs, ready for presentation. The system produces standard pie, bar or line graphs and even more sophisticated contour graphs.

To enhance productivity amongst users, DataAssist BI also provides a workflow-based scheduling engine which can automate reporting tasks. Instead of having to manually run a report at regular intervals, the system performs it automatically, at scheduled times, and provide feedback via e-mail.

“To ensure the company’s data always remains secure, DataAssist BI implements user profiling that allows column and low-level security on any database,” adds Moreira. “This ensures that DataAssist BI is able to gain the information it requires, without interfering with the client’s application or data.”

Celtel opted for this application, because of DataAssist BI capability to easily scale from 1 to 300 users, its constantly improving language support, as well as the low cost.

DataAssist provides on-site installation and maintenance support at each Celtel site. It has completed installations at three African locations, with more to follow. Each implementation is customised to suit the specific country’s unique information priorities in terms of production reporting, business intelligence and system audits.

“A BI system is only as good as the results it delivers,” says Moreira. ”Our systems and services are built or configured as close as possible to the client’s requirements and backed by excellent in-house support.”