Seeing Right Through Data

Steinbeis student develops concept for a new group reporting system

How much turnover was made in individual areas of the business, throughout the whole group of companies? Which products have we sold and in which periods? How high was the direct product profitability for a specific group of products and could the costs be met? These were the issues looked at by Martin Pantel for a degree project as part of his studies toward a Master of Science in Controlling & Consulting at the School of Management and Technology, which belongs to Steinbeis University Berlin. Pantel’s project was sponsored by MAGE Solar AG.

MAGE Holding includes four business divisions spanning four areas of technology: roof and construction systems, solar and water technology, facades and solar assemblies, and fixtures. MAGE Solar AG is responsible for photovoltaic products and is experiencing rapid growth. This is reflected in the operational setup of the organization: As a result of its growth, the business structure and processes change frequently, and reporting systems have to be adapted accordingly. New factors can have an influence on current and future reports, as well as internal and external reporting requirements. Given the situation, it was necessary to take a closer look at the underlying approach taken to reporting, and to make adjustments where necessary. In particular, one interesting approach for MAGE Solar AG to consider is the central storage of data. There was particular interest in a multidimensional “data cube” for use with analysis and evaluations. This data cube could allow for logical illustration of data, with each dimension of the cube providing easy user access.

One of the key goals for Pantel during his master’s degree was to investigate the existing IT systems landscape at MAGE Solar AG and come up with a concept for possible ways to introduce a data cube within the company. MAGE Solar AG would derive value from having a uniform basis of data and this would improve decision-making in senior management. Furthermore, it would be of benefit to MAGE Solar AG to have automatically produced reporting data which is not just current, but also easy to interpret.

A key aspect of Pantel’s project was to develop a concept for the data cube in such a way that reports would generate the right data. Ideally, data would have to be produced automatically and be understandable and up to date. Pantel also had to consider the eventuality that new units or business areas may be set up and these would also have to be included in reporting systems. This would be an opportunity to add value for MAGE Solar AG by keeping the reporting process flexible and make it easy and efficient to manage. To establish a foundation for implementing the data cube concept – in keeping with the outlined requirements – Pantel developed a theoretical model for the different reporting dimensions. These included different classification hierarchies. While looking at possible approaches, the priority for Pantel was to do justice to the situation and requirements of MAGE Solar AG, focusing primarily on various feasibilities within individual dimensions and ways to integrate this into the reporting system to make evaluations. Overall, it would have to be possible to implement requirements laid down later by senior managers and do this quickly in keeping with quality expectations and objectives. Based on the database model that was developed, Pantel examined different concepts and indicated next steps toward a possible implementation.

The results of Pantel’s work speak for themselves. The company now has a comprehensive, standardized and multidimensional model that generates meaningful content and can be used in MAGE Solar AG group reporting. Once the concept has been implemented, it will be possible to create reports with full access to cost accounting. The data cube means that reporting data can be evaluated and exported for the entire MAGE Solar Group. The system also provides senior managers and people responsible for sales issues with an additional instrument of analysis and control.

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