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Energy company sees BI vendor as key in oil pipeline

Phenix Energy Group says it will use Information Builders BI software for performance management, forecasting and process improvement.

A Florida energy company drilled into business intelligence software and chose a system from Information Builders to help operate a planned oil pipeline across Central America and manage its financial performance.

Leaders of the Phenix Energy Group of Palm Harbor, Fla., which is awaiting financing for the pipeline, said they would purchase WebFOCUS business intelligence (BI) system from Information Builders, Inc. for several reasons, including ease of use, an intuitive drag-and-drop user interface, and data-visualization capabilities. They also like the cost and security features and the software's ability to integrate with ERP and other key systems.

Bruce Perrin, COO and CIO of Phenix, and John Becker, chief governance officer, said New York-based Information Builders will provide them with Reporting Server, Visual Discovery and several other WebFOCUS components to help them improve key processes and ultimately solve business problems.

"Overall, we're evangelists for Information Builders, simply because it is head and shoulders above anything we have ever seen from anybody irrespective of price," Perrin said in a call with Becker.

Over the past year or so, Phenix evaluated and demonstrated numerous BI systems from vendors including Birst, Domo, IBM Cognos, Oracle Hyperion, Qlik, SAP, SiSense and Tableau Software. "We've evaluated so many of them I've lost count," Perrin said. "If you made me write it down, it would take a couple of pages to list every BI product we've looked at."

Becker said BI from Information Builders will be key for corporate performance management, continuous process improvement, business planning, forecasting and generally maximizing revenues. "The predictive analysis modules within it are very powerful," he said. "They are cutting-edge in terms of the BI industry. We are very much interested in those capabilities, as well."

BI could help manage risks, improve business processes

In a posting on IT Central Station about Information Builders BI tools, Becker said the oil pipeline would be high risk. Any downtime could cost millions of dollars in lost revenues. As a result, the company's BI system could pay for itself many times over by providing information that could avert accidents and enable efficiencies through improvements in business processes, he said. He also disclosed that Phenix has a "burgeoning business partnership" with Information Builders.

Becker declined to be specific about setup costs. Phenix will employ a lab for testing all software systems including Information Builders', and deploy based on the results of that proof-of-concept process.

Perrin also said that Information Builders offered a stronger on-premises approach, which is needed because of Phenix's security requirements, which precluded going with cloud-based systems. Connectivity was another critical issue since the pipeline would be entirely in Central America. "We did not want to have any kind of software that required connectivity to the outside world via the internet," Perrin said.

Phenix is anticipating initial funding in 2015 for a long-planned, 280-mile Atlantic-to-Pacific oil pipeline across Honduras. The $2.5 billion pipeline is designed to reduce costs and time for shipping Venezuelan and other Atlantic-based crude oil to Asia, now largely served by shipping east across the Atlantic and around to the western Pacific Rim nations.

Phenix needs the funding to purchase the Information Builders system and other technology, hire construction workers, clear land, build facilities and pipelines and hire IT and other staff.

Perrin said the Information Builders system is straightforward and could be used by managers, engineers and executives without much training. It could also reduce staff requirements, which is critical because of Phenix's massive capital costs.

Becker said the system is a best fit for Phenix because it can work hand in glove with the company's plans for ERP software from The Sage Group, based in England; Phenix's SCADA system from ICONICS of New York to control remote equipment; and its business process management system from iDatix in Clearwater, Fla.

For example, Information Builders dashboards could present profit and loss data, operating and other financial health data from the ERP system, and other organizational indicators of success. Doing so will help department heads understand and improve the financial health of the company in areas such as operating costs for staff, fuel, transportation and utilities, for example.

"What we want to be able to do is to take that information from Sage and put it in a digestible, user-friendly, intuitive interface so that people can routinely see, understand the importance of, and analyze that performance data … without sticking valuable, key IT resources in the middle."

Editor's note: Phenix Energy Group officials say they have not made a final decision about the products being purchased for this initiative.

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