Real-time finance data drives innovation at Western Digital
The data storage company consolidated three legacy finance systems onto Oracle Cloud to automate processes, speed reporting, and boost productivity.
“Business users are manipulating data using visualizations in Oracle Analytics. An unexpected benefit was that users identified some anomalies, helping WD realize better quality in the data. We were able to have better insights and better forecasts as a result.”
Western Digital executives and key stakeholders needed real-time access to data and near real-time analytics and operational reporting from the cloud. Various reasons drove this demand: processing sales orders, supporting finance teams, expediting procurement transactions, and other instances of shared data being accessible to critical users for meaningful decision-making. Simply put, current systems just weren’t fast enough.
To further complicate matters, Western Digital’s inherent software infrastructure created a natural hurdle. As Western Digital acquired Hitachi Global Storage Technologies and SanDisk during the past decade, much of the company was using legacy platforms from three different companies and had an inventory of more than 2,000 applications. This wide breadth of platforms created constant churn in processes as data was constantly being moved and adapted based on a user’s needs. Creating strategic alignment while consolidating processes was a major objective—one that required significant buy-in from all parties involved.
Internal workflows moved slowly because users could receive analytical reporting only once a day. In fact, the data warehouse often took more than eight hours to refresh. Users were often left without access to business intelligence and analytics during the workday. When data was available, it was often 24 to 48 hours old.
The goal was clear: Western Digital needed a new cloud-based system that offered real-time or near real-time access to data and reporting, while leveraging emerging technologies such as machine learning and natural language processing. Due to Western Digital’s size and scope, the company required fast implementation with strong out-of-the-box capabilities to get things going quickly without significant customization.
Why Western Digital Chose Oracle
Roy championed going with Oracle because the suite of Oracle products would help Western Digital create efficiencies within its financial reporting and overall business. He led an initiative to create an “always-on” suite of Oracle products: Oracle Database technologies, Oracle Analytics Cloud, Oracle Cloud ERP, and Oracle Exadata.
Since implementing Oracle’s suite of solutions, Western Digital has experienced substantial process improvements. In terms of efficiency, the difference has been significant.
Time to access analytical data from Oracle Analytics Cloud has dropped by orders of magnitude, from a 24- to 36-hour lag in data refresh to about 20 minutes, thanks to Oracle Exadata Database Machine.
Installing this Oracle platform changed internal processes as well. First, it addressed the key need of standardizing all reporting (both operational and analytical), which in turn has changed workflows and increased overall efficiency. This includes eliminating redundant steps in legacy workflows and building toward a unified company process. In addition, Oracle Analytics Cloud’s inherent starter dashboards have opened the pool of potential users, allowing business users to create reports and build scenarios without any need for IT support.
In addition, the consolidation of data and platforms has streamlined workflows to minimize steps and eliminate redundancy. This alignment achieved one of the bigger-picture goals of the project: to create a single source of truth between the disparate groups within Western Digital and remove legacy discrepancies.
All of this has transformed the context of data within Western Digital. The caveat that “the data is recent but still hours old” was no longer an issue, and this built an inherent level of trust in the user base. This trickled down to the number of reports and projects generated, and the ease of Oracle Analytics dashboard has meant quick creation and enjoyable experimentation with data. “Our internal customers are ecstatic. There’s no longer a hesitation to use our business intelligence or data warehouse environment because the data is old,” Roy says.
While this implementation came with an upfront cost, that has been offset in the IT budget through logistical streamlining (without factoring in gained functional efficiency). The number of contractors required for maintenance and ongoing support decreased. “I would estimate a net-zero impact for the first year but a reduction in future years as we no longer need five contractors to support the existing architecture,” Roy says. Because Oracle Analytics delivers always-on data, Western Digital has been able to reduce the number of licenses for other analytics products.
Overall, Oracle Analytics has cut reporting time from more than 8 hours to 20 minutes. Previous ERP refreshes that took 24 to 48 hours now take 5 seconds. And Western Digital’s IT team is focused on strategic innovation instead of report creation.