Dialysis services provider adopts Microsoft SharePoint for data visualisation

Virtualisation

by Kate Heslop| 13 January 2014

Fresenius Medical Care chose Microsoft services and solutions for enhanced collaboration and business intelligence.

Fresenius Medical Care sought a business solution that would make it easy for employees to work together, visualise data, and access information. It adopted Microsoft SharePoint 2013 and used Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 data management software to convert third-party data into business intelligence reports. The company benefits from a self-service solution that improves productivity and streamlines data viewing and access to resources.

Situation

Fresenius Medical Care is dedicated to delivering innovative products and therapies to patients with chronic kidney failure. The company runs a network of more than 3,000 dialysis clinics around the world and treats more than 250,000 patients each year.
The company sought a collaboration solution that would interoperate easily with Microsoft Office applications, streamline permissions management, and provide access to corporate resources from any browser or device. Fresenius Medical Care wanted also to improve document management. "We were using IBM Lotus Notes and Lotus Quickr to share documents, but it lacked document control features," says Helge Hoehn, Senior Expert SharePoint and Project Manager at Fresenius Netcare, the IT service provider for Fresenius Medical Care. "We needed easier ways for teams to collaborate."

The production controlling department of Fresenius Medical Care analyzes data by using SAP business management software. To produce its monthly reports, it executed queries on SAP Business Information Warehouse (SAP BW), downloaded data to Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, and aggregated the data by applying complex formulas and macros. "We wanted a dynamic, interactive, and user-friendly business intelligence solution," says Hoehn. "We needed to replace the difficult manual processes. We were primarily looking for a data visualization tool that would use SAP as the data source."

Solution

The company had been using Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 since 2010. In April 2012, the Fresenius Medical Care Global Manufacturing Operations adopted SharePoint 2013 with a long-term vision to migrate all SharePoint 2010 dashboards and use SharePoint 2013 as the central collaboration and social system.

To test importing production data from the SAP BW, the company conducted a pilot program with SharePoint 2013. The pilot was designed to deliver highly secure business intelligence reports to the company's executive team. After it installed the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system on a virtual machine, the company migrated its SharePoint 2010 dashboards to SharePoint 2013 in a virtual environment and tested the site.

The business intelligence implementation (Figure 1) included three Microsoft SQL Server software components: SQL Server 2008 R2 Integration Services (SSIS) serves as the engine for extracting and transforming data; SQL Server 2008 R2 Analysis Services (SSAS) provides predictive analysis and interactive exploration of aggregated data; SQL Server 2012 Reporting Services (SSRS) features tools to create organizational reports. "SQL Server is the engine for managing multidimensional data," says Hoehn. "We use it to enrich and modify our data with formulas, which cannot be done with our former SAP BW implementation."

Because SAP BW aggregates data in cubes, Fresenius Medical Care replicated this data to SSAS by using the CountERPart for SAP tool available from Neudesic, a member of the Microsoft Partner Network. The company updates SSAS data cubes automatically daily, and users can run manual updates through the SharePoint interface. "It's possible to create an SSAS cube that has the exact same structure as the SAP cube," says Hoehn. "Once you've done that, you can use the business intelligence stack available in SharePoint to make your data look pretty."

The company uses PerformancePoint Services 2013, a component of SharePoint 2013, to generate reports, key performance indicators, and charts on its dashboards (Figure 2). "With the SharePoint 2013 rendering engine -- which uses HTML5 and JavaScript -- the dashboards appear similar no matter what device an employee uses to access the information."

Fresenius Netcare intends to deploy SharePoint 2013 for Fresenius Medical Care and for the Fresenius Group, a collection of four Fresenius business groups, and take advantage of improved features for setting permissions and sharing documents. "It's now possible to drag documents directly onto the site, and My Site functionality features improvements for saving, synchronizing, sharing, and moving content," says Hoehn. "Its new features make SharePoint 2013 a central place where employees can easily access and manage applications and information."

Benefits

By adopting SharePoint 2013, Fresenius Medical Care Global Manufacturing Operations provides executives with dynamic data visualizations, gives employees access from almost anywhere, increases productivity, and solves permissions challenges. "SharePoint 2013 is one of the best business solutions I've ever encountered," says Hoehn. "It's easy to work with and it interoperates well with other Microsoft technologies. You can use it to manage various business needs, from collaboration to business intelligence."

Provides Dynamic Visualisations of Business Data

Key executives at Fresenius Medical Care can make better decisions with data visualisations in SharePoint 2013 based on SAP data. They can use the high-quality views of performance indicators to assist with their decisions, and data conversion is automated so that the reports are always up-to-date. "We are very satisfied with the accurate data visualisations that we're seeing with the SharePoint 2013 dashboard," says Hoehn. "Furthermore, it's possible to use the business intelligence features available with SQL Server -- which are not available with SAP BW."

Enables Access from Multiple Browsers and Devices

Fresenius Netcare is looking to the future to ensure that employees from Fresenius Medical Care can access SharePoint 2013 corporate resources from anywhere on any device that is connected to the Internet. "Access from multiple browsers and mobile devices is becoming important and in demand -- especially for our executives," says Hoehn. "With SharePoint 2013, we're prepared for that."

Improves Employee Productivity

Once Fresenius Netcare deploys SharePoint 2013 across the Fresenius group, employees can more easily work together, share documents, visualize data, and access corporate resources. "It's much easier to navigate SharePoint 2013 because every task involves fewer clicks," says Hoehn. "Plus, SharePoint provides smooth interoperability with Microsoft Office solutions. There's no such interoperability between Lotus Notes and Office. We will save a lot of time."

Streamlines User Authorization

The IT professionals at Fresenius Medical Care no longer have to find workarounds to coordinate user permissions in SharePoint 2013. Says Hoehn, "One of our biggest pain points -- the authorization of users on documents and sites -- has been resolved."

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