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Analytics and Big Data Aid the Public Sector



Public Sector/ Technology







Solution provides social welfare organizations the ability to measure their performance against KPIs.



Pentaho Data Integration and Pentaho Business Analytics automate data processing and improve access to data.


  • Knowledge transfer: Offers end-user training on Athena BI.
  • Rapid time-to-value: Rolled out new improvements within four months.
  • Power to the user: Employees given the ability to control their own reports.
  • A step towards change: Athena BI will now be rolled out to more organizations.

New legislation in Belgium prompts Cipal to develop a business intelligence application.

The Challenge: Adapt to New Legislation by Adopting BI

Cipal is an information and communications technology (ICT) provider based in Geel, Belgium. For more than 30 years, the company has served the public sector and public institutions in the Flanders region with innovative and reliable ICT and e-government solutions and services on a quality-driven and cost-covering basis. Cipal has a unique structure in Flanders because it is the only public ICT company in the region and is owned and controlled by local and provincial governments.

Pentaho supported our efforts to deliver Athena BI on spec, on time and on budget.

– Sven Meermans, Business Development Manager, Cipal

Although Cipal has 203 government stakeholders, it is completely self-supporting. Cipal aims to offer all its IT services in the cloud including Software as a Service, Desktop as a Service, Infrastructure as a Service and now also data Warehouse as a Service.

Belgium is enacting government legislation requires municipalities to publicly declare policy objectives and their action plans to meet these through key performance indicators (KPIs). Social welfare organizations handle a broad range of public services for people who are unemployed, elderly, disabled, seeking asylum and otherwise needing support. Municipalities allocate funds for these services from local tax revenues at their discretion and are accountable to their residents.

The new legislation for planning and reporting transparency represents a major operational and cultural change for the local municipalities, so Cipal was enlisted to support them in developing new systems and processes. Due to the social welfare organization’s need to publish their performance against KPIs, Cipal proposed to develop and pilot a BI application similar in functionality to what is normally available in provide enterprise, to four social welfare organizations. Cipal sought a BI application it could tailor and rebrand as “Athena” – named after the Greek goddess of wisdom.

Belgium’s government enlisted Cipal to develop and pilot a business intelligence application similar in functionality to leading commercial apps for social welfare organizations. Cipal wanted to find a solution that would include data integration, dashboards, reporting, analysis and data mining.

Cipal created Athena BI to make fast, transparent enterprise-class KPI benchmarking a reality in local government. The software provides a 360-degree view of social welfare organizations from one central data warehouse, enabling managers to actively steer local plans and budgets, rather than reacting.

Before Athena BI, the individual social welfare associations managed their human resources, financial and civilian (CRM) data locally using a wide range of stand-alone systems – from manuals to Excel spreadsheets. Many of these systems were very cumbersome to learn and use, expensive to maintain, and only gave employees enough information to react to, rather than anticipate problems. The fact that municipal data was not connected also meant that there was no view of the big picture or comparisons between social welfare organizations.

The Solution: Pentaho Data Integration, Pentaho Business Analytics

Following an exhaustive review of traditional and open-source BI vendors, Cipal chose Hitachi Vantara’s Pentaho solution. In the end, they decided to embed Pentaho into their Athena BI product. Cipal picked this solution for a variety of reasons. They valued that Pentaho is open source technology that has a wide range of fully integrated modules. Pentaho’s highly competitive total cost of ownership and flexible infrastructure also factored into their purchasing decision.

They have deployed the full Pentaho platform including data integration, reporting, dashboards and analysis. Additionally, Cipal hosts Pentaho on a cluster of virtual machines such as Red Hat, Linux, and zLinux. The solution is set up to be multitenant, so only one version of the application is needed, and Pentaho’s metadata is used extensively to make sure row-level security is correctly applied across the different users at each location.

Cipal was filling up its data warehouse with data from different data sources. In addition to human resources (HR), and financial data, Cipal planned to introduce support for analyzing a wide range of data sets including CRM (relating to the service requests by local residents), civilian affairs, culture, nursing homes and spatial planning.

Cipal’s long-term plans include adding Pentaho’s data mining capabilities. They hope this can aid with profiling customers who use municipal services, in order to plan more efficiently and improve the experience.

Cipal chose Hitachi Vantara’s Pentaho solution for these reasons:

  • Wide range of fully integrated modules including extract, transform, and load (ETL), and visualization tools, which meant Cipal could use Pentaho to deliver a complete OEM-branded solution that was tailored to precise stakeholder defined specifications.
  • Highly competitive total cost of ownership (TCO) that is a fraction of traditional, proprietary alternatives. Belgium, like many other countries, is making budget cuts. Keeping IT costs to a minimum is vital to ensure that Belgian taxpayers, who ultimately fund the system, get the best value for their money. With its fixed annual subscription, Cipal’s licensing costs stay manageable; adding an extra customer to Athena BI doesn’t incur incremental fees.
  • Flexible infrastructure enabling Athena’s shared services to be hosted and deployed in the cloud. Cipal’s public sector clients enjoy flexibility and cost benefits that include the ability to access dashboards from any web browser, scale the number of users up and down as needed, and outsource application maintenance, hosting and data security.

The Outcome: Improved Services for the Belgium Government

Rapid time to value - In just four months, Cipal completed and deployed Athena BI within budget to four social welfare associations. The Athena BI implementation included extensive testing and workshops with end users. This also included holding workshops with end users to review functionality, and extensive testing with back-office staff and operations managers.

Power to the user - Human resources managers are now empowered to create, customize and analyze reports on their own time without relying on IT. For example, they can create human resources staff reports showing employee demographics, like the number of full-time versus part-time employees and attendance data. They can also see how many people apply for specific jobs, and through which channel (e.g. website, agencies), in order to measure which is the most effective.

A step towards change - After the success of the pilot project with human resources data, Athena BI will now be rolled out to more social welfare associations, municipalities, and provinces. There will also be additional functionality to monitor financial and other data. This is a major step forward in the right direction to provide long-term significant value to the Belgium government.

Knowledge transfer – Cipal collaborated with Hitachi Vantara partner, BiSmart, to offer end-user training on Athena BI.

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