Thorn EMI Computer Software has an exclusive licence agreement with Pilot Executive Software Inc of Boston, Massachusetts to distribute its Pilot executive information system throughout Europe. Pilot will be sold with Computer Software’s FCS decision support software as an integral feature. Thorn claims that the product, which can be seen as an alternative to IBM’s Information Centre concept, differs from other executive information systems in that it is mainframe-based rather than micro-based. And instead of employing someone to collate information at the end of each week to be accessed the following week, it provides external data and live corporate data immediately. Five-year old Pilot says its main aim is to bring senior non-technological executives the power of computer technology in a way that produces results. To do that information must be compressed by choosing the most important facts and bundling them in a way that will be easy to access. Alternatively, the computer can scan the available data according to a set of limits specific to each executive. In this way he will be working from the easiest level down while the computer goes in at the most detailed level and works up picking out the relevant information. Data is also organised into charts to show trends in sales, performance and so on. The executive is shown a screen with two groups of data; internal, including human resources and financial data, and external with news headlines, key ratios and market reports. The two combine to give the user his final objectives.
Take an example of a senior manager with a consumer electronics company. He calls up a list of all his areas including TV, Radio and Stereo and notices that Radio has a problem; profits are falling but costs are rising. 9370 or VAX Why? Using either a touch screen, mouse or keyboard he can go to Radio and call in a trends screen. In this case profits have been up and down over the past year so he still doesn’t know what has gone wrong. Using a utilities feature he is able to see if anyone has left him any messages relating to the problem. In his mailbox he finds a note telling him research and development costs have been rather high recently. So he goes back to the financial summary of Radio and accesses research and development where he discovers one of the projects has run way over budget. By calling up the original screen he can look at the human resources section to find out who was in charge of the project. And by using the computer’s ability to scan he will be aware of any exceptional items. At this point he will have enough information to follow up the matter with the research and development department. If he wishes to change the limits of the computer’s ability to scan and pick up information – say he wants to know as soon as radio profits drop below ?600,000 a year instead of the existing ?800,000 – he simply deletes the relevant entry and enters the new variable. Pilot is available on MS-DOS micros coupled with DEC’s MicroVAX or VAX, the IBM 9370 range and VM/CMS. It has the ability to access IBM DB2 and Lotus 1-2-3 files as well as gaining information from news services like World Reporter and Dow Jones. Thorn EMI Computer Software expects to sell 50 copies of Pilot in the UK this year and 110 in total throughout Europe. It has already been installed with British Telecom, ICI and BP in this country while General Electric and DEC are among the user base in the US. Pilot claims to have 75% of the US market for packaged executive systems. And ?22m-a-year Computer Software says it has 40% of the European mainframe decision support software market with a little under 15% of the US business. The basic product retails for ?60,000 on a MicroVAX, ?75,000 on VAX, while the IBM VM/CMS has a tag of ?100,000. This is on the basis of a 10-year licence with the first year’s maintenance and support from Computer Software included in the price.