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SkyCity, Pumpkin Patch, King Salmon and others boost business with business intelligence

The evolution and capabilities of business intelligence are best understood through the processes taken by SkyCity.

CIO Mike Clarke told the recent Business Intelligence Summit in Auckland that SkyCity, and its many separate businesses, create and need data, which must be analysed to ensure best business decision making.

SkyCity, Clarke says, has taken a five-stage journey. Stage one looked at what happened; stage two looked at why; stage three began predicting what will happen; stage four considered operations and what is happening; with stage five using active warehousing to see how the business can make things happen.

Over the past 10 years it has increased the use of its data warehouses and the ability to drill down information, and such capabilities have been utilised across the business, he says.

Such trends will continue with SkyCity’s technology roadmap driving greater use of dashboards and predictive analytics. By understanding how the business connects, if an action takes place in one area it can predict what will happen in another he says.

Childrens’ clothing retailer Pumpkin Patch uses Oracle Hyperion BI software to ensure timely and consistent information is available for its managers.

GM of IT, Zarina Thesin, says over the years this brought an organisational change across the business as its BI use has evolved, helped by partner Indigo.

The BI being delivered to management has changed from ad hoc reports, to key strategic information presented across the business.

Training is essential, along with executive support of the solution and any changes are peer reviewed to ensure all business units are up to speed she says.

The company has dealt with sales, stock and merchandise planning as strategic areas, and is now looking at customer campaigning and better utilisation of its knowledge base.

New Zealand King Salmon uses BI in its decision support systems, through analysis of its sales and profits and drilling into key performance indicators of the business.

The company also uses Oracle’s Hyperion interactive reporting tool, to secure ad hoc reporting.

Various scenarios can be built into the system, explains IT manager Simon Gutschlag, such as business initiatives and tactical strategies.

NZ King Salmon is now looking at alerts. If there is an out of the ordinary event, say in sales, alerts are given off and the company can take corrective action.

Gutschlag says the company gradually implemented BI systems as people need training to use them. With BI implementation deciding what information is relevant is crucial, as well as deciding on who has user access to the various layers of information as much of it is commercially sensitive.

The company plans further upgrades. Gutschlag says when done correctly, BI gives business leaders greater insights when planning ahead.

Invacare, a healthcare and wheelchair supplier, uses BI to analyse customer and product revenue and margins across a number of different reporting dimensions. These include sales regions, sales representatives, customer groups, product groups, geographies and so on, plus report budgeting against forecast.

It also built data marts for inventory and cost analysis. Prior to that, it used custom reports generated from a JD Edwards’ ERP system, says Greg Rossiter, IT director Asia-Pacific.

“Our end users now have the ability to generate what they want, when they want it,” he says.

Wherescape Red is used for prototyping, building and changing data marts.

“Wherescape Red gives us the ability to quickly get a feel for our data quality and early modelling provides the business the opportunity to make changes on the fly,” Rossiter says.

Invacare also uses Cognos 8.3BI and Planning for end user reporting, and SAS for detailed financial consolidation and modelling.

The Automobile Association (AA) uses SAS for management reporting and improving efficiency for its insurance businesses. This includes Enterprise Manager, a tool that links its core business platforms for data extraction.

AA senior marketing manager Mark McCabe says the technology has greatly improved the profitability of its businesses, by allowing better utilisation of the information it has at hand.

“We have a wealth of information from which to identify customer behaviours and then to use [it] for improving the effectiveness of marketing communications and business issue resolution,” McCabe says.

“Demonstrate capabilities, gain some experience and move on to the next problem,” he advises.

PGG Wrightson says BI has given it a real appreciation of how important each customer is to the company. It uses Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0, Proclarity, Reporting Services, Analysis Services, Excel, Wherescape RED and SQL Server.

“Microsoft Dynamics gives us the information around the customer, specifically around which customer accounts from different business units relate to each other. Our transactional data is kept in the data warehouse and we use the Reporting tools to bridge this gap and provide useful analysis,” says national sales support manager John Skurr.

Potential BI users must assess their needs leading up to implementation, adding that PGG Wrightson continually reassesses its BI needs. As well, consultants can help businesses understand the systems that will be needed and their requirements, Skurr says.

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