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BI for the Mid-Market
Laying the Foundation for Growth

by Kevin Quinn, VP, Product Marketing, Information BuildersThursday, August 12, 2010

Mid-sized organizations across a wide range of industries are finding that business intelligence and integration solutions are increasingly accessible, adaptable, and useful for helping them meet today’s challenges and thrive even in a tight economy.  As Howard Dresner reports in his just released “Wisdom of Crowds BI Market Study”: “Increased awareness, and lower cost and easier to deploy solutions, have made it possible for smaller organizations worldwide (including emerging geographies) to invest in BI.”  By helping organizations do more with less and increase their mobility, flexibility, and transparency, BI and integration technologies enable mid-sized organizations to achieve efficiencies of scale, cut costs, and improve profitability.

Several mid-sized organizations across each vertical have realized success through the implementation of BI systems. For example, Henny Penny, a builder of commercial pressure fryers, is now expanding into new markets by automating key workflows and improving external collaboration.  The company incorporated real-time process into its existing sales order supply chain, integrating various business-to-business (B2B) document formats with order entry activities supported by JD Edwards OneWorld.  The resulting business-to-business-to-application gateway eliminates manual processes and reduces errors and latency, enabling the company to work more efficiently with distributors, customers, and trading partners.

Utz, a leading East Coast snack food manufacturer and distributor, has also been able to grown sales significantly with a new BI system. With a Web-based BI system that generates reports gathered from wireless handheld devices out in the field, Utz has improved distribution and sales processes. The new system has allowed the company to coordinate sales and production of over 20,000 pounds of potato chips every hour and managing 700-plus delivery routes to over 30,000 stores, all while maintaining quality and freshness. In addition to streamlining production operations, the company delivers better service to its customers and sets a solid foundation for growth.

Hunt Petroleum shares similar success with Utz and integrated a BI system to not only gain valuable insight to the data that runs the organization, but also better serve its customers. The international oil and gas exploration company uses BI technology to better maintain its wells and ensure system accuracy. Faced with financial, production, reserve, and project-planning data in multiple, disparate database systems, it implemented an integrated reporting solution that gave employees real-time monitoring and reporting capabilities so they can now instantly know which wells are experiencing problems and prioritize the ones that need maintenance. With insight into this data, Hunt Petroleum is accountable for its operations and is able to allocate resources effectively.

City governments have also seen success in implementing BI platforms. The City of Cincinnati is a great example as they are using BI to improve government efficiency with a self-service reporting system that enables ad hoc and standardized reporting and exports financial data to Excel. Over 1,000 city employees across multiple departments, including Finance, Sewage, and Waterworks, quickly create, share, and distribute information.  Accountants instantly create and distribute reports via email, and the city automatically distributes thousands of pages to the correct departments via automated scheduling, bursting, and other techniques. With this system in place, the city has streamlined critical operations, eased the sharing of data across separate departments and now ensures resources are best allocated.

J & J Industries, one of the largest privately held carpet manufacturers in the US also implemented a BI system to allow separate departments across the organization were able to access and share real-time information as well as immediately detect and correct issues .With an intuitive Web dashboard including KPIs, J & J Industries improved customer service, decision-making, and accountability – all critical components at the midmarket level. The dashboard gives employees in inventory, claims, operations, special projects, finance, and manufacturing information to measure productivity, monitor production, and track important activities. If any department is unable to meet a production level, the system makes it quickly apparent so users can promptly research and remedy the situation, leading to better and faster daily decisions.

Integration technology powers these business intelligence solutions and enables mid-sized businesses to achieve great efficiencies.  For example, Murphy-Hoffman, one of the US’ largest dealers of Kenworth trucks, improved the speed and accuracy of its B2B processes by automating the exchange of purchase orders, parts catalogues, and other business documents.  In just 10 days, the company built a comprehensive enterprise application integration (EAI) architecture based on industry standards to streamline and automate workflows between the organization and its partners. Not only did this process improve efficiency by eliminating manual processes, but it enabled the company to effectively meet stringent vendor guidelines.

Eastern Mountain Sports, a leading outdoor specialty retailer, increased sales by using a centralized dashboard that combines data from operational systems with data from a comprehensive data mart that pulled information from point of sale and legacy applications.  By providing a high-level view of sales, inventory, margin levels, and other performance indicators, the company improved visibility into merchandising operations and resource allocation and propagated best practices.
IPC, the largest group purchasing organization for independent pharmacies in the US, seamlessly integrated important pharmaceutical data with its back-office information systems, facilitating complete adherence to FDA standards for curbing drug counterfeiting.  IPC can now manage, route, and store electronic documents that detail the chain of custody for each bottle of pharmaceuticals as it passes through warehouses, including all pertinent dates, the names of each party involved, and the addresses of key transactions.

As these experiences make clear, mid-size organizations across industries are taking great advantage of business intelligence and integration technologies to increase their value and grow sustainably. These organizations clearly have different requirements, but the essential technological needs are the same: accessing and integrating data to provide information from any system and deliver it quickly, easily, and conveniently to key decision-makers.  Vendors are responding to the needs of mid-sized business with versatile, flexible, and adaptable solutions for front-office reporting, query, and analysis and back-office integration and process automation.  Mid-size companies are responding with action and quickly share business insight and critical data analysis with customers, suppliers and business partners and drive much needed growth and innovation.

About the Author

Kevin Quinn is the Vice President of Product Marketing for Information Builders. Quinn has been credited with helping to define business intelligence end-user categories through his creation of guidelines for using and employing business intelligence tools.  His efforts in this position have helped propel Information Builders’ WebFOCUS and EDA Middleware solutions to category leadership in their respective areas. http://www.informationbuilders.com/

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