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WebFOCUS Dashboard Saves Millions for nVision Customers

Friday, April 29, 2011

Logistics Provider Cruises With BI and Data Visualization

Companies around the world trust nVision Global to audit, process, and pay freight invoices for all modes of transportation as well as provide logistics-cost business intelligence (BI) for analysis. As a leading provider of services for freight bill auditing and payment, logistics management, and claims, the company processes 63 million invoices and manages $3.1 billion in freight liability each year.

nVision’s typical client spends between $20 million and $400 million on shipping per year and initiates more than one million transactions. In the past, the company enabled its customers to conduct detailed analysis of the data generated during the course of those transactions, but its reporting environment was limited and required extensive staff support.

With the Information Builders WebFOCUS BI platform, nVision Global created one cohesive portal for self-service business intelligence. Its iFocus Dashboard includes industry-leading data visualization tools that empower customers to scrutinize every facet of their shipping, payment, and logistics operations.

A Focus on Cost Savings

iFocus Dashboard helps customers to manage logistics for the 10,000 global carriers that partner with nVision. They can view multiple shipping options and make better, more economical choices about their logistics operations. nVision maintains the data and provides these analytical tools via a Software as a Service (SaaS) environment where users can manipulate the data to suit their individual business needs.

Thanks to WebFOCUS, Visual Discovery, and Active Technology reports – in conjunction with geographic information systems (GIS) technology from ESRI – the new dashboard environment is helping these companies save millions of dollars each year.

“Our customers realize the value of the information we capture from each transaction, which increases supply chain visibility and brings verifiable value to their bottom lines,” says Luther Brown, chief executive officer at nVision Global. “By letting customers access current business intelligence via the web, we deliver greater value by increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of their shipping activities.”

Web-Based Business Intelligence

Since its inception, nVision Global has evolved from a regional freight payment company to one of the fastest growing providers of global freight audit, payment, and logistics services. Hundreds of multinational companies use the nVision Supply Chain Suite to streamline domestic and international logistics transactions. nVision helps them save money on nearly every bill that they audit. In the process, they capture detailed logistics information and make it available for on-demand reporting, trend analysis, and carrier negotiations.

Previously, nVision offered query builders and report generators, created with PowerBuilder, which allowed customers to slice and dice this logistics data in a limited way. Two employees worked full time to create, modify, and update reports for customers. Brown and other senior managers wanted to take their query and reporting services to the next level by adding more analytical functionality, better drill-down capabilities, and a more elegant user experience – all in a web-based environment that would make clients self sufficient. They knew that these BI upgrades would give them an advantage in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

“Providing prompt, accurate freight audit and payment services with excellent customer service is a minimum expectation within our industry,” notes Keith Snavely, senior vice president of global sales and marketing at nVision Global. “We capture a wealth of operational business intelligence from each invoice within a single, global data warehouse along with a variety of analytical tools, such as our iFocus Dashboard, allowing our customers to optimize and streamline their overall transportation costs.”

Initially nVision attempted to build dashboards using Business Intelligence Reporting Tools (BIRT) from Actuate and Microsoft Reporting Services from Microsoft. When they ran into problems, the company evaluated BI tools from Cognos and Information Builders. The evaluation team determined that Cognos was too complex, expensive, and would not meet their customers’ primary business intelligence needs. WebFOCUS, by contrast, had all of the development tools they were looking for in a user friendly, self-service environment.

Visual KPIs Guide Customers to Savings

nVision asked Information Builders to develop a proof of concept, which showcased a WebFOCUS dashboard incorporating ESRI’s GIS mapping functionality. The team identified 17 key performance indicators (KPIs) that they believed would have a global appeal across their customer base. They used these KPIs as the backbone of the new iFocus Dashboard environment, then used WebFOCUS Visual Discovery to add data visualization capabilities to the maps. According to Brown, they had been unable to achieve this type of functionality with other BI solutions.

WebFOCUS runs on a Microsoft Windows server, where it pulls information from a Microsoft SQL Server data warehouse containing data from various shipment, cost, and routing systems.

“We capture a minimum of 120 standard data elements from each one of our customers’ freight invoices,” explains Jennifer Whigham, iFocus dashboard administrator for nVision. “iFocus allows our customers to access and analyze their transportation data as they see fit. Our solution includes global reporting, mapping, graphing, benchmarking, modeling, and network optimization to help them streamline their supply chain.”

The iFocus Dashboard includes graphs, gauges, and maps. Visual Discovery enhances the display of shipping related information, and the GIS capabilities enable clients to track their shipments in transit across all domestic and international locations.

Users can create maps based on a variety of criteria, including service level, origin, destination, division, region, and location. They can drill down to problem areas to see in an instant which shipping lanes need attention.

nVision customers use these displays to identify likely cost-reduction strategies. In many cases, they can reduce costs by switching modes, changing service levels or otherwise altering their shipping patterns. They can click on hyperlinks to drill down to individual freight bills and run ad hoc reports to check the status of shipments.

“We provide the entire environment as an online service,” says Whigham. “Customers don’t need software on their end. They simply use a web browser to access the nVision environment and visualize the data however they want.”

On Track for Sustained Productivity

Today nVision Global differentiates itself not only by auditing and paying invoices on a global scale using different currencies, languages, and regulations, but also by providing the most advanced business intelligence tools available in its industry. The iFocus Dashboard even provides real-time alerts when critical issues arise or specific business conditions are met. “It’s the ease of use, sophistication, and amount of data we provide that really sets us apart,” says Snavely. “Tools like Visual Discovery add tremendous value to our services.”

On average, these analytical tools enable customers to save an additional two percent of their annual transportation budget, on top of the five to seven percent that nVision saves them through their traditional freight bill auditing and payment services. “When you’re talking about $20 million a year and up in shipping costs, those are pretty big numbers,” adds Snavely.

Approximately 300 people currently access the iFocus Dashboard, including both customers and internal users, and that number is on the rise.

“Approximately 95 percent of all our new customers utilize the BI capabilities,” he says. “I don’t know of any new customers who use our service and don’t sign up for the iFocus Dashboard as well. It’s one of the top reasons why clients select us. Visual Discovery is the sizzle in our sales presentations.”

nVision continues to use the WebFOCUS platform to add new capabilities and analytical tools to the dashboards. They are also creating operational and statistical reports for internal users. Providing greater visibility into key operations is improving customer satisfaction and boosting sales.

“WebFOCUS BI tools help us demonstrate our promise of increased efficiency, on-time delivery, and cost savings,” Snavely says. “As our basic services become increasingly commoditized, being able to help clients leverage information will continue to differentiate us from the competition. We have built a solid BI platform with WebFOCUS. The value we add comes from the data we capture and the analytical tools we can provide to our clients.”

WebFOCUS Visual Discovery

WebFOCUS Visual Discovery enhances the WebFOCUS environment by allowing customers to analyze data using advanced visualization functions, including 3D bar and pie charts, histograms, data constellations, and multiscapes.

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