REVIEWER: Wayne Holt, CIO of the Alabama Farmers Cooperative, Inc. (AFC).

BACKGROUND: AFC is a regional federated supply and marketing agricultural cooperative created to provide value to its 47 member associations, which include approximately 80 retail locations.

PLATFORMS: Dell PowerEdge 2850 server with dual Xeon 2.8g processors, 8GB RAM running Windows Server 2003 R2 Enterprise Edition and Microsoft SQL Server 2005.

PROBLEM SOLVED: AFC’s management oversees myriad business services for members. Seasonal variability is a mainstay of our business, so “managing uncertainty” is a way of life with a tremendous impact on profitability. AFC was greatly challenged to determine product margins and profitability accurately. Data was stored in various systems, and reporting was a cumbersome, manual process. Because of this, profitability analysis could only be done on a monthly basis and was confined to a small subset of the more than 3,000 product lines AFC carries. QlikView from QlikTech has provided visibility that allows the organization to better react to and manage current sales, inventory and other operations, and it enables us to see trends to better predict future sales and buying patterns, as well as anticipated profitability.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Financial applications provide the management team with in-depth insight into AFC’s finances from the regional level all the way down to individual products. This enables AFC to identify the most profitable product lines and the most effective channels to distribute its products as well as to forecast demand based on past sales. When one of AFC’s retail stores requests a loan, AFC’s management team uses its QlikView Loan Processing application to instantly analyze the requester’s financial ratios and sales history, giving them a comprehensive picture on which to base decisions. Within 10 minutes, we can analyze store performance with a three-year trend analysis to take aberrations into account. Benchmark analysis helps improve performance of both individual stores and AFC overall. Inventory applications enable each of AFC’s retail outlets to view the inventory of other locations - reducing duplicate purchasing and accelerating product sell-though. Users can search 3,200 items by UPC code or almost any variable. Information is refreshed every two hours. Inventory also reaches out to AFC’s joint venture company, Agri-AFC, so that they, too, can benefit from this visibility. Sales applications provide insight into the sales performance of geographic regions and individual sales representatives. Performance can be viewed in unlimited dimensions - by product line and item, customer, region, store, etc. QlikView Publisher ensures the security of each store’s data so that access is limited to the appropriate users.

STRENGTHS: For people without technical backgrounds, QlikView has been easy to use. One person created and deployed a dozen applications in less than four months. It provides information almost in real time so that we can adapt quickly. It offers one-click access to sales performance and inventory, and it has flexibility. We can change our analysis views based on whatever questions we need to answer at the moment, as well as create new applications quickly.

WEAKNESSES: While the format of the scripting language is similar to SQL, the differences cause some difficulties in learning to use QlikView’s scripting language.

SELECTION CRITERIA: QlikView was selected because it is intuitive to learn. We also selected it based on its ease of application development. We liked the ability to create applications ourselves. It also offers ease and speed of modification.

DELIVERABLES: Deliverables include dashboards and visual reporting. QlikView simplifies all of our data across various departments. I am able to monitor a dashboard of more than a dozen key performance ratios, all updated daily by the balance sheet data. Every user can analyze data in multiple formats, according to their preferences.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Vendor support has, overall, been very good. We had one incident where we had difficulty getting support attention. This is offset by things such as: QlikTech came onsite to upgrade us to version 8.0 and do some additional training. They found a bug during the install that would cause us problems, so we aborted the upgrade. After the bug was fixed in version 8.1, they returned, at no cost to us, to complete the upgrade.

DOCUMENTATION: In general, we find the documentation poor. However, this has been offset by the onsite training and the support response we have received from QlikTech.

QlikTech, Inc.
150 North Radnor Chester Road
Suite E220
Radnor, PA 19087
(888) 828-9768

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