CATEGORY: Business Intelligence
REVIEWER: Brent W. Christensen, CFO of Meade Instruments Corp.
BACKGROUND: Meade Instruments Corp. is a world leader in the design, manufacture and distribution of telescopes, binoculars and riflescopes for the serious amateur astronomer, sports enthusiast or the general sports optics consumer. Meade brings its products to market through several distribution channels and has thousands of locations throughout the U.S. Internationally, Meade's sales are conducted through its operating subsidiary in Germany and foreign distributors. The company's innovative and technologically advanced products are recognized to be among the best in the world.
PLATFORMS: We use an Intel-based platform running on Windows 2000 Server.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Data extraction from our MANMAN ERP system was the principle problem. Although MANMAN is data rich, it provides little ability to extract and summarize that data in a timely, organized way. Our business managers were limited in their ability to utilize system data to make timely, accurate, informed decisions. Significant amounts of time and energy were spent running multiple reports and extracting key data for input into spreadsheets and results were often stale. The ability of Orenburg's Board M.I.T. to extract key operating data from MANMAN on a daily basis, organize it, analyze it and synchronize it with other data sources has provided us with several significant benefits.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Meade's senior executives, salespeople, business unit managers and marketing use Board. A number of capsules have been developed so that Meade's senior executives can see, on a daily basis, how unit sales, margins and dollar sales are tracking against forecast. These capsules integrate the company's forecasts with MANMAN information to provide an instant look at what has been forecast versus what has sold, how profitable it has been, what product is allocated, what product is unallocated and what is left to book (or what is overbooked). The versatility of the Board presentation lets senior management quickly look at this information in a number of ways including by customer, region, sales agent and product. Several other capsules have been created to allow senior management to monitor and analyze excess and obsolete inventories, credit memos by reason code, product allocations, backlog and open orders. Senior management and salespeople also have several capsules that accumulate comparative sales information. Salespeople can see unit and dollar sales to their assigned accounts on a comparative year, quarter or month-to-date basis. As with the executive capsules, this data can be looked by a number of analytic categories. Board is principally used by our salespeople as an online tool, but it easily downloads any of the screen information to an Excel spreadsheet. Our salespeople have found this information and its screen presentation to be an excellent tool in customer meetings.
STRENGTHS: The main strengths we have found with Board M.I.T. are ease of use, power, versatility and a relatively low cost.
WEAKNESSES: During some of the version upgrades, we experienced a loss of continuity in our capsules and required some assistance to get everything working properly. On the technical side, we've noticed that the user login files, which are stored on a firewalled server, are not encrypted, and that the client and server are required to run on the same version of the software.
SELECTION CRITERIA: We reviewed other business intelligence solutions on the market and found them to be very expensive. We found that Board offered us a solid combination of ease of use, database power and versatility at a cost that was manageable.
DELIVERABLES: Each capsule consists of a screen, which includes information displayed in a spreadsheet object, a graph object or a combination of both. When our users log in, they can manipulate the analysis in a number of ways to fit their individual needs.
VENDOR SUPPORT: Because Orenburg sells Board M.I.T. only through the solution partner channel, our main source of support is the reseller who sold and implemented Board for us. In terms of product performance, Board has performed as advertised, and all of our significant software questions have been dealt with by Orenburg. Orenburg offers a customer support site where product issues can be logged; however, ideally we would like to have more direct contact with them.
DOCUMENTATION: The documentation for Board M.I.T. is good, but not comprehensive enough for us to run the product independently. We rely on our reseller and Orenburg for answers to some of our questions.
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