Handleman is a category manager and distributor of prerecorded music to mass merchants in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina. Handleman manages a broad assortment of titles required to optimize sales in retail stores and provides direct-to-store shipments, marketing of the selections and in-store merchandising.

Our mission is to create customers for our customers. To do this, we must understand consumers so well that we can anticipate their buying decisions. Helping our customers succeed is what we must do every day.

With annual sales of $1.3 billion and 50 years of music distribution experience, Handleman has more than 2,300 employees including 1,000 field sales representatives worldwide. We manage more than 4,000 stores on three continents and represent more than 11 percent of all music sold in the U.S.

In 2000, Handleman made a strategic decision to launch a business intelligence program. Handleman Business Intelligence Systems (BIS) team was formed in May 2000, with the express goal of providing information access and analysis capabilities to a wide range of Handleman stakeholders. Our mandate was to build and deploy a data warehouse and business intelligence solution to provide a strategic advantage in the marketplace and to ensure that our employees, customers and vendors have accurate and timely insight into the dynamics of the music supply chain.

Handleman is a data-rich company. It was our goal to turn the data available within the Handleman infrastructure into smaller sets of meaningful and actionable information to assist Handleman employees in timely and effective decision making. At the same time, the BIS empowerment philosophy was expected to enable the employees of the company to answer their own questions, reduce their dependence on the information technology department, shorten decision-making timelines and provide answers to most business analytic questions in less than 30 minutes.

The BIS team has eight full-time staff members. It was our goal to deliver one or more meaningful systems or large functions every 13 weeks. Each project in this set of deliverables was carefully scoped, and the impact on the overall schedule determined. The BIS team worked closely with the customer community to define those projects that would provide the most value to the company; determine the actual needs, functionality, and delivery timetables; and check the results for accuracy. This allowed us to combine the best technical offering with the best business understanding.

In the course of 36 months, the BIS team deployed an enterprise-wide data warehouse, complete with six data marts. This data warehouse now contains more than one billion data records (approaching one terabyte in size). Through an extensive organizational learning and development program, the BIS team has achieved self-sufficiency to deliver business intelligence solutions.

The BIS team has also deployed a business intelligence portal solution called BizNet, providing a thumbnail "state of the company" overview to senior corporate executives. This solution provides key performance indicators, graphs and charts, and reports to the employees, allowing them to see the state of their area in a centralized place and to drill into problem areas to discover the root cause. We have also leveraged the BizNet Portal technology to deploy additional branded portals for our trading partners.

The BIS team has implemented a new, enterprise-wide budgeting system and software. Again in keeping with our customer empowerment philosophy, this system allows managers with budgetary responsibility to use and access a central budgetary database that has diverse and rich functionality. This system uses appropriate security so that each person using it can see only their "slice" of the company. Additionally, the budgets of the entire company are consolidated for those who have access to that information.

Our delivery of business information and intelligence is a journey and not a destination. We are continuously working with our customers to improve the usability and quality of our systems to add more value.

The enterprise budget and forecast tool (ORBIT) has been extended and enhanced to provide P&L forecasting capabilities to our customers. We have expanded access of our systems to a wider variety of customers, including remote offices.

Handling more than 2,000 queries each week, the BIS has 300+ knowledge users. Eighty-seven percent of the ad hoc queries complete in less than one minute.

Our customers run an average of 800 unique queries per week. The high use of the system in all business departments is directly attributed to the single version of truth and the ease of information accessibility in the data warehouse, combined with performance and security. The annualized value of this level of customer empowerment toward timely and effective decision making far exceeds the BIS annual operating budget and provides a significant ROI. Estimated value is 3,200 unique queries/month x 12 months x 4 person hours (time that IT did not have to spend) x $40/hour = $6.2 million plus the value of better and quicker decisions; Handleman's annual investment in the BI program is $1.5 million.

Handleman BI applications run on Oracle9i technology: Performance enhancements realized by upgrading Handleman's data warehouse to Oracle9i R2 enabled us to extend availability 25 percent by reducing the length of the batch window and increase usability through a 40 percent improvement in query performance. CPU utilization, previously a performance bottleneck, was reduced by more than 10 percent, allowing for implementations of Oracle EDW and Oracle Balanced Scorecard without requiring incremental hardware resources or database licenses. All these benefits were realized without any additional cost to Handleman Company.

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