Information Builders WebFOCUS

REVIEWER: Joanna Swiggett, financial systems analyst for Food Lion, LLC.

BACKGROUND: Food Lion is one of the largest supermarket chains in the U.S. with 1,200 stores in 11 southeastern and mid-atlantic states. Company stores sell more than 28,000 different products and offer nationally and regionally advertised brand name merchandise, as well as a growing number of high-quality private label products manufactured and packaged for Food Lion.

PLATFORMS: Information Builders converts data from Food Lion's databases including: SQL Server, VSAM, DB/400 and DB2.

PROBLEM SOLVED: We needed to drastically revamp our very labor-intensive reporting process. Previously, we distributed financial information in the form of hard-copy reports generated by mainframe reporting programs. These reports had to be manually bursted and stuffed into envelopes and then mailed to store managers and the operations team in the field. By the time managers received this information, it was typically more than a week old. Obviously, this made it difficult to correct problems in a timely fashion. It was also difficult to find particular pieces of information because the reports were printed in a rigid, hard-copy format. To further complicate the process, the profit and loss statements were generated by a mainframe-based reporting tool that required the IT department to make any necessary changes. Our objective in leveraging a BI application was to create a fast, efficient, self-service application for financial reporting that could be used by managers throughout the grocery store chain. In May 2002, Food Lion purchased Information Builders WebFOCUS along with enterprise application integration technology from iWay Software, an Information Builders company.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We now use WebFOCUS for our financial reporting system. On average, five people at each Food Lion store, including the store manager and other associates, depend on WebFOCUS reports. Additionally, more than 1,000 WebFOCUS users run reports pertaining to operations, finance, promotions and other domains - totaling more than 7,000 users. Users of the operations reporting system can select daily, weekly, period or quarterly reports. Drop-down boxes allow them to specify various stores, districts and regions - and even to analyze sales from certain parts of the store, such as the deli department. When users run operations reports, the queries are executed very quickly, because they are reporting against presummarized information. Now managers can instantly review sales activity from the previous day and react to issues as they arise. They automatically receive daily sales and labor statistics. The self-service environment is intuitive and does not require any training. There has also been a significant reduction in distribution costs for printing, handling and mailing reports. We have also witnessed a reduction in labor costs due to quick report generation and fewer administrative requirements. With the operations application, our reaction time to almost every business decision has been cut in half.

STRENGTHS: The main strength of WebFOCUS is the sophisticated report distribution capabilities that we can use and manage on our own, at multiple levels throughout the organization.

WEAKNESSES: Despite the user-friendly GUI, we feel additional functionality would be beneficial in future versions.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We chose WebFOCUS because it was the simplest transition for us, mostly due to the fact that Information Builders licenses its self-service users. Thus, there are no limits on the number of people who can use the applications. This makes it very affordable.

DELIVERABLES: We have several different reporting applications. The operations reporting system has had the biggest impact on the corporation. Each user can select reports that are pertinent to their work. Food Lion's financial systems group develops financial reporting for corporate users and operations reporting for all 1,200 stores and the operations team.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Information Builders' Consulting helped propagate the new reporting application from the financial systems group to the operations team. They also created a security architecture based on user IDs to prevent store managers from seeing data from other stores.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is well-written and easy to understand.

Information Builders WebFOCUS
Information Builders, Inc.
Two Penn Plaza
New York, NY 10121-2898

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