BACKGROUND: Grupo Casa Autrey is one of Mexico's leading distribution specialists. Casa Autrey distributes pharmaceutical and consumer products including home, health and beauty products, nonperishable foods, publications and office supplies. Casa Autrey's reputation is based on a commitment to the highest quality service. Autrey conducts its operations through a network of 23 distribution centers, located in the major population centers across Mexico.

PLATFORMS: DATY (Base de Datos Autrey) is an extranet-based performance measurement application, offering Autrey's 400 pharmaceutical and consumer goods manufacturers daily access to information across Autrey's supply chain. DATY is currently running using a Sun Microsystems Sparc 3000 and Solaris. The Web server is a Compaq Proliant with Windows NT.

PROBLEM SOLVED: With the help of Comshare, Inc. and Sistemas de Soporte Empresarial (SSE), a Mexico-based Comshare product distributor, Grupo Casa Autrey launched its new Web-based decision support system for manufacturers in March of 1998. SSE is the leader in innovating the process of decision making. A Comshare distributor since 1993, SSE has offices in Mexico City, Monterey and Sao Paulo and has regional representation in Guadalajara and Central America. A partial list of blue chip clients includes Avantel, Grupo Casa Autrey, Comisi-n Federal de Electricidad, Femsa y Divs., Grupo Procor, Xerox Mexico, Grupo Jaguar, Exportadora de Sal, BAT Central America, Grupo Chartwell and Grupo SIDEK. Autrey's method of sharing sales and marketing information with its 400 manufacturers proved inadequate. The only way of sharing information with suppliers was through written reports or queries specifically designed on an on-demand basis. This was a frustrating practice for everyone: suppliers were never satisfied, and this produced a heavy backlog in the software development department. The new system was built according to Autrey's unique specifications using Comshare's Web-based performance measurement software, Comshare DecisionWeb.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: In developing DATY, we applied the best practices in the consumer goods industry with the best features of the Comshare application software. The analytical power of Comshare software focused on our sales analysis needs, and its Web-based functionality gave Autrey's manufacturers the decision support capabilities to evaluate promotional campaigns, test pricing strategies and perform brand and category management.

STRENGTHS: The official introduction of DATY at the 1,000-attendee launch of the new system received high marks from Autrey manufacturers. According to Daniel Roquè, director of Grupo Roche Syntex's Consumer Health Division, "At Roche we have seen the benefits across the board. We can better direct our scarce resources to areas that will really give high returns." Other Autrey manufacturers echoed this sentiment. According to Javier Gonzalez, merchandise director at SmithKline Beecham, "Our brand managers can now analyze category performance and make corrective actions in days as opposed to months."

WEAKNESSES: The product can be improved with better online help. Today some sophisticated functionality has to be explained by customer support staff instead of being available online.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Autrey chose SSE/Comshare after evaluating many vendors over a two-year period. SSE/Comshare was the only vendor who could offer the functionality and performance demanded by our suppliers.

DELIVERABLES: What we have achieved with DATY ­ decision support to 400 companies (with 400 platforms, 400 cultures and 400 processes) with low deployment costs and a two-month implementation ­ should provide a valuable lesson to any organization thinking of implementing an intranet or extranet.

VENDOR SUPPORT: This was one of our most important selection criteria. At the local level SSE was a key partner in helping Autrey with the design, integration with other tools and implementation of the solution. At the Comshare level, more specific tech-support issues are rapidly solved.

DOCUMENTATION: Similar to online help, written documentation is not at the same level of quality as the product itself. The next version of the system will feature much improved written and online documentation.

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