REVIEWER: Jeremy Wilson, vice president of information technology for MarineMax.

BACKGROUND: MarineMax is a U.S. recreational boating and yachting retailer with 55 locations in 18 states. In the past decade, since going public, the company has experienced tremendous growth, having quadrupled in size.

PLATFORMS: IBM Cognos operates within an IBM technical environment tapping into Microsoft SQL Server databases.

PROBLEM SOLVED: With a large and rapid expansion, we needed a stronger, seamless and more collaborative information management service. With stores and employees spread out across various states, critical data was trapped in numerous spreadsheets and systems, making it extremely difficult for all employees – from senior leaders to frontline team – to access and share information on sales, costs and inventory. Prior solutions were unstable and lacked key functionality such as reforecasting and what-if scenario modeling to determine the impact of business decisions. The IBM business analytics system helped solve MarineMax’s primary need for a more efficient forecasting, budgeting and analysis solution. With IBM analytics in place, operational units across the company can now easily work together from the same numbers to build integrated budgets and plans – a process that once took months now only takes weeks – and evaluate performance against plans. Store managers now have faster access to their store performance; finance is able to enforce a more consistent company-wide budgeting process to ensure forecast accuracy; and senior executives can capitalize on a holistic view of historical, current and projected enterprise performance to ensure company objectives are always on target.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We’ve experienced many efficiencies across the company, but some areas stand out, such as demand planning where inaccurate commitment planning of luxury boats can inflate inventory costs. Using IBM business analytics, we can tap into multiple years of sales history, enabling managers to better understand customer demand trends and more confidently establish future commitments, adjusting forecasts throughout the year based on sales activities. Similarly, the solution’s planning and analysis functionality have helped optimize the way we manage our marketing and promotional spend without compromising our industry-leading market share. MarineMax participates in hundreds of key marketing and sales events every year, such as boat shows, which require considerable labor and material resources to run effectively. Our marketing executives now have better visibility into the true cost and the true ROI from each event, helping to prioritize efforts and minimize wasteful labor and material investments. Finally, IBM’s business analytics underpin a lot of the great strides we have made in the area of employee performance. Our Management By Objectives program helps employees clearly understand corporate objectives and identify their individual or team responsibilities. Using IBM technology, store managers can easily establish individual goals, monitor team member performance, take corrective measures when necessary and then roll information up to the store, region and company levels.

STRENGTHS: The IBM Cognos solutions are easy to learn and use and have helped us move away from spreadsheets to real-time information access and sharing across all parts of the business. The reforecasting and what-if scenarios have helped us tremendously in anticipating and responding to changes in market conditions and consumer demand, both of which are critical in this highly competitive retail market.

WEAKNESSES: Initially, integration between IBM Cognos BI, Series 7 and IBM Cognos Planning was not fully automated. Data modeling mapping and loads were very manual and time-consuming, which led to errors that were difficult to reconcile. However, in IBM Cognos 8 BI and IBM Cognos 8 Planning, the ability to use Framework Manager as the common metadata layer has all but eliminated the issues.

SELECTION CRITERIA: As with any new technology investment, we went through an extensive selection process. Key vendors in the planning and analytics space participated in a request for information process which included on-site demonstrations and customer reference calls. Key decision points in selecting the IBM Cognos business analytics solutions were integration with our existing reporting platform, modeling capabilities and ease of use.

DELIVERABLES: The flexibility of the solution allowed us to push the use of the software into areas we did not originally plan, such as with demand planning and within the MBO program. Fundamentally, some key deliverables realized by the use of the solution include: the ability to handle multiple operational functions, a more streamlined process and efficiency, increased visibility and accountability, increased collaboration, timely data availability and ease of use.

VENDOR SUPPORT: During the implementation, we partnered with an IBM Cognos-certified partner. The partner had deep knowledge in the tools and was able to work with our decision-makers to meet an aggressive go-live date.

DOCUMENTATION: From the outset, we had always intended to leverage the services of a certified IBM Cognos business partner who could help us get up and running quickly. Knowledge transfer was also a key deliverable to our team so that, moving forward, we could become self-sufficient with the system. The IBM Cognos solution is very intuitive, and our users today can easily build reports and models without having any IT background. 

IBM Cognos 8 Business Intelligence and IBM Cognos 8 Planning


1 New Orchard Road

Armonk, New York 10504 


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