REVIEWER: Sue Lindstrom, president of Paper Source, Inc.

BACKGROUND: Paper Source, Inc. is an upscale specialty paper and stationery retailer headquartered in Chicago, Illinois.

PLATFORMS: Intel server running SQL Server and Windows 2000.

PROBLEM SOLVED: One of the key uses of SalesFocus is for inventory management. We now have daily big-picture snapshots of inventory by product category at each of our stores, all on one report. We have specific benchmarks for inventory value for product category at each store. Not all stores sell items from product categories equally, and now we can optimize that by store. This report helps me to find gaps in inventory at the product category level. We can then quickly drill down to specific items within product categories or vendors. Specifically, SalesFocus has helped us pinpoint our growth areas and create even more growth in those product categories. Additionally, our customers are very demanding and expect a high level of service and product availability. As we continued opening new stores, we contemplated hiring more people to help in purchasing. However, we knew what we really needed was analytical assistance to make smarter, more accurate decisions ­ not more people making more decisions. SalesFocus provides the intelligence and data we sought. We ask the questions that we know are critical for our growth and receive timely, accurate, easy-to-access answers. From these answers, we are able to make smart, informed purchasing decisions which support growth. This has accelerated our top-line growth from 15 percent per year before SalesFocus to nearly 50 percent per year after implementing the system. Equally important, we have happier customers who can find any product they need ­ in stock. We no longer feel overwhelmed, and with SalesFocus we can do the work of an entire buying team without losing any decision-making control.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: SalesFocus integrated fully with our current point-of-sale (POS) system which collects all the transactional information. Relational Solutions modified SalesFocus for our business rules, and data moves seamlessly from our POS system to SalesFocus every night. Everything is automated. The data is consistent and reliable, which is critical for accurate analysis. There is never a question about the quality of the information from SalesFocus. In addition, SalesFocus requires almost no maintenance which is key for our limited IT staff. From the reporting side, within minutes of asking a business question we are able to access information not only from a high level, but we are also able to drill to the lowest level of detail. Everything is point-and-click. SalesFocus also provides exceptional Excel integration. It is very, very easy to use.

STRENGTHS: The main strengths of SalesFocus are its consistent and reliable information, easy- to-use browser interface, fast implementation and easy management, seamless Microsoft Excel integration, strong reporting options, built-in source data extracts and data validation processes, and automated daily updates.

WEAKNESSES: I would like a more robust document search capability. The current one is good but does not search the text within each document.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Ease of use, ROI, built-in cleansing and validations, integrated solution and flexible reporting capabilities were all key selection criteria in our search for a business intelligence application.

DELIVERABLES: We were impressed with the speed in which Relational Solutions (RSI) was able to get the system up and running. Relational Solutions installed the application in less than one month, modifying it for our business model. They are professionals and know what to do and how to get it done. The application works great. We made a couple minor changes when our business lines changed and RSI helped us make the necessary changes over the phone. We were impressed. Within the next six months, we plan to analyze our customers' purchasing habits and then create targeted marketing programs.

VENDOR SUPPORT: The few times we needed it, the support has been wonderful. It's obvious this is a company that has been doing business intelligence for a long time.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is satisfactory.

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