CATEGORY: Analytic Applications
REVIEWER: Steve White, EPOS & MIS development manager for Scottish & Newcastle Retail.
BACKGROUND: Scottish & Newcastle Retail is one of the UK's leading pub companies, managing approximately 1,400 pubs and pub restaurants. We have annual turnover in excess of £900 million, more than 30,000 employees and serve more than 3 million customers per day. Our four business areas include 225 pub restaurants, 270 branded pubs and bars, 770 unbranded pubs and 120 budget hotels.
PLATFORMS: The data warehouse is Oracle-based running on Sun Solaris operating system model 3000E. SQL Server 2000 and Analysis Services on a dual processor Windows 2000 Server are used to generate data transformation and cube building for viewing via ProClarity.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Scottish & Newcastle Retail had a large data warehouse which provided management information from point-of-sale (EPOS) data, collected at the tills in the pubs and restaurants. It provided daily reports about sales of particular brands across 20-30 sites; however, providing this sort of information across all 1,400 sites wasn't possible. Management also needed to be able to view hourly food and liquor sales across all 1,400 outlets. The data warehouse couldn't accommodate the large quantity of data needed to support the desired level of analysis, and it couldn't scale to meet the demands of the business. The scalability problem was solved by rebuilding the data warehouse using Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services which is able to deal with the vast volumes of data. When it came to choosing the front-end tool for the users, we found that ProClarity offered the most sophisticated functionality.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The combination of Analysis Services and ProClarity gives us so much power and flexibility. We have not only solved the scalability problem, but we can also produce reports much more quickly than we were able to previously. The speed at which the data is presented to the users is phenomenal; they can view reports instantaneously that show all the products sold across all the outlets that's 2.8 million data values.
STRENGTHS: We feel that ProClarity has several main strengths including: ease of use, sophisticated analytic functionality and extremely easy deployment. The fact that ProClarity is designed to take full advantage of the functionality in Microsoft Analysis Services is also a key strength. It was very important that the financial planners have a highly flexible and functionally rich analysis tool because they are responsible for ensuring data integrity. In addition to providing a centralized financial planning application with an interface for analyzing product sales, ProClarity gives the financial planners performance management reporting across the company, integrating data from a variety of different sources.
WEAKNESSES: There are a few improvements we would like to see in the Desktop Client, including cursor changes to indicate possible required operations when dimensions are moved. It is currently not possible to put member properties in the grid area the only way to see them is to hover over a heading. Adding calculated members or measures is also complicated for our users. There are several other items that the Enterprise Server and Release 5 (due out in May 2002) would solve for us.
SELECTION CRITERIA: Of the products we researched, ProClarity offered the most robust and sophisticated analytic functionality. ProClarity was specifically developed for the Microsoft platform and takes advantage of the advanced functionality in Analysis Services, such as drill-to-detail, cross-drill and write-back. The solution was fast to implement and is now very quick and easy to maintain.
DELIVERABLES: With ProClarity, much larger volumes of data can be stored and handled. We can now instantly analyze and monitor daily sales of an individual product, and hourly food and liquor sales across 1,400 outlets. We can also examine the effect of changes to cost/price on profit margins. Additionally, the time taken for marketing to access product sales information for promotional campaigns has been reduced from three weeks to less than 30 minutes.
VENDOR SUPPORT: There was not much need for vendor support as the product was so easy to install and learn. It is a pure out-of-the-box solution. Analysis Services cubes are already built, and users are able to start analyzing data instantly. No training was required.
DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is clear and straightforward. The supplied hard-copy manual and PDF were sufficient to get people started.
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