BACKGROUND: Since opening its first restaurant in 1947, Nashville, Tennessee-based Shoney's Restaurants has tracked a steady rate of expansion. Today there are more than 700 locations in 28 states, and it is the corporate umbrella for Shoney's Restaurants, Captain D's Seafood Restaurants, Casual Dining (Fifth Quarter Steakhouses and Pargo's) and distribution and manufacturing.

PLATFORMS: Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 is running on Windows NT Server 4.0 on a Gateway 7000 series with a dual Pentium processor, 36GB of disk space and 512MB of RAM.

PROBLEM SOLVED: By analyzing point-of-sale (POS) data quickly and efficiently, Shoney's can react faster to meet its customers' needs. To gain that capability, Shoney's recently installed a business intelligence solution that uses Microsoft SQL Server 7.0, OLAP Services and Cognos NovaView and PowerPlay Web Server to enable its marketing, sales and inventory managers to quickly and accurately analyze its POS data. Now managers can analyze sales data from any or all of Shoney's Restaurants at their desktops within a day of its collection. This enables the company to quickly analyze and respond to promotion results and market opportunities, better manage restaurant inventory and reduce the load on the information systems (IS) department.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The solution, developed by Micro Computer Solutions (MCS) ­ a Microsoft certified solution provider partner ­ revolves around a POS data mart. The data mart acts as the data repository for POS information from all Shoney's restaurants. Shoney's polls its restaurants every night with XcelleNet to gather the latest information. Then, an application built with the Microsoft Visual Basic development system automatically detects those new polling files, scrubs the data and updates the Microsoft SQL Server 7.0-based data mart. Once the information is in the sales analysis cube, local and remote users can easily access it for in-depth analysis.

STRENGTHS: Microsoft SQL Server database and Microsoft OLAP Services provide a drill-down response time averaging about five seconds. Microsoft OLAP Services also allows updating the cube incrementally so users can continue to use the cube during the hourly updates and only have to disconnect and reconnect to it once each hour to get updated results. The Microsoft SQL Server-based solution was fast to implement, taking only three months from defining user requirements to implementation. Plus, built-in automated management tools enable Shoney's to manage the system in just four to five hours per week.

WEAKNESSES: Because Shoney's was an early adopter of Microsoft SQL Server 7.0, its business intelligence solution was developed with a beta version of the product. This meant the Shoney's/MCS team had to learn to use the product without manuals or documentation and with some gaps in functionality. They were able to overcome these weaknesses by communicating directly with the Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 development team who helped them resolve problems and provided the latest code updates.

SELECTION CRITERIA: After evaluating various solutions on its own, Shoney's contacted Micro Computer Solutions which chose to build the solution around Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 and OLAP Services because these products satisfied all of Shoney's requirements. Specifically, they could support an initial load of two to three years of historical data in the fact table, support nightly incremental updates that exceeded 120,000 rows per day, integrate seamlessly with client/server and Web-based Cognos business intelligence tools for end-user access, support automation and self-management, and integrate directly with Microsoft Exchange Server to keep administrators informed of the system operations.

DELIVERABLES: Shoney's has modified several Microsoft Access-based sales analysis applications to work with the OLAP Services sales analysis cube. This enables users to analyze and report a variety of sales results including previous day, week-to-date or historical results, as well as comparisons by store, market, promotion, item, time of day and more.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Shoney's received strong support from the Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 development team which helped make the implementation a success.

DOCUMENTATION: With the final release of Microsoft SQL Server 7.0, Shoney's received comprehensive, easy-to-follow manuals which supported training and system management.

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