BACKGROUND: Helzberg Diamonds, headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, is a rapidly growing jewelry retailer with nearly 200 stores throughout the U.S. Each store generates large amounts of point-of-sale transaction data, which is fed nightly into the company's AS/400 host merchandise and JD Edwards financial systems. Key business metrics such as store profitability, product performance and employee productivity are needed by managers and executives to make intelligent business decisions in the fast-paced retail environment. Previous to ShowCase STRATEGY, information had to be entered by hand and/or exported into PC tools from the JD Edwards system and processed before it could be distributed to corporate managers and executives.

PLATFORMS: At Helzberg Diamonds, STRATEGY runs on AS/400.

PROBLEM SOLVED: With the STRATEGY business intelligence suite of products, key information now automatically appears in standard and custom views and in reports that are easy to read and manipulate. Helzberg managers and executives now have the tools they need to manage their business efficiently and profitably. Through its deployment accelerator templates, ShowCase provided a way to shortcut the development of a financial analysis data mart application.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The modular nature of STRATEGY offered the possibility of starting small, with departmental data marts that could be implemented quickly, and evolving them into an enterprise-wide data warehouse serving multiple functional data marts. The STRATEGY Financial Analysis Deployment Accelerator provides a variety of financial and accounting analysis "views" and end-user reports. These include profit and loss analysis, forecasting and overhead calculation, variation and unit cost analysis. Using the application is easy, especially with STRATEGY's Analyzer, which is user friendly with graphical user interfaces and drill downs that are easy to use. Helzberg has big plans for utilizing this product in the future, including a multidimensional merchandising data mart that will allow greater day-to-day inventory control; a corporate planning, budgeting and forecasting application; and a centralized data warehouse to serve multiple data marts and the entire enterprise.

STRENGTHS: STRATEGY enabled managers to become more creative in their uses of information, including the ability to create ad hoc data views and perform various types of "what- if" analyses. One of the biggest benefits was its ability to empower users to find information on their own, without assistance from the IT staff. Also, executives and managers can now access business-critical information that once took days or weeks or wasn't available at all. Use of the product has led to better business decisions about where to open and close stores, how to staff stores and how best to develop incentives for increasing sales productivity.

WEAKNESSES: The Warehouse Builder component of the STRATEGY product (extraction transformation and loading component) has little flexibility in the transfer aspect of Warehouse Builder.

SELECTION CRITERIA: ShowCase's STRATEGY was chosen because it offered the only end-to-end data warehousing system for the AS/400, to which Helzberg is committed. The product's integration on the AS/400 and integration with the JD Edwards system was easy.

DELIVERABLES: So far, Helzberg's STRATEGY data marts include a total of 25-35 gigabytes of data. When Helzberg scales up to an enterprise-wide data warehouse, the database will increase to more than 100 gigabytes. Helzberg anticipates using ShowCase's Analyzer for the Web to distribute access to this huge multidimensional database to all Helzberg field locations. Using multidimensional analyses has allowed managers to create meaningful performance metrics, such as weekly or even daily labor costs as a percent of sales or inventory or other areas on a store-by-store or consolidated basis.

VENDOR SUPPORT: End-user training was outstanding ­ ShowCase personnel are highly experienced IT professionals. ShowCase worked hand-in-hand with Helzberg and was able to assimilate the product into the business. They also had excellent follow-through.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is comprehensive and easy to read.

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