BACKGROUND: VDK Frozen Foods, a St. Louis-based food services leader, is a young, fast-growing business with a portfolio of established brands. Through acquisitions and sales growth, the company more than doubled its revenues in its first year. To fully capitalize on both its growth and the inherent value of its brands, VDK Frozen Foods needed to better manage its promotional funds. Promoting nationally known brands (such as Van De Kamp's, Mrs. Paul's, Mama Celeste and Aunt Jemima) required various techniques including coupons, ads and in-store promotions. However, measuring the effectiveness of each promotional technique presented a challenge to VDK's small IS staff. With individual reports scattered throughout the user community, VDK didn't have a practical way to compile all of that data into one meaningful source. As a result, it was difficult for VDK management to know if an overall promotion worked as it should. The company's reporting and analysis system lacked the functionality to gauge current and future performance based on past results.

PLATFORMS: VDK uses Comshare Decision and Comshare DecisionWeb to distribute and share management information on both a Windows NT local area network and the company's intranet. Decision for client/server applications runs on Windows 95 and Windows NT. The server portions of both run on Windows NT.

PROBLEM SOLVED: The Comshare solution provided the single source for compiling information and the ability to report and analyze that information. As a result, users are finally able to determine the overall effectiveness of promotional campaigns. Only by implementing Comshare did VDK have the necessary capabilities to evaluate its enterprise-wide promotional programs through a combined client/server and Web-based environment.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: All Comshare applications offer strong analytic capabilities, including grids, drill down, rotation, charts, maps, ad hoc calculations and other analysis functions. In addition, instead of simply forcing users to search for problems in ever-growing databases, Comshare software's built-in Guided Analysis functionality guides users to the problems and opportunities that lie hidden. The software's intuitive human factors enable users to perform interactive, hands-on analysis of multidimensional data to determine the overall effectiveness of promotional campaigns. This greatly enhances evaluation of the company's promotional activity performance.

STRENGTHS: VDK had to find a way to make data analysis and reporting more cohesive. Comshare software provided an easy-to-use interface that made accessing information possible, even for those with little computer proficiency. In the end, it is the analytic strength and ease of implementation that make the difference. The Comshare applications did not require complicated set up, and VDK can offer the same service via the Internet providing remote access to users wherever they might be.

WEAKNESSES: The ICE (Intelligent Component Expansion) icons in Decision are not yet available in DecisionWeb, but VDK managers are awaiting this functionality which is a great way to highlight under-performing products and analyze their promotions.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Comshare was selected for integrated analysis capabilities, the ability to run on client/server and intranet platforms and advanced guided analysis functionality.

DELIVERABLES: Mission-critical decision-making capabilities are dramatically increased with Comshare software. Today, VDK has the means to answer critical questions about the company's promotional plans. Management can now judge whether a plan and the budget allocated for it makes sense, based on past performance. But even more important, Comshare empowered VDK with the ability to make on-the-fly adjustments to the plan if management determines that it is not progressing as well as it should. In the future, VDK will be able to expand these applications to include long-term analysis of the company's logistics concerns, financial situation and sales performance.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Comshare's consulting team worked with VDK's IS staff to implement the program from the planning stages to roll out. Comshare consultants adjusted training to match VDK's business needs, which gave the project an extra "shot in the arm" when implementation began.

DOCUMENTATION: On-line documentation is strong. The Decision tutorial lays out what it takes to get started to develop applications. The on-line HELP capability takes it from there, answering the more specific, detailed technical questions.

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