The power of high visibility

Instant, interactive consolidated views trump 2-week collation of static reports.

Making sense of change
In the midst of a massive conversion to a new retail POS system and ERP suite in 2012, leading building materials retailer Cashbuild turned to QlikView to provide management information visibility.

Andre van Onselen, operations director, says that the old method of collating separate reports from the retail and ERP systems had become unviable during the overwhelming transition, which had started in 2010.

“Even before that, the MIS cycle was too drawn out,” he continues. “It produced inflexible reports and raised questions about data integrity. With the additional complexity, we could no longer wait to get reporting to a more manageable and reliable level.”

The choice
Brian Kriedemann, project manager for the MIS effort, says QlikView was very much at home extracting data from a patch quilt of enterprise software – the biggest reason for its selection.

“In addition, QlikView’s in-memory architecture allows rapid discovery of the state of the business. Previously Cashbuild had to load data over a weekend”.

The project
Wading into a highly fluid conversion was an unorthodox and demanding scenario for any vendor, Van Onselen admits. The project posed interesting technical challenges, notes Upuli de Abrew, director at Insight Consulting, Cashbuild’s QlikView sales and implementation partner, and recently named QlikView SA Partner of the Year. “We had to set QlikView up in a highly structured, yet flexible fashion to extract and consolidate data from different sources. Fortunately, QlikView is a very nimble tool, that lends itself to these types of deployments.”

Van Onselen notes that QlikView dealt with this very efficiently. “It has been the biggest challenge and the fault of our production system, which had not been built for analytics. To be able to fix that retroactively is a nice surprise.”

Kriedemann says the implementation proceeded in three stages: sales environment, financial and inventory management. “It was complete in four months, meeting target – but it was an ambitious target in normal BI terms. To put something as smart as QlikView in in four months is exceptional.”

The project outcomes
QlikView now successfully extracts and consolidates financial and transactional data from both POS systems and SAP’s data service, facilitating quick and easy design and operation of analytic models for stock management, store management, category management and more.

Van Onselen says Cashbuild’s objectives have largely been met with the implementation, which provides role-based access to performance views by divisional managers, country managers, business area managers and the executives (who also have access to consolidated financial performance). “All of this is and has been available both during and after the transition.”

The business impact
He says the solution added great value. “The information is presented in a way that is easy to consume and understand and gives a consolidated view of the business across a wide cross-section, enabling better decision-making. It is one of the best IT investments of the past five years.”

Sa-eed Hendricks, senior business analyst at Cashbuild, says only a limited ability to provide a 360 degree view existed before, and that it took fully one week to achieve by combining separate analyses from different systems or managers. “The time saved in being able to immediately analyse the business at any time or place is a big impact.”

Hendricks says the tool comes into play in Monday morning focus meetings, where business performance is now tracked live and decisions enabled. “It gives directors complete freedom to pose any query and make and change strategic decisions on the fly.”

As quick and easy as it is to implement QlikView and get answers, so quick and easy it is to revise analytic capabilities with new data models. “QlikView introduced a cultural change at Cashbuild,” says Kriedemann. “BI work can take months, but QlikView removes that hesitancy from managers’ minds.”

Wider impact
What started out as a simple support office implementation (central administration) soon began to have wider significance. Hendricks says once the QlikView app was finalised according to expectations, it was rolled out at divisional manager level . The company already has a user base of 103 users.

“It will be great for day-to-day running of the business. Managers will be able to see in graphical format what isn’t selling, why – in other words, which article is causing it – and embark on further enquiry arising from that, such as the need to change pricing, scour competitive intelligence and so on.”

The future bodes well for QlikView at Cashbuild as it continues its enterprise-wide blitzkrieg.

Financial director Etienne Prowse says the software and implementation process has been an all-round pleasant surprise. “Being promised you’ll get the information at your fingertips and seeing it happen in such a short space of time is just incredible.”

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The power of high visibility