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Southern Wine and Spirits Explains Why They Use DI-Diver


Mike Brockway, Southern Wine and Spirits' (SWS) senior project manager in charge of Data Warehousing and EIS, talks about how Dimensional Insight can address issues that are critical to distributors. SWS is one of the largest distributors of wine and spirits in the country, with offices in Florida, Pennsylvania, Nevada, South Carolina, Kentucky, Arizona, California, and Hawaii.

Tough Selection Criteria

"As a very decentralized operation, one of the biggest challenges SWS faced was being able to pull together timely information from all of our selling divisions for our Corporate Offices. This executive information needed to be summarized at a high level with drill down ("slice and dice") granular functionality. We were given the task of finding a product that could not only deliver timely information to our executive offices, but could also be used in each of our selling divisions by sales management to monitor their business. In a company as geographically dispersed as we are, it took a lot of time and effort to pull information together, consolidate it, and make it available on a common reporting platform."

Before we started looking for a solution to meet our needs, we developed a list of requirements:

1. The product had to be able to handle our volume of data, which is pretty steep, and it would have to "crunch" it in a relatively short period of time.
2. The product had to handle all nightly updates and rebuilds within our nightly processing window. Since we have offices dispersed from Miami to Hawaii, the time zone differentials yield a rather small nightly processing window.
3. It had to be easily recoverable.
4. It had to be user-friendly.
5. It had to be supported on Microsoft Windows NT and the IBM AS/400.
6. It had to be portable so executives could use the system via laptops when they travel.
7. It had to produce graphs such as bar charts and pie charts.
8. It had to support advanced reporting. We were looking for a product that had robust reporting built into it. It was our intention to eventually replace legacy system reports with reports generated by this tool.
9. It had to be generic to our business processes so that we could take this product and use it across many of our business areas. Although the sales reporting area was our immediate priority, we also wanted a product that could be used in finance, shipping, personnel, and warehouse management.
10. The product had to be able to offer basic mapping support so we could display maps of the country, by country, or by state.
11. It had to be able to import data from multiple source formats including DB2.
12. It had to provide an easy comparison between time periods (e.g., this year vs. last year).
13. It had to be easy to drill down and drill across data so that one could very easily navigate down into the detailed information.
14. It had to be Web enabled. We wanted to be able to serve it to remote locations as well as to people on the road.
15. The entire solution had to be simple enough from an information systems perspective to let our selling divisions take ownership of the local support issues."

Cross-Platform Design

"We realized early on that the basic design structure that we selected would be critical to the product's overall success. Given the flexibility of the system, we could have populated the EIS tool directly from our host-based systems (AS/400 and DB2), but decided against this route in favor of an intermediary data warehouse design. The EIS tool was only one part of our overall solution. We wanted to design and implement a data warehouse that would contain all of the Company's critical data.

We worked as a joint venture with IBM to design a DB2 data warehouse. The data warehouse in production today pulls data from all of our sales divisions every day. We have just under a hundred million records, and it's growing every day. The data warehouse feeds DI-Diver and is also available to run ODBC programs against it. We no longer have to call our sales divisions for special reporting requests. Today, we get the information ourselves from DI-Diver and/or the data warehouse.

 

We started looking at the design for DI-Diver, Dimensional Insight's product. We had to determine which business areas to focus in. Our immediate priority was sales reporting and to give our sales management the information that they needed to run their business. We had to decide whether it made sense to deliver a centralized or decentralized EIS platform. As it turns out, the best solution for us at that time was a combination of both. As an example, our Northern California office in Union City and our Southern California office in Cerritos are both running DI-Diver from an AS/400, located in Northern California. The rest of our divisions are running DI-Diver on local Microsoft Windows NT servers. Based on our project requirements, DI-Diver allowed us to offer both solutions."


Fast, Robust, Easy to Use

"As part of our software selection process, we looked at many offerings (e.g., Dimensional Insight, Pilot Light Ship, Margin Minder, TM1, Platinum, and Cognos). Each system had its pluses and minuses, but in our opinion Dimensional Insight out-shined all of them. Dimensional Insight handled our volume of data faster than any other product we looked at. We are literally rebuilding three years worth of information from some of our larger sites overnight, from scratch. The product is very easy to use. As long as the users have some PC knowledge, and they know how to click or double-click a mouse, they can easily use this product. We also find that Dimensional Insight offers a very attractive price to performance ratio. They have a solid integrated reporting feature which was key for us. It is webenabled and it is portable."

Qualitative R.O.I.

"The benefits of this system are both quantitative and qualitative. One of the biggest qualitative benefits of the system is access to timely, accurate information on demand. Our executives used to get hard copy reports, sometimes waiting days or weeks, especially if it was a special request. Now they have that information immediately available on their desktop. They have the ability to drill down into the data to find trends and to immediately act upon them. If they see that sales are off compared to last year, they can immediately dig deeper into the data to ascertain the exact cause of the problems. They have access today to information that was never readily available to them before. Our executives also like to see the data in the format that they are accustomed to. With DI-Diver they can get the information at the click of a mouse, lay out a report format, and sort it any way they choose on demand."

Quantitative R.O.I.

"There's a definite decrease in hard copy paper reports. Now that they have the information at their fingertips, we don't have to do a lot of printing on mainframe printers and high speed Xerox printers. They are now using DI-Diver to sift through the information they want, printing off one or two key pages, rather then printing off a hundred page report and looking at the bottom two pages for what they want. As an example, at our Miami site, we've seen a reduction in printed pages as a result of DI-Diver. There's also been a direct saving on personnel resources because executives are able to get their own information. We are seeing reallocation of staff to other areas of the business. It's really streamlining our operation."

Common Information Across the Enterprise

"We now have a standard reporting system across the Company with a pool of knowledgeable support personnel who can help other users in need. If one of our sites has a problem, and they're not sure how to do something with the product, they can call one of our other sites and get their question resolved easily. It's a tremendous benefit to have this common tool across the Company. In any of our sales offices, sales management can sit down with a supplier and go over a business review or analyze the performance of their products. They can bring up real-time sales data pertaining to that supplier and analyze trends in that supplier's business. It's had a tremendous positive impact. In the past, this was accomplished with pre-printed reports that usually generated a list of questions to resolve after the meeting. Now we can handle everything on the spot."

Future Roll-Out Plans

"We started with sales reporting but have plans to expand its usage. We are in the process of testing Web access using Dimensional Insight's product for mobile salespeople, and also for business to business solutions. We're also looking at adding warehouse information to DI-Diver to allow us to look at logistic costs and activity based costing. We're also working on applications in the general ledger, and payroll areas."

"In closing, I'd like to say that SWS is very pleased with the DI-Diver product and the Dimensional Insight Company. We continually put Dimensional Insight to the test with lots of requests and in all, they've come through for us with shining colors."

Copyright 2008. Inroads Ltd, Hong Kong.