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Posted: 6/17/2014
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Eastman Chemical Company Near-Real-Time Pricing Information Helps Employees Make Better Decisions

Eastman Chemical Company needed to give employees in its pricing organization a better and faster method of accessing updated pricing data, so they could make better pricing decisions when presented with competitive price requests from specific customers. Eastman tested the In-memory columnstore feature in SQL Server, and now employees get the most current data in seconds rather than in minutes, and they can update their data more easily.

Business Needs

Eastman Chemical Company, headquartered in Kingsport, Tennessee, is a growing specialty chemical organization that makes products found in items people use every day in approximately 100 countries around the world.

The company’s pricing organization is responsible for evaluating competitive price requests and then accepting, countering, or denying the request based on a target price. The target price is based on segmentation models and pricing power and risk evaluations. “We use some very complex calculations to do this.” says Bryant Byrd, Senior BI Systems Analyst, Eastman Chemical Company.

However, pricing staff using the company’s Tableau BI software system needed a better, faster way to get at the data. This is critical because getting margins on sales is highly important for Eastman salespeople. “We’re facing a lot of competition, so we need to make sure we’re maximizing our margins,” says Byrd.

In addition, the process of updating the pricing data in the existing Tableau-based BI system was manual, time-consuming, and error-prone. “If someone in IT was updating the system, they had to create multiple copies of information and change the security for each new user. There was a lot of potential for error,” says Marshall Couch, Systems Analyst, Eastman Chemical Company.

Eastman began searching for a more complete and scalable solution in late 2013.

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* Using SQL Server In-memory Columnstore, we saw queries coming back in milliseconds, compared with the minutes it usually takes. Now, when team members want to see pricing data, they can get it almost instantaneously. *

Marshall Couch
Systems Analyst
Eastman Chemical Company

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Solution

The company was strongly interested in Microsoft SQL Server 2014 software. “When we saw some of the features in SQL Server 2014, we definitely were interested,” says Bird.

Eastman was particularly attracted to the In-memory columnstore feature in the newest SQL Server version, an updatable index that gives IT administrators the ability to insert, delete, and update indexes faster than before. In early 2014, Eastman conducted lab tests using the new version of SQL Server and specifically tested the In-memory columnstore. “It really improved query performance dramatically,” says Couch.

After the tests, Eastman decided to upgrade to SQL Server 2014 Enterprise to support the organization’s data platform solution for pricing group employees. “With this solution, we have a powerful database for aggregating our pricing data,” says Byrd. “We can bring in pricing information and run computations on it, then deliver it to the end users through the BI solution. They get updated data, faster.”

The Microsoft data platform features solutions designed to scale for enterprises and deliver easy access, analysis, and management of any data, big and small.

Currently, 60 Eastman pricing employees use the data platform solution, with additional users to be added by the end of 2014. Eastman also plans to take advantage of the business intelligence (BI) capabilities in the latest version of SQL Server. “This technology is very solid and reliable, so we’re going to be doing an aggressive upgrade this year,” says Byrd.


Benefits

With the new SQL Server solution, Eastman employees can get up-to-date pricing data much faster than before, and, as a result, they can make better business decisions and work with more customers each day. Additionally, the company’s IT employees can update data more easily for use by all employees.

Gives Employees Data in Milliseconds Instead of in Minutes

With the upgraded solution, Eastman pricing-group employees can access product pricing data much faster than before. “Using SQL Server In-memory columnstore, we saw queries coming back in milliseconds, compared with the minutes it usually takes,” says Couch. “Now, when team members want to see pricing data, they can get it almost instantaneously. That means they can help salespeople find the latest pricing data for customers. That will be very important for the business going forward.”

Provides Up-to-Date Pricing Information, Improves Decision Making

Because SQL Server updates data in near real time, employees have access to the latest pricing data when conducting queries. “Our employees can get the most current pricing data much faster with the newest version of SQL Server, and that gives them a better ability to do their pricing research for customers,” Couch says. “With updated data throughout the day, they can make better decisions.”

The solution also improves employee productivity, because workers can view more information and work with more customers each day instead of waiting for queries to load. “The combination of Tableau and SQL Server 2014 provided a solution that has given the pricing staff a more holistic view of the customer segmentation and allows them to make more informed pricing decisions. In addition, the solution provided a large change in performance resulting in a significant productivity improvement,” says Michael Welty, Pricing Analytics Manager, Eastman Chemical Company.

Simplifies Data-Updating Process for IT Staff

The organization’s software developers save development time with the new solution because of the simplicity of updating data. “When they need to update data, database administrators just need to create a table and make it an index, using a simple command,” says Couch. “Our developers don’t even need to be involved at all. Previously, in order to load a new table, developers had to change their ETL process to remove the index before the data load and add it back in after the load. That’s important, because our developers need to stay agile to work on new projects. They don’t need to spend their time on database tables.”

Ultimately, the Eastman IT staff can ensure that pricing employees can quickly access the latest data whenever they need it. “The updatable In-memory columnstore feature in SQL Server is so fast and easy to implement,” says Couch. “If a team member needs more speed, we just throw the index on the database and ad hoc queries are much faster. It’s a powerful tool for our business.”

This case study is for informational purposes only.
Solution Overview



Organization Size: 14000 employees

Organization Profile

Tennessee-based Eastman Chemical Company is a global specialty chemical company that produces a broad range of products found in items people use every day. It serves customers in approximately 100 countries.


Software and Services
Microsoft SQL Server 2014 Enterprise

Vertical Industries
Life Sciences, Chemicals; Oil & Gas, Mining

Country/Region
United States

Business Need
Cloud & Server Platform

IT Issue
Cloud Services

Languages
English

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