New Zealand Post Retail has rolled out a cost effective Microsoft Business Intelligence solution – Business Intelligence, Hyper-V Server, Office, Visual Studio and Windows Vista Enterprise.
“For the first time our business users would be able to get a single consistent view of business information presented to them in a clear and consistent format that would allow them to drill down into that information to gain further insights,” says John McDermott, Retail Technology Architect, NZ Post Retail.
||Microsoft’s Business Intelligence tools offer a faster return on investment and faster implementation.
||John McDermott Retail Technology Architect New Zealand Post Retail
New Zealand Post Retail is part of New Zealand Post Limited, a State Owned Enterprise founded in Wellington in 1840. New Zealand Post Retail has more than 900 retail outlets throughout the country, which provide a wide range of postal, courier and banking products and services.
The Retail Technology Team recognised that New Zealand Post Retail needed a comprehensive Business Intelligence system to access, analyse and present data effectively in order to make better business decisions and approached Datacom, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, to design and build a solution.
“The problem that New Zealand Post Retail had was that it collected data such as the records of all the sales transactions in its retail stores, but once that data was captured the business had no real visibility on what was purchased because it lacked the tools to view and analyse data,” says Mark Peach, General Manager – Systems and Integration, Datacom.
The existing systems for managing business data were limited to manual processes based on desktop tools such as Microsoft Access and Microsoft Excel, which provided limited capacity for visibility and analysis of data across the business.
A comprehensive Business Intelligence solution would enable New Zealand Post Retail to analyse data from the retail stores in its network and identify which stores and product lines were profitable, and which were not – a powerful business tool in a fast changing retail climate and a challenging economic environment.
New Zealand Post Retail needed a Business Intelligence solution that could be implemented rapidly and cost-effectively across the entire organisation to make smarter and more informed decisions, reduce costs by finding inefficiencies and identify opportunities to increase profitability.
Having worked closely with New Zealand Post Retail to provide a number of IT solutions Datacom had a good understanding of the organisation’s business needs. After the need for a Business Intelligence solution had been identified, Datacom presented New Zealand Post Retail with a working prototype based on existing data and an out-of-the-box solution that demonstrated the value of Microsoft Business Intelligence.
“We were really impressed that Datacom presented us with this solution proactively and the data presented was already very rich. We could immediately see the business value, even from the prototype,” says John McDermott, Retail Technology Architect, New Zealand Post Retail.
“For the first time our business users were able to get a single consistent view of business information presented to them in a clear and consistent format that would allow them to drill down into that information to gain further insights,” says McDermott.
Although New Zealand Post Retail was immediately impressed by the Microsoft Business Intelligence solution, the organisation evaluated several options including Oracle and Cognos-based solutions and found that the Microsoft solution best fit the organisation’s need for a cost- effective, easy to implement and comprehensive solution.
“It was a technology solution that lent itself to a rapid and cost-effective implementation. We had a modest budget and aggressive timeline for delivery and the Microsoft solution did well on these criteria. Having previously worked with Datacom with a Microsoft SQL Server solution we had had already gained confidence in the technology and Datacom’s ability to take an agile approach in implementing the solution quickly,” says McDermott.
“Microsoft’s Business Intelligence tools offer a faster return on investment and faster implementation. The Microsoft products fitted in with our agile methodology. We can deliver something very quickly and then present it to the customer for feedback whereas the Oracle solution, for example, doesn’t always allow you to achieve that,” says Mark Peach, General Manager, Datacom Systems and Integration.
The out-of-the-box solution required minimal coding effort from Datacom, which allowed for a rapid prototype driven business delivery.
Windows Server 2008 is the base operating system for the solution, which enabled deployment in a 64 bit environment.
Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft Office 2007 suites are the foundation for the Microsoft Business Intelligence solution, providing a data management and business intelligence platform, with powerful data store and analytics tools including Integration Services, Analysis Services and Reporting Services.
PerformancePoint Server 2007 provides the presentation tools for the solution and is used to create analytic charts for output to users, delivered via an intranet retailer portal using Microsoft® Office SharePoint® Server 2007 with a look and feel that is familiar and easy to use.
The solution is virtualised in a shared services environment hosted by Datacom using Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V, which has enabled New Zealand Post Retail to make further savings on operating costs.
Datacom presented the first prototype to New Zealand Post Retail in February and has worked closely with New Zealand Post Retail since then to develop a solution that meets the need of the business.
Using an agile implementation ideology the solution has been deployed rapidly and smoothly. Solution prototypes were initially trialled by a group of business users in the Retail Leadership Team who provided feedback to the Datacom team to fine-tune the solution.
The solution is deployed to operational business managers through a SharePoint intranet portal, which provides users with easy-to-use self-service reporting tools for immediate reporting and analysis. Implementation will eventually be extended to the retail sales team that manages retail stores and the store managers themselves.
“One of our key considerations at our initial evaluation of solution options was rapid and cost effective implementation. We delivered the initial production version within six months from end-to-end and we also delivered a very cost effective solution to retail,” says McDermott.
With help from Datacom, New Zealand Post Retail has deployed a Business Intelligence solution that has empowered the organisation to reduce costs and make better business decisions, even at the prototype stage. With Microsoft SQL Server as the organisation’s data management and Business Intelligence platform, New Zealand Post Retail has greater visibility into business data and the ability to analyse and present this data more effectively. The system allows for the retrieval of real-time transactional data via an intuitive self-service dashboard framework which, in turn, lets management analyse retail trends from the shops and make timely decisions around PostShop productivity and efficiency. The solution has had a rapid and cost effective implementation and has been adopted readily by users, who are already passing on the benefits of Microsoft Business Intelligence to customers.
Operating smarter, more strategically
New Zealand Post Retail is now equipped to make smarter, more informed business decisions that will increase efficiencies in the short term and position for growth in the long term.
“Microsoft Business Intelligence has provided the New Zealand Post Retail leadership team with a single consistent view of three core sets of business data – customers, products and retail outlets. Strategically this enables our business to make better decisions based on consistent, accurate and up to date information,” says McDermott.
Efficiencies and cost savings
The solution has already enabled New Zealand Post Retail to realise efficiencies and costs savings in areas such as staffing levels and ensuring that products and services at individual PostShop Kiwibank stores are relevant to their particular customer base. It is anticipated that as the solution is implemented further, the business will see further cost benefits.
“Microsoft Business Intelligence has allowed us greater confidence in our decision making around the business. This leads to greater enthusiasm and motivation which in turn leads to improved business outcomes,” says McDermott.
“It provides information across the whole business in a cost effective manner. An early prototype provided the retail team with data that enabled the team to identify and address a number of performance issues, and sales and marketing are taking information from our current catalogue and doing analysis on which products are performing and which are not as strong. We expect to quickly see a rationalisation of the number of products and services in the catalogue based on Business Intelligence analysis and we will also be looking more closely at resourcing efficiencies across the network,” says McDermott.
Cost effective, rapid deployment
The solution has delivered on New Zealand Post Retail’s requirement for a cost-effective, rapid and agile implementation. From start to finish, the project was implemented within six months and the out-of-the-box solution has allowed for a rapid prototype-driven business delivery.
Powerful, yet intuitive and easy to use
Users access Business Intelligence tools through an intranet portal run on Microsoft® Office SharePoint® Server 2007. The familiar look at feel of the toolset has made it easy for users to adopt business intelligence tools quickly.
“The feedback from users has been very positive, they’ve said that it’s the most consistent, useable Business Intelligence system they’ve ever used. Staff don’t require specialised training and because there are no new concepts to learn most users pick up the basic of drilling down into information within 15 minutes or so,” says McDermott.
The self-service system reduces the need for IT staff to provide information so users are able to use self-service web-based tools for comprehensive slice and dice analysis. Users can also use tools built into Excel to analyse OLAP cubes and other data.
Passing on benefits to customers
Business Intelligence will not only help New Zealand Post Retail to reduce costs and increase efficiencies, but it will also help the business to pass these benefits on to customers who use the retail stores to pay bills, use postal and banking services and buy merchandise.
“Business Intelligence can help New Zealand Post Retail to serve customers better by providing more accurate information on customer trends and products. New Zealand Post Retail also acts as an agent for other businesses, providing, for example, bill payment services for utility companies, and these customers will be provided with richer information about how their products are performing through retail outlets, enabling us to deliver greater business value,” says McDermott.
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