AMC Theatres, a worldwide leader in the movie industry, sought to integrate and analyze data from disparate sources. It also wanted to investigate tools for portraying data graphically. AMC tested Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 along with Microsoft Excel 2010, and it found the software effective and easy to use. With the new solution, AMC easily integrated a previously isolated data source and highlighted business trends with concise graphics. Business Needs
AMC Theatres is one of the largest movie theatre companies in the United States, with more than 4,000 screens and hundreds of millions of guests. At AMC headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri, analysts pore over data from all of its locations to measure performance, improve operations, and plan and budget for the future.
||If you have a data warehouse that has 90 percent of what you need to make your business decisions, but 10 percent is in another spreadsheet, you can use SQL Server 2008 R2 to immediately integrate that data.
Business Intelligence Analyst
“We have key performance indicators that we’ve been using for many years, such as concession revenue and variable operating expenses per patron,” says Scott Carbary, a Business Intelligence Analyst at AMC. “Although they work well, we do face challenges common to companies that work with a lot of data, such as integrating disparate data sources and seeking to do our analyses as quickly as possible.”
The company’s primary databases run on Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Enterprise Edition data management software. However, AMC is in the process of upgrading its point-of-sale system and its enterprise data warehouse. Meanwhile, the company also wants to be able to extract valuable information from data in the AMC enterprise resource planning system, the data warehouse, some transactional systems, and Radiant Systems Aloha Enterprise, a restaurant-oriented point-of-sale system used at a small number of AMC theatres.
AMC uses reports based on this data, generated using Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Analysis Services and Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services, to help executives and individual theatre managers make a variety of business decisions. These decisions include projecting revenues from upcoming films, adjusting which movies are shown on which screens to maximize capacity, and identifying talented cashiers by measuring their transactions per hour. “Most of these reports are just flat lists, which are produced weekly,” Carbary says. “I’ve been trying to find better, more efficient ways of interpreting our results, including more graphical representation of data.”Solution
In September 2009, AMC learned about Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Enteprise, which includes powerful new data analysis and reporting features. By October, management had asked Carbary to work with a beta version of the new software and learn how it might help the company. “We wanted to get a look at the future, get ahead of the curve,” Carbary says.
AMC tested SQL Server 2008 R2 with beta versions of Microsoft Excel 2010 spreadsheet software and Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010. The three applications work well together. AMC found that with Microsoft SQL Server PowerPivot for Microsoft Excel, employees can quickly analyze up to hundreds of millions of rows of data from virtually any source.
Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services introduces many new features and enhancements that increase the reporting capabilities of people who develop reporting solutions. For example, Carbary was impressed by sparklines and data bars: small, simple charts that convey a lot of information in a small space—even inline with text.
As he became familiar with the new software, Carbary’s primary task was to model and analyze the Aloha point-of-sale data using PowerPivot for Excel. The Aloha data was not available in the AMC data warehouse. “Because there had been no previous way to aggregate, slice, or dice this data, we thought it was a good candidate for a test case,” he says. When Carbary presented demonstrations to managers in March 2010, he says, “Our data analysts were excited by what they saw of SQL Server PowerPivot for Excel, and particularly liked the familiar Excel 2010 interface.”
“We were very pleased with all of the products,” Carbary says. ”Management is keen on executing a full upgrade soon.” Benefits
AMC used SQL Server 2008 R2 to aggregate data from diverse sources and display that information graphically, with software that was easy to use.Integrates Diverse Data Sources
SQL Server 2008 R2 made it possible for AMC to build a rich workbook of data from the previously isolated Aloha system. “I used SQL Server PowerPivot for Excel to put all the data together and connect it to our different time slices and fiscal calendar,” Carbary says. “From raw data files, I was able to simulate various dimensions, creating something that really works for decision makers.”He concluded that SQL Server 2008 R2 is particularly valuable for situations where data is located in different sources. “If you have a data warehouse that has 90 percent of what you need to make your business decisions, but 10 percent is in another spreadsheet, you can use SQL Server 2008 R2 to immediately integrate that data.”Displays Vivid Graphics
With SQL Server 2008 R2, AMC can easily display data in a graphical format. “Everyone knows that you can consume more information more quickly through graphical representation rather than just pure numbers,” Carbary says. “That’s why the sparklines and data bars in SQL Server 2008 R2 are fantastic. Sparklines are vital to building dashboards because the whole idea is to get as much good information into as small an area as possible. With a sparkline, you can show a trend in that small area.”Provides User-Friendly Improvements
Carbary also appreciated user-friendly improvements to SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services. “I thought the progression of SQL Server Reporting Services was significant,” Carbary says. “Microsoft must have been listening to customer feedback, because there were dozens of little things that I had wanted when I was building reports that are now available, such as shared data sets on the server, a facelift for the Report Manager, and being able to name the tabs when you export your report to Excel 2010. Those improvements alone would absolutely be enough to make you want to upgrade to SQL Server 2008 R2.” This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.