Microsoft business intelligence solutions boost The Weather Channel

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Needing to increase business insight, streamline reporting processes, and improve data control, The Weather Channel turned to Microsoft business intelligence (BI). Last year, the channel implemented a flexible BI solution based on Microsoft SQL Server 2012, aiming to take advantage of Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Power View via a portal and virtual desktops. The deployment has enabled more than 160 hours each month to be saved - with reports generated faster - in addition to other benefits such as improved security and control, greater efficiency and increased agility.

Before 2012, The Weather Channel used automated and manual processes to manage and analyse subscriptions from hundreds of service providers. Data was kept on five different systems, and also on employees' own PCs, with no central bank for this information until it was manually inputted into Microsoft Excel. This process was extremely time-consuming - taking hours or even days to complete.

Managing data more effectively

Andy Drooker, senior director of emerging platforms at The Weather Channel, said the complexity of the business data was "very difficult" to manage before the BI upgrade. He noted that employees could not view real-time BI, meaning the company was failing to take full advantage of the information it possessed. Mr Drooker explained that only IT staff were able to customise static reports, rather than employees on the front-line who could benefit from ready access to BI.

"Reports tell a story about our business," he noted. "However, employees had to engage IT personnel to look at the story from a different perspective or obtain details." He said it had become increasingly important for employees to be able to understand data trends - allowing The Weather Channel to make better use of the information it obtains and stores.

Embracing Microsoft BI solutions

After weighing up a number of options, the company deployed an intelligence solution based on Microsoft BI tools including Power View, using Microsoft SQL Server 2012. "We wanted to bring in data from multiple sources and add features that were either not possible or not easy to implement with QlikView," Mr Drooker stated.

Using Microsoft BI, The Weather Channel is now able to generate reports in seconds or minutes instead of hours and days. "By deploying a Microsoft BI solution based on SQL Server 2012 and Power View, we save 160 hours each month generating just one of our key reports," Mr Drooker stated.

The solution also helps improve general efficiency, with people getting the insight they need faster than ever. Mr Drooker explained that there is no longer any need for staff to wait for reports to be sent by email. "This saves time and streamlines workflow because people can get real-time BI whenever they need it," he stated.

Other benefits of the BI deployment

Improved security and control is another key benefit. “Our new solution stores BI on SQL Server, and people access it from the portal, which means employees can stop using email as a file cabinet,” he added. "This helps us contain data growth, and we can enhance data security by controlling access to information through the portal."

Another advantage is that BI training is minimal, Mr Drooker stated. He said it makes no sense to add complexity and increase costs with a third-party solution when SQL Server 2012 and Power View can be used to simplify integration with technologies already in use.

"Our Microsoft BI solution will eventually help the entire organisation," Mr Drooker claimed. It will allow employees to instantly see "the big picture" and trends in business data, he noted. This allows users to drill down into the details to understand changes, Mr Drooker added. He said this ability is "critical" to help The Weather Channel continually adapt its business model to meet demand.

Find out more about Microsoft business intelligence solutions by clicking here.

Posted by Alex Boardman