Leisure provider benefits from Microsoft business intelligence

Friday 11 October 2013

A leisure facilities provider has benefited in a number of ways from the deployment of Microsoft business intelligence (BI) solutions, it has been claimed. As revealed by Professional Advantage - which, as a Microsoft partner, implemented the new BI system - Mingara Recreation Club Limited is using intelligence systems to streamline processes, increase efficiencies, bring workers together and enhance decision making.

Historically, the company - which owns facilities including gyms, clubs and a regional athletics centre - had used a wide range of software applications to cover areas such as HR, facilities management, finance and on-site gaming. But the problem with this approach was that data was not shared effectively between the different arms of the business. Data obtained through one system remained locked away, unavailable for analysis and interpretation by those working in a different area.

With information existing in silo, a great deal of manual work was required at Mingara whenever management reports needed to be produced. This involved exporting data from each system, consolidating it and removing duplications before any reports could be finalised. The upshot of this was that the process took a number of weeks, and typically involved various individuals - distracting them from their normal work duties.

"We couldn't get the information we needed and we weren't using any of the data to intelligently improve our business," noted Mingara's accountant John Byrne. He said this was unacceptable, particularly since the company was "highly susceptible" to changing consumer spending patterns - and this is why the board opted for a BI overhaul.

Mingara deploys Microsoft SQL Server

Mingara turned to Microsoft BI services supported by SQL Server - chosen because it was seen as a good fit for the company's existing IT environment and finance systems, which were also Microsoft-based. Mr Byrne explained that the company defined a three-year programme, with integration of the various systems taking place in year one, data warehousing occurring in year two, and data mobilisation in year three.

With SQL Server in place, Mingara set about creating a new BI environment, in conjunction with Professional Advantage. At the start of year two, the data warehouse was readied and populated with information from the various Mingara systems already in place. Reports were designed and a portal was developed enabling staff to have instant access to data and web-based analysis tools. Microsoft Excel was added at this point to increase the range of options available to Mingara employees, particularly those who required more than standard reports.

Benefits of Mingara's BI project

Mr Byrne explained that the introduction of Microsoft BI technology had an "amazing" effect on reporting practices within the company. He noted that, in some cases, the time taken to generate reports was reduced by up to six weeks, while people resources were freed up to be redeployed elsewhere.

"We used to have a resource responsible for running profit and loss reports, and distributing them to management," Mr Byrne said. "It was a time-consuming task but it no longer exists. The reports are always there on the web with live information. It's given us the right information to make the right decision at the right time."

He said that, across the company, access to data is making it easier to manage day-to-day operations. With events data being available live, employees can easily keep track of what is happening at any point on Mingara premises, across multiple sites. This is a major bonus when it comes to managing customer bookings and ensuring all commitments - such as catering - are met.

"Using the BI system, we can query across all our systems and identify member transactions on our gaming system, in our bars or restaurants at the gym or anywhere where we take a swipe of a members card," Mr Byrne said. He explained that the company can use this information to develop highly targeted services designed to appeal to the needs and wants of individual members.

"Mingara is in a growth phase and is constantly looking for acquisitions," he explained. "Therefore we needed an engine - a back end system - that would work well to provide us with the right synergies from having multiple clubs." Mr Byrne added that, having deployed Microsoft intelligence solutions, the company is now well-positioned for the future.

Find out more about Microsoft SQL Server and other business intelligence solutions.

Posted by Dan Smith