BI: Not a lotion but soap

By : |November 12, 2013 0

MUMBAI, INDIA: A large FMCG company (hair care, personal care, home care major) with presence across multiple geographies like India, South Asia, Africa and Latin America, UK; and acquisitions of businesses in its kitty in the last three four years; surely has its own unique needs and aisle-space for IT. Subrata Dey, CIO, Godrej Consumer Products Ltd believes that information management and self-service BI tools will be crucial in improving decision-making capabilities. He was looking for a suitable solution, which he defines as – intuitive, easy to navigate for users and quick to deploy & implement and with strong information visibility factors across the organization. After evaluating a number of solutions on these criteria, the company chose QlikView Business Discovery for functions like sales and supply chain operations for India. Almost 400 to 450 people are now using the solution which has gone live about three to four months back.

In this chat, he helps us prick many bubbles – from BI’s real power vs. bandwagon following to CMO’s growing influence over technology shelves. Dip in.

Tell us something about the solution’s journey from the first trigger point to now?

GCPL‘s IT strategy is currently about sharpening its focus on bringing these businesses together on single ERP platform. The company has chosen SAP for its ERP needs spanning its various geographies and also has a key initiative driving some of its latest decisions – the idea of having everything under one platform is to implement best-in-class processes and improve information visibility for quicker decision making. One of these has been in the aisle of analytics and business information discovery. The company needed their sales staffs across locations to have online interactive access to their sales and distribution data in order to monitor and drive performance. To meet the requirements of business, GCPL was looking for a solution which would enable the business users to interactively access data and get an insight to drive productivity and performance. The challenge was accentuated due to the vast size of data held by a number of distributors and retailers across the country selling a large number of products. The business wanted to slice and dice information across geographies, products and sales hierarchies.

Was everything moved over without disruptions?

That was not an issue at all as the way the solution is designed, it seems very well-thought-out and hence the entire migration turned out pretty smooth. User satisfaction is also very high at this point.

Did it fare well so far on context and visualization parts too?

Yes, the solution is robust enough on these fronts.

How do such solutions work when the question of Extensibility kicks in?

It is not only about workflows but information management and visibility at a broader level. There are maps that make information absorption on visual level quite exciting and strong. The platform has been integrated with SAP ERP and other key applications i.e. secondary sales tracking system, external market data etc. The plan next is to extend the platform to international business (which incidentally contributes 40 to 45 per cent to total business presently) and also to make room for Big Data and social networking side of data. That’s the direction going forward.

So what have been the key gains and pains from your view?

Productivity has shown improvements as employees and users can now see the why and when of many facets and act upon it with agility. Various business dashboards and drill-downs have helped people to make use of information fast and sharp. It is enabling to gather insights across geographies, product lines and sales hierarchies with the data volume totaling millions of records. Now it is possible to disseminate actionable information to the business users across locations and provide information on the basis of role & responsibility (need-to-know basis) as well as to complete this entire process with greater speed. There have been clean and clear productivity improvements with four to five per cent incremental sales growth in some areas. In supply chain function, there have been positive changes on facets like customer order-fill rate or stock-out issue reductions. As to whether everything can be linked to business analytics alone, that wouldn’t be reasonable as it is always a combination of factors, ERP-related process improvements, better monitoring or tracking effects and other business aspects that work together to lead to such levels of improvements.

On the challenge side, every solution has its pros and cons. It is definitely quick to deploy and very user-intuitive (hence helping a lot in shrinking user-training time to a considerable level). Technically, some challenges stay here and there and the team is working proactively with the vendor to iron them out. The issues are there but very few like scale-up of authorizations or performance hitches, but they will be sorted out in due course of time.

What’s your stance when it comes to accommodating BYOD, specially with the way sales and other field personnel are spread?

The company encourages it and many people are allowed to use their choices but with standardizations. As of now, email is allowed but applications and analytics are not, barring a few devices. The solution, per se, is platform-agnostic and we have explored it with both Windows and Android devices. The reason for not letting analytics be completely BYOD-tuned is that the applications are designed in such a way that they strengthen some roles in a meaningful way; but screen size, scrolling functions etc are better for a standard format and form factor. That makes it easy for the users. Therefore, as of now BYOD is not affecting analytics too much but the company is open to the idea in future certainly as per technology’s evolution ahead.

How do you assess the so-called CMO’s impact? Is there a user-side vs. IT department scenario as well in some parts?

Analytics is obviously playing a significant role in businesses and while each function has to figure out how to channelize all the Big Data and information better; IT’s role is key in enabling and facilitating many fresh possibilities. In GCPL the IT team works closely with all functions which include sales and marketing function and the team together works in identifying opportunity areas and work on them. We are evaluating to see if and how we can extend our BI platform to our sales and marketing team to do things like sentiment analysis, understanding our customer choices of products / brands etc. using the social media data. It is vital to integrate all the data properly and figure out the questions and answers in terms of meaningful insights.

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