Ace Hardware retools BI strategy

Whether they sell hammers or home mortgages, companies are increasingly looking to business intelligence to focus on their customer as well as their bottom line.

“”We can evaluate the success of promotions at retail to identify top sellers,”” said Jay Heubner, director of information technology

and application development for Ace Hardware, who spoke Tuesday at a meeting of MicroStrategy user group in Toronto.

Ace is a Chicago-based chain of hardware stores that operates in over 70 countries worldwide, including Canada. The company found that MicroStrategy’s BI products has allowed it to create programs and initiatives to drive profitability in the stores.

Once almost exclusively the domain of finance and sales, more companies are expanding their BI applications to other areas of operation.

“”Now we are seeing marketing, human resources, supply chain and logistics have adopted business intelligence in a way that they weren’t before”” said said Sanju Bansal Chief Operating Officer of MicroStrategy who gave the opening address.

Another trend that is driving the expansion of BI applications is the growing demand for interactive reporting, as well as increases in user population, and vendor consolidation.

“”(BI) has never been done before at the level we have done it,”” said Ted Mendes, Director of database management services at the Bank of Montreal, another MicroStrategy BI user. “”Typically you did that in the old days with paper reports or quarterly reports, but really just from a line of business, only it was never integrated with anything else.””

A major sell for BI products is end-user convenience. Bansal noted the return of the dashboard as well as balanced scorecards as a major trend behind the growing appeal of BI.

Also relevant to the end user is the need for a simple transparent window into all the data in the enterprise, which for many analysts translates into having a convenient extension of Excel which is where much of their work is done.

This is realized through MicroStrategy Office which allows a convenient data dump of information into the user’s Excel program.

“”From Excel you could just go to your excel toolbar and click and run any report from hundreds or thousands that are available on your enterprise and have the data stream into Excel automatically,”” said Bansal.

MicroStrategy has found that the cooling of e-business investments has meant companies are looking at ways in which they can process information in a more convenient and effective manner.

“”I think the drowning out of e-business noise has helped BI,”” said Bansal. “”They are funding the initiatives that are providing the value.””

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