Future Shop turns to business intelligence to speed reports

Future Shop Ltd. says a business intelligence solution from Cognos Inc. allows for analysis of business information in one day rather than two, a difference of time the Burnaby, B.C.-based electronics chain calls critical in the retail business.

“What we’re getting is a much decreased lag time from the report coming out to the managers being able to understand them,” said Bill Akam, director of strategic programs for Future Shop. “It’s sped up responsiveness by an order of a day, which is critical in retail.”

Future Shop has been using a solution based on Ottawa-based Cognos’ Impromptu and PowerPlay programs for about five months, though announcement on the implementation was reserved until Thursday. The solution allows Future Shop to measure sales from its 88-store chain and online business, and to compare those results to expectations and results from previous years.

When targets are not met, Akam said, Future Shop can use the Cognos solution to examine more closely which products are holding sales back.

“The big advantage to the business intelligence is the person can reviewing the report can go into the underlying data,” Akam said.

Before employing business intelligence, Akam said Future Shop would receive total daily sales figures for each store, but would have to extract data figures one-by-one if it wanted to examine the underlying details. Hence the extra day.

Along with the Cognos solution, Future Shop also employs a solution from Denville, N.J.-based Microstrategies Inc. for what Akam calls more ad-hoc analysis, the kind that sits outside the specified metrics of the Cognos solution.

Currently, 200 Future Shop employees on the operational and merchandising ends of the business are employing the Cognos solution. Akam expects that number to climb to between 300 and 400 as the solution is extended to include accounting and human resources departments.

Akam declined to comment on the cost of implementation, which took just three days. But he did say he is pleased so far with the return on investment.

“The Investment is small compared to the benefit we’ve been seeing day to day,” Akam said. “You’ve got to have the information so you can squeeze out every penny.”

Dave Marmer, senior director of marketing strategies for Cognos, said this penny-pinching has become paramount in business.

“People are doing everything they can to squeeze out another percentage point,” he said, echoing Akam. “Profitability is back.”

Marmer said the current market slowdown has prompted a search for efficiencies among businesses, many of which are looking to enterprise reporting as a way to strengthen the bottom line.

“It’s more important than ever for sales to understand what marketing is doing,” he said.

On Monday, Cognos announced a similar deal with Boeing that will see the aircraft manufacturer deploying a Cognos solution to allow 11,500 Boeing employees to generate Web-enabled reports on plane components.

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