Guardian adds business intelligence via KPI dashboard

For Stuart Freeman and Ross Kappele, getting information on how their team is functioning is now as close as a Web browser.

The two vice-presidents at Guardian Group of Mutual Funds have very different needs when it comes to

getting information on a daily basis. But an enterprise intelligence initiative underway at the company is delivering self-serve reporting straight from a Web browser, and that means a better handle on how the business is performing.

“I was surprised we were actually able to deliver what I had imagined,” said Freeman, senior vice-president of operations with Guardian Group of Mutual Funds. “A lot of us have been waiting for the integration of this stuff since the ’70s.”

Guardian specializes in the management, wholesale distribution and marketing of 29 mutual funds. By creating a one-stop-shop portal with Webfocus BI dashboard from Information Builders, enterprise business analyst Shaun Allan said Guardian users can get the reports they need and monitor the key performance indicators (KPI) dashboard. Executives also have access to all desktop applications through a browser.

“If I’m at home and I’m doing a management report, I can get a piece of information I need by simply going into the site. As an executive management tool, for me it’s great,” said Freeman.

Before the portal, Freeman had to ask for a report to be generated, which might take a week.

Guardian has been overhauling its operational systems to track and store data for each business unit. However, each system in the Guardian environment is a separate application with different data sources and formats. The goal was to centralize data and use tools that deliver quickly.

In developing its enterprise intelligence (EI) project, Guardian wanted to increase revenue through customer retention and operational efficiency. EI at Guardian includes the data warehouse (including data from the three main critical systems: record keeping, CRM and fund accounting); automation of data transfer from one system to another; and, the portal, which includes access to a centralized reporting facility and access to Web-based and legacy applications via Citrix Nfuse. It also houses the KPI dashboard and ad-hoc reporting facility.

After coping with a system that required users to request reports from the IS department, Freeman and others now drill down to specific information whether at the office, working at home or on the road. The system, which used WebFocus for developing the reports and interfaces and iWay for data transfer, was first deployed to the sales force.

“We were running static reporting off Crystal (Decisions) and wanted to provide an easier way for end-users to access information and make more informed decisions,” said Allan.

“A number of vendors were providing a packaged solution and we started developing the idea for a portal,” he added.

The first phase of the dashboard was rolled out April 28 and was meant to give the sales team access to specific information about funds and allow them to come up with sales and asset data.

“Before, they couldn’t drill down, now they have a self-service environment and users can slice and dice their data,” said Allan.

For the 23 members of the sales division it meant having greater independence in terms of getting the information they need said Ross Kappele, senior vice-president of sales at Guardian. The sales team members can now get information specific to their region.

“We were quite dependent on the people in the IS group, relying on them to develop and run reports for us. Now we can do that ourselves and get the information out to our sales guys a lot faster. The reports we can generate are quite granular in nature,” he says.

When the reporting system took off, word quickly got around the organization that the tool was easy to use and delivered information people wanted.

“I started getting e-mail from people saying ‘How do I get it?’ Sometimes people get forced as business users to use a tool, but it took off on its own,” said Julie Hodge, assistant vice-president of information systems.

Since going live with the system it has meant a reduction in report demand from 25 a month to about one.

“Our report writer spent a lot of time making changes to sorts, and with this solution there’s no need to do that and that has been a huge help,” said Hodge.

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