Things are moving fast in retail. Business intelligence is therefore very important for decisions within the outdoor and lifestyle group A.S. Adventure. The BI team must be able to react quickly; the business cannot wait weeks for adjustments. Delays have an indirect impact on sales because decision-makers cannot do their work optimally. Therefore, A.S. Adventure's BI team needed more people to help internal users with dashboarding and reporting. Some 300 internal BI users send 30 to 40 queries to the BI team every week. That team was no longer able to clear the backlog of queries. Fortunately, that situation has since been resolved.
"Thanks to Agiliz, we are doubling our ability to test things out. In a good week, three of the five major backlog projects were ready for our users."
Nanneke Lapidaire, Group BI and Reporting Manager at A.S. Adventure
Getting back the momentum
To provide quality internal services and keep innovating, A.S. Adventure's business intelligence team regularly engages Agiliz's consultants. The downtime of colleagues reduced the speed at which questions could be answered, says Nanneke Lapidaire, Group BI and Reporting Manager at A.S. Adventure: "With 300 users working with the software, 30 to 40 questions come my team's way every week. That number is only increasing, with dashboarding becoming ever more important within the company. Quick answers are therefore the message, but that's where the shoe pinched recently. Due to lack of time, we mainly had to focus on the most critical issues. Less important questions and projects were sometimes left lying around for weeks or stuck in a test phase when they could actually be solved quickly. Working on innovation was out of the question. That's why we turned to Agiliz, with whom we have been working since 2010."
A consultant from Agiliz is now permanently on Nanneke Lapidaire's BI team. That consultant cut his teeth on the outstanding tickets. "Thanks to Agiliz, we double the opportunities to test things out. One week, three of the five major backlog projects were ready for our users," Lapidaire continues. "We are now getting back up to speed thanks to the expertise and helping hand. I am sure we will soon get back to a situation where the business knows they will get a response to their query within the day and a solution after a week. Agiliz proved in the past that they could help us do that and it will be no different now. A conservative estimate tells me that we will soon be able to respond to queries up to at least five times faster. We will also be able to focus on innovation again, because until recently there was no time for that. Thus, together with Agiliz, we are already foreseeing the upgrade to the next version of our tool MicroStrategy 2020."
Impact on the entire company
Not only does Nanneke's BI team benefit, A.S. Adventure's business also benefits. Lapidaire explains: "In retail, things are moving fast. Now that dashboards and data are an important pillar for decisions within the group, the business cannot wait weeks for adjustments. Delays indirectly impact sales and our turnover because people cannot do their jobs optimally. For example, our merchandisers are working on an application to optimise seasonal stock management. For this, we need to make adjustments so that we can analyse and automate the data. Such a project ultimately has a positive impact on our bottom line, but it does require some time from our team. Time we wouldn't have had without Agiliz's help and expertise. Their help ensures that we can pull off such innovative projects."
Partners-in-crime for 10 years
When A.S. Adventure overhauled its entire IT environment in 2010, MicroStrategy entered their portfolio of tools. Agiliz became an integrator. They did so well, as the companies have been working closely together ever since. Nanneke Lapidaire: "Within Belgium - but actually outside Belgium too, we've checked - there are few parties that can match Agiliz's MicroStrategy expertise. So we are still working together. Sometimes this is a loose project like an upgrade, other times a consultant joins us like now. We see that even the junior consultants are head and shoulders above us in terms of knowledge. And they always have a senior consultant as back-up should they get stuck. They are also our insurance in case of problems and our safety net in case of lack of knowledge. They always respond quickly. Of course, it helps that they already know us well."
"At A.S. Adventure, we always try to be as self-reliant as possible. We expect knowledge transfer from our partners and that is certainly the case with Agiliz. Upon implementation in 2010, they wrote a manual of rules and best practices that we use to this day. They also help us organise and give change sessions after an upgrade to familiarise key users with the new features. That takes them a lot less time. Where I spend a week going through documentation, it takes them half a day to set it up. Another time saver," laughs Lapidaire.
Vendor best practices do not always include what is right for your business. The setup at A.S. Adventure deviates from what is recommended because it is necessary for the business.
Give clear instructions to consultants, know what you want to get out of it and when it is a success. That way you increase the success rate and know when to adjust.
Wait and see when it comes to upgrades
If you want to guarantee continuity, it is better to wait and see when it comes to upgrades. That way, you avoid problems caused by unforeseen software errors that are bound to crop up.
After an upgrade, hold a number of 'what's new' sessions for key users and management so they are up to speed with changes. A knowledgeable partner will immediately pick out the most important ones for you.
Ask and learn
You don't always have to reinvent the wheel yourself. An external partner is there to answer your questions, but make sure you also learn from them yourself.
Return for the customer
A doubling of BI testing capacity allows A.S.Adventure's BI team to respond to queries up to at least five times faster. Backlogs are cleared and innovative projects are back on the agenda.