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Smart Choices

Business intelligence is not just for the big guys any more. As applications grow cheaper and easier to run, more small- and mid-market CIOs are using BI to drive innovation and create competitive advantage

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Chris Boebel, the director of information technology at Delta Sonic Car Wash Systems, had a big sales job on his hands.

Delta Sonic executives knew they could run the chain of car wash and convenience stores more efficiently. They also wanted to boost sales. But they had few tools with which to pinpoint their best-selling products, most-popular car washes, top marketing promotions and the impact of those promotions on sales in other parts of the business. For Delta Sonic to keep growing, such insight into the business and its customers was critical.

Boebel believed that a business intelligence (BI) application could help unlock future growth for the Buffalo-based company. A BI system could feed data on product sales and customer response to discounts back to the finance and marketing departments so that executives could zero in on what worked and what didn't.

One of the most difficult transitions for mid-market companies is that of making the leap to become a large business

But Boebel (pronounced BAY'-bill) knew winning approval from the business for a BI application would require a deft negotiating touch. Some business unit managers were likely to view BI as too expensive and elaborate a solution for a midsize company. Many Delta Sonic executives were wedded to decades-old, mostly paper-based reporting systems and would need to buy in to the promise of the new technology. Boebel would also have to overcome the sentiment that BI was only for the big boys — megacorporations with nation-wide or global operations that manage tera- or petabytes' worth of information.

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