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CIO Summit: Swisse Vitamins streamlines analytics with Qlikview

CIO Summit: Swisse Vitamins streamlines analytics with Qlikview

Aussie vitamins company moves away from data warehouses

An old Access database lacking the key features required by a growing company led Swisse Vitamins ICT and BI manger, Andrew Millingen, to champion the need for a fresh start.

The company had spent many years and significant and money on systems that failed to meet the needs of the business.

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On joining the company in 2005, Millingen said the company was “pretty light on the IT” side of things, with just a small Access database for field employees, a DOS-based accounting package and poor reporting functionality.

After going to market for both new enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) systems, the organisation brought in Sage products for both and was recommended Hyperia Interactive Reporting.

According to Millingen, both he and the CIO did not have a great deal of familiarity with Hyperia, which the company employed for four years.

“It’s basically like glorified tables in Excel, obviously with a bit more power, it may not have been the most appropriate thing for us at the time but we didn’t know any better.

“Hyperia could group data on the fly which was quite handy but also quite messy if you didn’t have a single version of the truth,” he said.

As the need to connect to multiple data sources occurred more frequently and business growth accelerated (Swisse experienced 60 per cent growth in 2010), Swisse invested in a couple of “pseudo” data warehouses, Millingen said.

“It was useful when we had two or three data sources but as the sources grew… Hyperia couldn’t really do what we needed it to do so we probably wasted a lot of time and money.”

Enough was enough, Millingen said, and the organisation ended its long-term relationship and moved away from Hyperia.

Millingen read reviews, blogs, Faecbook, LinkedIn, tweets, whitepapers, played with versions of BI software and tested trial versions all in the quest to find a BI platform that would work for Swisse. During this process he shortlisted three companies, all of which were pushing him in the direction of Qlikview software.

The non-negotiables for Swisse, Millingen said, were the provision of local support, future proofing in terms of scalability, a platform with a large user base and one that was agile and fast moving to enable the business to make quick decisions and maintain a competitive advantage.

Following a proof of concept, and extensive decision process, Millingen was finally satisfied with implementing Qlikview.

In the first week, an error amounting to $300,000 in pharmaceutical discounts claim came through from distributors, Milligen said, which he used Qlikview to analyse.

“It literally took about 10 minutes. We connected to the data and found 258,000 erroneous claims and were able to go back in confidence to the distributor and within a few weeks had recovered the money.”

The platform can easily combine Swisse’s data from different sources including warehouse data, stock-on-hand data that comes in from Woolworths, Coles and other pharmaceutical distributors, and scanned data purchased from agencies to measure what’s going on in the market.

“The management of users and security is really straightforward and the way document licensing is done,” he said. “We’ve got a Web portal so staff just go through the browser they don’t have to have the Qlikview software.”

Despite no formal rollout across the organisation, almost every team is using the software for analysis, Millingen said, and training took “about five minutes” even for the least savvy IT users.

The organisation is also progressively moving away from the use of data warehouses, which Millingen describes as a “dinosaur”.

“I’d rather pour money into advanced Qlikview training or more licences so more users can design dashboards. To pour money into the data warehouse every time you have a new data source just gets ridiculous after awhile; you have to wait a few days, you pay for it then the smallest thing changes and you’ve got to do it again.”

Millingen said despite the Swisse implementation of Qlikview being quite rapid, organisations should roll it out gradually and let staff get used to the platform.

“Start with the basics, ensure data integrity, reconcile new reports to old reports and you can build on the foundations as you get to know the product.”

“You still need great analysts; the investment in people is just important or even more important as the investment in technology.”

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