Customised visual dashboards equip staff with instant access to business metrics for better decisions every day.
Better visibility of stock and trend predictions mean early warning of issues and the opportunity to correct.
Salespeople have mobile access to trade customer pricing details, buying trends and inventory status reports from 55 branches.
Customised visual reporting dashboards enable J.A. Russell’s staff to get high level business intelligence and key performance indicators quickly and simply. From senior managers to sales representatives in the field, BI users have the option to drill down for detail on areas of interest.
The time to produce and analyse reports is hugely reduced and faster more timely information results in better decisions every day across the business.
“In a highly competitive market the trend indicators around buyer behavior are critical. We need to be able to track customer purchases and highlight any account that needs attention. We now have much more timely access to trends and predictions, enabling us to work smarter and faster.” Adam Parker, Information Systems Manager.
Salespeople have been equipped with mobile dashboards; they use iPads to give trade customers instant answers on stock levels, to check which branches have required items, for promotional insights and to check the status of orders.
“Our sales reps can use MicroStrategy’s mobile BI to ‘Find a Price’ on the spot – a big ask when we have tiered pricing across numerous trade accounts, and they can share much of the trend information with their customers .” Adam Parker, Information Systems Manager.
Prior to implementing a new business intelligence solution, customer reporting and KPIs were monitored using their ERP, which is designed for putting info into, but not so good for getting info out.
Standardised monthly reports were duly printed and sent out to the 55 branches. Ad hoc reports could be run by certain people, but managers generally had to rely on a centralised team to produce reports for them. The requested information often required a lot of manual input and therefore had long lead times to get to the people who needed it.
Using the transactional ERP for reporting also caused issues – when running a very big report the team discovered this could impact on the point of sale transactions.
“We knew we needed to take the data out of our ERP and build better reports, with dashboards, report automation and mobile business intelligence.”
2010 was a time of flux in the business intelligence industry following the multiple mergers, acquisitions and buyouts by mega vendors. In 2011 J.A. Russell spent six months investigating the options and giving suppliers a chance to pitch, and selected MicroStrategy because it was a very mature and stable solution, with advanced product functionality compared to the competition.
“We knew when we selected MicroStrategy that it had a smaller following in NZ than its competitors, but it offered a Mobile BI solution streaks ahead of anything else, and it ticked all the boxes as a reasonably mature product in a rapidly changing market, which was at the top of the game for both desktop and mobile BI.” Adam Parker
We began by extracting the data from J.A. Russell’s ERP database, cleaning and collating it then moving it to a new data warehouse in a structure that allowed MicroStrategy to be implemented in a way that supported end user access.
“We now have trained in house staff that can do a lot of the MicroStrategy work, and we know who to call on when we need support. We have developed a partnership with a trusted supplier, which is how we like to operate.” Adam Parker
J.A. Russell is focused on continuing to build and refine visual BI dashboards that deliver the right KPIs to each user. Different roles from senior management to branch manager to salesperson require different information.
“We are working to get the information that is needed to the person who needs it. We want to equip our people with ‘self service business intelligence’ that is easy to consume – so they can access and interpret it in fifteen minutes a day. Our goal for this project is ‘BI for all’ – we want to equip our team at all levels with the information they need via preset dashboards, self-service and ad-hoc reports and mobile delivery where required so they can make great decisions on the go.” Adam Parker
Staff can access information for stock and inventory management and discover if certain lines are overstocked or not selling. Branches can see which branches are selling this stock and can arrange transfers to where it will sell.
The dashboards show clear trends, meaning proactive decisions can be made, minimising stock discounting and write-off.
J.A. Russell is piloting full mobile BI with branch salespeople equipped with MicroStrategy applications on their iPads. The adoption rate is climbing as reps see firsthand the advantages from mobile access. The focus remains on continually refining the visual dashboards to empower users at all levels.
Two years down the track, J.A. Russell sees BI being relied on more and more. They don’t see an end to their work on business intelligence. They intend to continue driving user adoption and refining and improving dashboards to deliver the best insights possible to all their users.
About J.A. Russell
J. A. Russell Ltd is in the business of sourcing, stocking, marketing and supplying electrical goods throughout New Zealand, with 55 branches and 400 staff, who provide service to electrical contractors and electricians and through them to the building industry in New Zealand.
The company has supply contracts with large industrial users and supply government departments, SOEs and quasi government organisations, and with industry through maintenance electricians and engineers, project staff and purchasing officers. The primary focus of the business is on trade accounts and electricians although the general public and DIYers are also catered to.
J. A. Russell works to deliver on the promise “We’ll have it in store, or we’ll get it for you!” which means 55 comparatively stock heavy branches.