A strategy needing a BI Roadmap

Comvita commissioned a Business Intelligence (BI) strategy to be completed which provided a high-level direction but not a tangible set of actions from which they were comfortable to deliver. Like most finance teams, Comvita found themselves buried in Excel-driven reporting that was resource-intensive and placed undue strain on their source production systems. The team spent significantly more time gathering data and building reports than they did analysing and reviewing the data to make better decisions, leading to increasing frustration as the size of datasets grew. Furthermore, supply chain analysts were often required to validate numbers, due to lack of alignment between finance and supply chain datasets.

Problem: Inflexible out-dated reporting solutions for sales were continuing to age.

No clear strategy on what tools to use had been determined. Overall, there was a lack of clarity on how to improve processes and prepare data to ensure timely availability of key information. In addition, talented analysts and business process champions within Comvita did not have the capacity to explore improvements. Following a discovery day onsite three key initiatives were proposed and agreed.

Solution: Walkerscott assisted in all and took the lead in delivering a reporting proof of concept on the Microsoft Power BI stack.

The high-level goal was to reduce resource time spent preparing monthly reporting packs by 30%. Walkerscott leveraged Microsoft SQL Server, SSIS, SSAS & SSRS to build a data warehousing solution that primarily extracted data from the ERP system, QAD. The initial proof of concept was to deliver consolidated global sales numbers from across the business, replacing the existing activities of manually extracting data from QAD and aggregating in Excel.

If successful, Comvita acknowledged that this would then begin the journey of a deeper assessment of reporting needs, resulting in a continuation of the Microsoft reporting solution. Creating an environment for the information-hungry through the partnership with Walkerscott the business has been able to gain visibility like never before. The journey hasn’t always been easy as data and processing inconsistencies were exposed but the end result is a platform for becoming an information-driven business.

Following the pilot, for the first time Comvita had easy access to key sales information across the global business. Accessing their information layers via a familiar tool, Microsoft Excel, also minimised organisational change.

Outcome: As a result of the success of the pilot, a business case allowing for ongoing development was approved.

The focus now moved to automation of financial reporting with the development of a GL cube, incorporating both P&L and Balance Sheet reporting across consolidated entities. While this saved time creating these reports manually, new requirements arose, furthering data-driven innovation within the Comvita finance team.

Next, were the requested reports from the supply chain team. Stock-on-hand and projected position inventory reports were delivered via an inventory cube. This replaced resource-intensive manual reporting on finished goods, and allowed for raw materials analysis that the team previously did not have the capacity to produce.

To showcase the information it now had access to, Yellowfin was selected as the solution to connect to the SSAS cubes for the purpose of building executive dashboards. Presented to the business on iPads, this highlighted the new ability of Comvita to access and distribute key business information like never before.

As the business has grown into its new information environment, and with the rollout of Office 365, the analysts in the business are now starting to utilise Microsoft Power BI to take control of their on-going needs. Walkerscott have provided widespread training to analysts and users to take advantage of the full functionality provided by this integrated Microsoft information environment.

Comvita now have a single source of truth and, whether they are accessing the data warehouse to model data themselves in Power BI, reporting from SSAS cubes via Excel, or running pre-built SSRS reports, the journey from data-poor to information-rich is well underway.