Deploying Flexible, Self-Service Analytics


Overview | What you'll learn: 

Today it’s common for businesses to need to analyze data from many and disparate sources. This makes it challenging for the IT team to provide intelligence across incompatible systems and different formats. The job is further complicated when different systems show different data, and questions arise over what is accurate. And finally, different users need different levels of flexibility to work with their data.

In their desire to quickly give managers reports, some IT teams try to anticipate mangers’ needs, gather data and create custom reports and dashboards they think mangers will use based upon past requests. But this approach often fails because IT managers don’t think like managers running manufacturing floors, warehouses, multiple retail outlets or project development teams. The reports aren’t used because they lack the insight the mangers need, or it goes through multiple revisions to get it “just right.” And when the business changes as it invariably will, the reports need to be revised again.

Either way, it’s a cumbersome process fraught with delays that often leaves mangers unable to interact and receive their data in a meaningful and timely manner.

In this whitepaper you’ll see how one IT team at a fast-growing company that serves a network of thousands of distributors provided their users with flexible, self-service business intelligence that resulted in reduced turnaround time and improved accuracy for reports.

We've also pulled out the first several pages of the whitepaper for you to read. Download the PDF on the right to read the rest.


Executives and managers rely on their IT teams every hour of every work day as they try to make sense of the massive data being collected in any rapidly-growing business.

Today it’s common for businesses to need to analyze data from many and disparate sources. This makes it challenging for the IT team to provide intelligence across incompatible systems and different formats. The job is further complicated when different systems show different data, and questions arise over what is accurate. And finally, different users need different levels of flexibility to work with their data.

In their desire to quickly give managers reports, some IT teams try to anticipate managers’ needs, gather data and create custom reports and dashboards they think mangers will use based upon past requests. But this approach often fails because IT managers don’t think like managers running manufacturing floors, warehouses, multiple retail outlets or project development teams. The reports aren’t used because they lack the insight the mangers need, or it goes through multiple revisions to get it “just right.” And when the business changes as it invariably will, the reports need to be revised again.

When data becomes the problem, not the solutions

When IT managers face the problem of reporting on disparate data, there are often two underlying problems. First, business managers need a better understanding of what is happening in the business and are frustrated with their ability to get answers from the current systems. Second, the process of providing data access and creating custom reports takes up a lot of IT’s time which could have been better spent on strategic IT.

George Stanly, Director of Information Technology for veterinarian pharmaceutical firm Virbac, faced both issues. One of his biggest headaches involved gathering data and generating reports so managers could determine how best to meet their objectives. He wanted to improve the situation but didn’t want to waste his team’s time building a system Virbac’s managers wouldn’t use.

Virbac’s staff of 278 works with 1,700 distributors that sell its vaccines and medicines to treat cats, dogs, cows and sheep to 55,000 veterinarian clinics in the US and Canada. With data on 650 products, Stanly and his small team had to comb through 5 million data records to find the information managers wanted.

George knew Virbac’s long practice of cobbling together large spreadsheets – a manual, labor-intensive process fraught with errors - wasn’t providing what the company needed to grow and change fast enough.

Stanly knew fully understanding his user’s requirements would be the key to a successful BI implementation. And while he was solving the problem, wouldn’t it be nice to shift the BI analysis task from the IT team to the actual users, giving them what they need while freeing up IT’s time?

Business reality today is multiple sources of data

Most organizations deal with data that doesn’t reside in one place. Often, each data source has its own reporting tools that can’t be easily configured to analyze various data sources together. This was the case at Virbac: one person pulled their numbers from Oracle Forms, another from Oracle Discover, another from Hyperion, and yet another, ASP. Each source had its own presentation tool.

“So the questions and debates we were always dealing with was, ‘Which data was right and which should they use?’” Stanly said.

On average, the IT staff spent 10 man hours a month generating the reports managers wanted. A lot of time was spent figuring out which information was needed and which system could provide the data. Training new managers was tiresome and time-consuming because they needed to learn four different systems. And the IT team had to do that while generating monthly and quarterly reports and dealing with a rigorous financial planning process. Virbac’s financial calendar includes 5 estimate processes, 1 budget process and 1- and 3-year planning processes.

Replace a manually intensive, error-prone process

“It was a manual, labor-intensive and error-prone process of aggregating many spreadsheets with many different drivers and operational based statistics,” Stanly said. “Even after this cumbersome process, we would not get the Key Performance Indicators, dashboards and insight into the data our managers wanted.”

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