Technology Report

Mission Statement:  Our business technologies encompass a wide range of hardware, software, and services that keep all of our companies running effectively while enhancing all of our various operations.  Technology plays into every aspect of our business, from accounting to customer interface to product design and development to distribution to sales to service, etc.

Advantage Global Management will develop new business technologies over the next three years in order to push us to the vanguard of technological innovation.  With newly developed and deployed technologies we will be able to make better data-driven decisions, create an app-centric environment, and increase productivity.

Additionally, by making our new business technologies available to clients as a comprehensive SaaS and MBaaS solution, we will be able to stay at the forefront of technological innovation without the burden of escalating costs as our new technologies become a profit producing enterprise [on their own].

Posted by:  Tony
Date:  July 8, 2016
Updated:  July 16, 2016

I have been thinking about the benefits and absolute necessity of new technologies in business, and I believe that at the Advantage Co we are currently operating at a growing disadvantage.  For starters, we need to improve the way we think about transforming data into better decisions.  

In the 90’s, I felt we were one of the most technologically advanced companies anywhere, but now, increasingly, I feel we are stuck in the slow lane [despite the fact that some of our core IT businesses like Capax Global are world class providers of business intelligence].  In business, it use to be the big crushed the small and the strong devoured the weak, but in today’s disruptive environment it is the quick that overwhelm the slow.  Therefore, we are embarking on a dramatic push to put us at the vanguard of technology.  I am convinced the Advantage Co has three years to be completely transformed by technology or we will lose our relevance.

The Advantage Co is all about creating opportunity, and while I am confident we will continue to grow our profitability [especially in the event of a recession] – we must accelerate the introduction of new technologies or we will no longer be able to provide a future rich with opportunity.  Our new business technologies will help us identify, develop, and otherwise create new strategic business opportunities.  We must learn how to model future demand uncertainties, how to predict the outcomes of competing choices, and how to choose the best course of action in the face of risk and reward.  We must introduce frameworks and ideas that provide insights into business opportunities, along with introducing the methods and software available for tackling our inherent challenges quantitatively as well as the issues involved in gathering the relevant data.

Productivity is the efficiency of processes.  Companies with a high level of productivity are often characterized by their successful integration of information technology and strong data management.  With newly developed and deployed technologies we will be able to make better data-driven decisions, create an app-centric environment, and increase productivity.  

We will start by recruiting and enabling a new Chief Technology Officer [CTO], who will work in our new C Suite at the Walker Center with our current CFO, Mike McGrath, and a new Chief Development Officer [more on that position later].

I have discussed the new CTO position with the two of the most tech savvy people I know, Jerry Hawk and Tom Thomson; and they both emphasized the need to not only have someone with the requisite tech skills, but a CTO with exceptional people skills as well.  Transforming our company with new technologies will most likely cause some consternation at every level.  Our new CTO will be challenged to introduce advanced business analytics into every aspect of our business.  Change is seldom welcome, especially when things are working so well, so it is going to take someone with the unique ability to deliver new technologies to an often unreceptive audience.

Our new CTO will have direct impact in four key areas:

Business Intelligence
Business Intelligence [BI] can be described as a set of techniques and tools for the acquisition and transformation of our raw data into meaningful and useful information for business analysis purposes.

Our new and updated BI technologies will provide us with a historical, current, and predictive view of our business operations.  The core functions of our business intelligence technologies will be reporting, data mining, business performance management, benchmarking [comparing our business performance metrics to industry bests], predictive analytics, and prescriptive analytics.  

Business Analytics [BA] is the practice of methodical exploration of all our data with emphasis on statistical analysis.  Our business analytics will be used for data-driven decision making.  Recent improvements in data-collecting technologies have changed the way we can make informed and effective business decisions.  Good numbers and good instincts lead to good decisions.  

Our new and updated business analytics will focus on developing better insights and understanding of our business performance based on data and statistical methods.  Our predictive analytics will be used to make predictions about unknown future events, while our prescriptive analytics will be used to find the best course of action for a given situation.  

The management of our information – including the analytics used to transform it – is an evolutionary process, and we are just getting started.  Identifying new opportunities and implementing an effective strategy based on BA insights can provide us with a competitive market advantage and continued long-term growth.

We typically rely on our accounting department for three things: knowing the rules, getting the math right, and submitting filings on time.  Their finance function has earned our trust, but more for the role of reporting and less for analytical insight.  Our accounting department must now start to evolve their role to be looking at the organization as a whole and discussing how to best optimize our performance.

In the accounting world, BI means automating the process of weeding through mountains of financial data to glean actionable insights to help us grow revenue and manage risk.  Today we are witnessing the the emergence of business intelligence as a way to leverage the valuable data our accountants collect every day in the ordinary course of business.  These new accounting solutions need to be fully integrated throughout our sales, production, and servicing functions allowing informed decisions at a glance, while automating repetitive functions to alleviate strain on human resources.

Operational Intelligence [OI]
Companies of all types have critical business processes they must manage in real-time.  BI solutions are unable to address the moment-to-moment need for real-time decision making.  Operational Intelligence represents a turning point in the evolution of BI.  Traditionally, BI has been the province of business analysts who analyze trends and patterns in large volumes of historical data to improve the effectiveness of strategic and tactical decisions.  But OI changes this equation: it moves BI out of the back room and embeds it into the fabric of the business, intertwining it with operational processes and applications that drive thousands of daily decisions.  In essence, Operational Intelligence merges analytical and operational processes into a unified whole.  

Operational Intelligence is real-time, whereas BI is an after-the-fact and report-based approach to identifying patterns.  OI is primarily event-centric, whereas BI is primarily data-centric.  Although BI tools give clues about business processes, they don’t give any real insight into the business process itself.  This operational insight is provided by a comprehensive OI solution.

Our operational Intelligence (OI) will be a form of real-time dynamic, business analytics that will deliver visibility and insight into our business operations.  Our OI solutions will run query analysis against live feeds and event data to deliver real-time visibility and insight into our business and IT operations.  This real-time information can be acted upon in a variety of ways: alerts can be sent, business processes can be triggered, and  executive decisions can be made and implemented using live dashboards.  More often than not, our Operational Intelligence will be enabled for its real-time monitoring capabilities when we want to take immediate action.

Additionally, our OI will increase the value of our BI by delivering information and insights on demand to all participants – from the shipping department to partners – so they can work smarter and faster to achieve our critical business objectives.  In essence, our OI must deliver the right information to the right people at the right time so we can take action.

Customer Interface
The customer interface is the environment in which our products or services are delivered.  It involves contact with the customer [encompassing interactions that are person-to-person or via an app, email, phone, Skype, blog, website, ecommerce, or some other medium].

Our customers expect us to anticipate their needs and wants.  This requires a set of integrated solutions that will allow us to create an environment where customers get what they want, when they want it.  We must bring together solutions that are able to push and pull data so we can use the most complete insights.  We can then use these deep insights to predict what our customers want, at the right time, and in the right way.

For us to realize the benefits of recent innovations in customer interface technology, we need to understand the value consumers place on technology as part of the shopping process.  Customers today are less satisfied with the level of service provided, the availability of product information, and the speed of the shopping process.  New technologies can enhance the shopping experience, but our applications must be tailored to the unique requirements of our customers.

The essence of Customer Experience Management [the process of managing a customer’s entire experience with us] is treating customers as individuals.  However, with the growing trend toward online purchases, successful interactions through traditional channels [such as in-store purchases and call center communications] often fall to second place behind social media.  While it is important to stay ahead of the product comment pages, user-generated content, positive and negative feedback from referral sites, and other online customer data, it is equally important to create a customer experience strategy that incorporates all customer touch points.  In particular, this includes the impact of customer-facing employees who will require more technology than ever to be at their disposal in order to fully ensure a successful customer experience.

Our goal is to merge the digital space with our physical environments.  We’re not there yet [and it may take beyond 2017 to get there], but we need to create a mobile and digital app-centric interaction with our physical environments as the main area for continued growth:

  • Mobile payment and rewards solutions [like Apple pay].
  • Geolocated advertising based on our customer’s proximity to our physical location.
  • Digital interactions with products, services, and promotions for our customers while they are in our environments [not only the environment itself but the actual department notices that our customer is there and starts communicating with them, via their phone app, about product info, FAQs, and promotions].

We certainly have a long way to go, but I am confident that over the next three years we will be able move out to the forefront of technology.  We are going to put together a tech panel of experts (starting with Jeff Wynn), and I would really like everyone to participate.  I will have more on this over the next few weeks.  I am heading back to Naples for 10 days to put together a gameplan.  

And if you know of anyone who would make a great CTO, let me know.

PS  I took liberal advantage of several websites for the information and descriptions used above.

What Is Business Technology?
by Amanda C. Kooser

How Does Technology Improve a Business?
Business technology encompasses a wide range of hardware, software, and services that keep companies running and enhance operations.  Technology plays into every aspect of a business, from accounting to customer communications to product design and development.  The rapid forward movement in technology development over the last couple of decades has provided more powerful and less expensive options for companies.  Business technology can help small businesses keep ahead in a competitive marketplace.

The most visible sector of small business technology is the hardware–the desktop computers, laptops, printers, monitors, cell phones, projectors, servers, digital cameras, keyboards, and “mice” that keep a business going on a daily basis.  Laptops, a popular computer hardware option for business users, are more mobile than ever.  Budget-conscious small businesses often purchase consumer hardware rather than enterprise hardware, but many manufacturers offer products designed specifically for small business users.

Software covers everything from the operating system that a computer runs on to image editing programs, accounting software, and word processing applications.  Most businesses run on either a Windows or Macintosh platform.  Macs are particularly popular with entrepreneurs who deal with multimedia and video creation.  Most businesses use an office productivity software suite such as Microsoft Office or that includes word processing, presentation, and database programs that handle a wide array of common business tasks.  Business software also includes more specialized programs such as CAD design tools for architects and recording software for audio engineers.

The growth of the Internet has marked a sea change in small business technology.  Businesses use websites to advertise, provide information, sell products, and reach new customers.  Software as a Service (SAAS) is software that is delivered in an ongoing fashion over the web rather than through CDs or downloads.  Often it is paid for in a monthly or yearly service plan.  This can be a more affordable and flexible option for small businesses compared to traditional methods of purchasing and using software.

Specialized Technology
Business technology isn’t limited to uses surrounding desktop and laptop computers.  Technology also makes a mark with high-tech manufacturing robots, advanced microscopes, and other specialized hardware and software.  Many tasks that used to be done by hand are now automated and handled by specialized technology tools.  For example, an independent machine shop may use computer-aided manufacturing equipment that combines specialized software with machines to create parts to specifications.  Innovative small businesses are also working in high-tech industries like nanotechnology and biotechnology and are on the cutting edge of creating new technologies.

The smart use of business technology helps small companies stay ahead of the competition by improving communications, making employees more efficient, and tapping into effective marketing channels.  Small business owners are often pressed for time and wearing many different hats.  The use of business tools like accounting software, email, customer relationship management applications, and “smart phones” can take some of the burden off entrepreneurs and help them make the most effective use of their time.  Up-and-coming generations of workers are accustomed to a world full of technology.  Small businesses need to adapt and keep up with new advancements.

The Valuable Secret Life of Our Data

Did you know all the labor data we’ve been collecting has a secret life?  Once revealed, it can provide the information we need to make better, more strategic business decisions.  A strong analytics tool is the key to discovering our existing data’s ultimate value.

We need to create an easy way to start organizational performance tracking.  Data transformation, on-demand dashboards, and hundreds of key performance indicators are a few of the features that will help us measure and analyze workforce performance and eliminate any surprises.  Data visualization and exploration will enable us to easily create dashboards with a variety of interactive charts and graphs, such as scatterplots, geographic maps, as well as built in filters and progressive disclosure.

An automated workforce analytics tools will use our existing data to provide continuous visibility into labor costs and track key performance indicators that impact our labor costs and productivity.

We can just accumulate labor data. Or, we can make it work for us.

What is Business Intelligence?
By SearchDataManagement

Business intelligence (BI) is a technology-driven process for analyzing data and presenting actionable information to help corporate executives, business managers, and other end users make more informed business decisions.  BI encompasses a variety of tools, applications, and methodologies that enable organizations to collect data from internal systems and external sources, prepare it for analysis, develop and run queries against the data, and create reports, dashboards, and data visualizations to make the analytical results available to corporate decision makers as well as operational workers.

Business Intelligence Benefits

  1. Accelerate and improve decision making;
  2. Optimize internal business processes;
  3. Increase operational efficiency;
  4. Drive new revenues;
  5. Gain competitive advantages over business rivals;
  6. Identify market trends and spot business problems that need to be addressed.

BI data can include historical information, as well as new data gathered from source systems as it is generated, enabling BI analysis to support both strategic and tactical decision-making processes.  Initially, BI tools were primarily used by data analysts and other IT professionals who ran analyses and produced reports with query results for business users.  Increasingly, however, business executives and workers are using BI software themselves, thanks partly to the development of self-service BI and data discovery tools.

Business intelligence combines a broad set of data analysis applications, including ad hoc analysis and querying, enterprise reporting, online analytical processing (OLAP), mobile BI, real-time BI, operational BI, cloud and software as a service BI, open source BI, collaborative BI, and location intelligence.  BI technology also includes data visualization software for designing charts and other infographics, as well as tools for building BI dashboards and performance scorecards that display visualized data on business metrics and key performance indicators in an easy-to-grasp way.  BI applications can be bought separately from different vendors or as part of a unified BI platform from a single vendor.

BI programs can also incorporate forms of advanced analytics, such as data mining, predictive analytics, text mining, statistical analysis, and big data analytics.  In many cases though, advanced analytics projects are conducted and managed by separate teams of data scientists, statisticians, predictive modelers, and other skilled analytics professionals, while BI teams oversee more straightforward querying and analysis of business data.

Business intelligence data typically is stored in a data warehouse or smaller data marts that hold subsets of a company’s information.  In addition, Hadoop systems are increasingly being used within BI architectures as repositories or landing pads for BI and analytics data, especially for unstructured data, log files, sensor data, and other types of big data.  Before it’s used in BI applications, raw data from different source systems must be integrated, consolidated, and cleansed using data integration and data quality tools to ensure that users are analyzing accurate and consistent information.

In addition to BI managers, business intelligence teams generally include a mix of BI architects,  BI developers, business analysts, and data management professionals; business users often are also included to represent the business side and make sure its needs are met in the BI development process.  To help with that, a growing number of organizations are replacing traditional waterfall development with Agile BI and data warehousing approaches that use Agile software development techniques to break up BI projects into small chunks and deliver new functionality to end users on an incremental and iterative basis.  Doing so can enable companies to put BI features into use more quickly and to refine or modify development plans as business needs change or new requirements emerge and take priority over earlier ones.

Sporadic usage of the term business intelligence dates back to at least the 1860s, but consultant Howard Dresner is credited with first proposing it in 1989 as an umbrella category for applying data analysis techniques to support business decision-making processes.  What came to be known as BI technologies evolved from earlier, often mainframe-based analytical systems, such as decision support systems and executive information systems.  Business intelligence is sometimes used interchangeably with business analytics; in other cases, business analytics is used either more narrowly to refer to advanced data analytics or more broadly to include both BI and advanced analytics.

The Marketing Metrics All SaaS Companies Must Measure
By Sujan Patel

For any business, SaaS or not, being able to define and monitor marketing metrics is critical to your success.  Those metrics are key to identifying opportunities for moving forward, while also giving insight into the health and effectiveness of any marketing campaigns you’re running.

When you need bigger budgets and want to accelerate the growth of your SaaS platform, having a scorecard tailored to your initiative can help you get the job done.

I’ve learned a few things in recent years while leading the charge on my own SaaS ventures, like

Obsessing over metrics is OK, as long as they’re the right metrics.  Not all metrics are important and don’t get caught up in vanity metrics.

“Tracking marketing is a cultural thing,” says Stuart MacDonald, CMO at FreshBooks.  “Either tracking matters or it doesn’t.  You’re in one camp or the other.  Either you’re analytical and data-driven, or you go by what you think works.  People who go by gut alone are wrong.”

I’ve made a list of the 10 most relevant metrics to SaaS businesses, but remember that every business is different.  You may not need to track all 10, all of the time.  Utilize what’s most relevant to you and your campaigns.

  1. Unique Visitors/Traffic
    In most circles, you’ll be told that anything relating to traffic, even unique traffic, is a vanity metric and isn’t really something you should necessarily focus on.  That’s true to a point, and this is as close as I’ll get to discussing vanity metrics.The problem with vanity metrics is that they don’t really give you any concept of the value of the traffic that you’re getting, so there are very few actionable insights that can be gleaned from them.But I’m not talking about general traffic here.  Unique visitors paint a picture of the accessibility of your website and the number of new, unique visits you’re getting from various sources.  It’s not necessarily a metric you’ll watch obsessively, but it’s worth watching.
  1. Gross Margin
    Stay with me.  I know you feel like we’re immediately getting off marketing and into financial metrics, but your gross margin has a lot to do with marketing – specifically, where the prices of your products are concerned and the cost of your marketing campaigns in the overall operational cost to deliver those products.Your gross margin is the percentage of your revenue that you keep after you subtract the costs associated with delivery and service.  The formula looks like this:(Gross Margin(%) = Revenue – Cost of Goods Sold/Revenue)For example: Your SaaS generated $5,000,000 in revenue, and the total cost to deliver the service was $1,000,000.  Your gross margin would be ($5,000,000-$1,000,000)/$5,000,000 = .80 (or 80%).If intensive marketing is cutting deeply into the gross margin, or your price can be adjusted to improve your gross margin, then consider what you can do to make changes.
  1. Customer Acquisition Cost
    While we’re talking about marketing cost, you also want to track your Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC).  You can find out how much it costs to acquire each of your customers in a given period by dividing your total sales and marketing spends by the number of new customers added for that time period.For example: You spent $300,000 between sales and marketing in a 30-day period where you acquired 200 customers.  Your CAC would be $1,500.When you’re determining your CAC, you should take into account all expenses related to that activity.  This includes any personnel-related expenses, including the salary and benefits of the team(s) involved.
  1. Lifetime Value and CAC
    For SaaS companies, the Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV) as it relates to your CAC may be one of the most important metrics as you work on growing your business.  The CLTV/CAC ratio summarizes a lot of information – anticipated lifetime revenue per customer, customer churn, and sales and marketing costs – into a single number that provides some of the strongest insight into the effectiveness of your customer acquisition strategy and campaigns.Generally speaking, it’s good to have a CLTV that is 3x the Customer Acquisition Cost, or greater.  If it’s lower, you can develop or refine retention campaigns to reduce CAC or improve CLTV.“Time and money are your scarcest resources,” says Matt Trifiro, CMO at Mesosphere.  “You want to make sure you’re allocating them in highest-impact areas.  Data reveals impact, and with data, you can bring more science to your decisions.”
  1. Customer Churn
    You could put churn in another division of your organization: some people say it’s a customer service or operational metric.  That could be true, but it’s more appropriate to say that it applies to every division.  If you were to market your product to people who don’t really need it, then you could expect a higher churn rate.You can calculate churn either in customers or in revenue.  Either will tell you how much business you’ve lost in a given window of time.For example: Take your total customers gained for the last 30 days – let’s say 1000.  Now take the number of customers you lost for that period (we’ll say 150). Divide the number of customers lost by the number of customers gained to get your churn rate.In this case, 150/1000 = 15%“You can acquire some measure of knowledge from various research techniques but nothing beats living, breathing, and feeling the same things your prospects do,” writes John Jantsch in his book Referral Engine.
  1. New Customers
    This one can be a satisfying metric and it’s fairly straightforward.  Revenue is often the number Operations looks at for deciding success, but for marketing, it’s extremely useful to know how many new customers you gained over a given period – and more importantly, where those new customers came from.
  1. Leads
    Make sure everyone is on board and understands how leads are defined in your organization in terms of where they fit into the sales funnel.  In this case, I’m referring to leads as top-of-the-funnel leads, which mean they’re not qualified.  They’re in the early stage of interest.That means they’re not ready for free trials or a product purchase.  They haven’t shown immediate interest in the product/service itself, but they’re beginning to digest your content and linger.
  1. Qualified Leads
    Your qualified leads are your middle-of-the-funnel leads.  These are the ones who are actively involved in a demo and/or have signaled a desire to learn more about your product.When you’re looking at leads vs. qualified leads, this is where you’re watching your conversion metrics on the content marketing campaigns or ads you’ve created to see how those leads roll over.
  1. Qualified Leads to Customers
    Like I mentioned above, conversion is key.  If you’re not converting leads to qualified leads and then to customers, you’ve got a conversion issue that you need to address.  You’ll likely have various conversion points to watch, including percentage of trial signups that make a purchase, number of leads that turn into trials, etc.
  1. Unique Visits to Qualified Leads
    By itself, traffic like unique visits is a vanity metric unless you apply it to the bigger picture.  In this case, you are going to compare those unique visits you get for a given period with the number of people who opt-in in some form to become a qualified lead.Once you identify this conversion rate, you can start optimizing your campaigns and messaging to improve those conversion rates and move more of those unique visits deeper into your funnel.What metrics do you use to track the success of your SaaS? Share in the comments below:

Sujan Patel is the co-founder of Content Marketer & Narrow, content marketing & social media tools.  In his 13 years in marketing he’s helped grow companies like Mint, Salesforce, Linkedin, and more.

Posted by:  Tony
Date:  July 11, 2016

I had a brief conversation with Jerry about this yesterday [during his pit stop in Buffalo].  One of the things I mentioned during our conversation is that I want to create a product we can resell once we’ve developed it for our entire ecosystem.  Jerry assured me the work we do for clients far exceeds any of these packaged deals.

Our operations encompass retail, wholesale, service, distribution, manufacturing, design, accounting, publishing, and a variety of professional services.  If we are successful in our pursuit of an all-purpose solution, it would be a very appealing and salable product.

I’m all in.  We need to start looking at all the packaged solutions that are available, but first we need a CTO who is in sync with our agenda.

Posted by:  Mike DeJoy
Date:  July 11, 2016

The dashboard looks slick, but I believe if we hired the people necessary to accumulate the information necessary to build the data warehouse, that those people would be intelligent enough to create the reports that he is selling.  The challenge is pulling together the pertinent info from our disparate entities, not in displaying the charts and pivot tables.

That being said, a consolidated dashboard for the years of data we already have would be a very powerful tool indeed.  We should pick one company, document the process, and duplicate it for all the entities.  Locally, TW or LTS would be the cleanest since they both use one piece of software for purchasing, inventory, and sales supported by Peachtree for accounting.  Given the nature of their business, I’m sure many of the IT based partnerships would be even more straightforward.

Posted by:  Jeff Wynn
Date:  July 9, 2016

I agree with Jerry and the course he suggests.  The foundation for any metrics/reporting/insights is the data.  You have to get the right data collected at the proper granularity so that you can report on it.  All successful BI projects start there.  Understanding what data you need (and currently have) and putting systems in place to supply that data consistently and reliably is the end goal of point 1 & 2 in Jerry’s outline.  I would focus on each of the businesses individually at first, understanding what data is required for each model, then look for commonalities and efficiencies that can be gained as you scale out.

As Jerry said, much of this stage is catch-up, but will provide a strong foundation on top of which you can build.

Posted by:  Jerry Hawk
Date:  July 9, 2016

Buying a solution that is pre-wired for reporting is not a bad thing, in fact that is how Vitamin World, David’s Bridal, and PJM were sold – the difference is we are selling the repository and allowing them to use any reporting solution (they don’t want pre-canned reports they want to create whatever they want via self-service). If this companies pre-canned reports are using Tableau, Power Bi, Microstrategy, Business Objects that you have control over what you might want to do later and you would have a solution that isn’t proprietary day one (which I wouldn’t want). If they aren’t doing that, then you are at a disadvantage because they cannot afford to innovate at the same level as Microsoft and others.

There are still many, many steps to getting to this point, for one, extracting the data from the source (and mapping) to the reporting data model and environment. More often than not that is the biggest expense on the project. And to reach farther back you will want the data sources to be as complete as possible (inventory by day, store sales by day, store performance by day) – the more granular the better because you don’t know what you will want in the future.

In addition to the business specific models you will want an aggregate model that supports (at a more coarse level) the business reporting that is useful across all businesses. I really only see 2 models, retail and services. Everything else is an accounting functional model (real estate for instance). Lastly, much of what is in this deck is handled at the ERP level so there is a significant amount of reporting you can do there if you upgrade your ERP system to collect this information.

I would approach the retail solution as follows:

  1. Get the right technology in the stores, the more current the better – Starmount is one we are seeing a lot in retail now (it is very new) as well as Dynamics POS. Locked up systems without data access are worthless.
  2. Deploy an ERP system that can support the things that you need (Supply chain, inventory, employee performance and attribution, eComm etc). Part of this is to decide calendaring, hierarchies, and all that you might want downstream for real reporting.
  3. Review and tailor reporting against the ERP environment, I would guess that 90% of what you want can be reported directly here.
  4. Focus on the other areas that give you real insights, customer analytics, customer churn etc. see if you need a larger data warehouse / reporting solution or if you get what you need in #2 and can just do the secret sauce after. I would want to know what online actions are leading people into the store as well and that is possible now.

1,2,3 is catch up with some real business insights on 3. I don’t think any turn-key offering will negate 1-3. The BI solution you sent is part of 3 and part of 4.

4 = where all of our customers are focusing spend – this is what tells them what to stock, when they are losing a sale, who is performing and why etc.

It’s all relative too of course, DBI and VW have 350 stores so they both generate “plans” in the early morning and through self-service reporting manage that all day (at noon if a store hasn’t sold xyz they focus there – this is a simplified explanation). They have Starmount, Dynamics AX for retail, but  it also supports a wholesale, overseas, manufacturing, and bridal show business. For them dynamics supports about 70% of what they want, the remaining 30% is supported by the data warehouse and reporting solution which is really more assembling stock solutions with our data model and analytics capability (Capax secret sauce).

Plenty more to talk about when we get together.

Posted by:  Chris Boebel
Date:  July 9, 2016
Subject:  Wow

I just read your recent post about utilizing analytics (and related tools and methodologies) to improve your business and I was reminded of some of the cool things we did, many of which were, I believe, very forward thinking at the time. The methodology we used for stocking t-shirts comes to mind as one that was fairly successful in keeping inventories at the right levels. Not the blanks, of course, but that’s another story.

Ever since then I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about things like that. It’s a topic that I find to be endlessly fascinating. It often keeps me awake at night and it’s something that I’ve tried to apply in all the positions I’ve occupied since I left The Advantage in ’99.

At any rate, I’d like to suggest two things to consider as you spend time crafting your strategy:

  1. An incremental approach with small tests can help you determine your direction. No one is going to come in with all the right answers for your business. If you adopt a design-test-measure approach in small steps, you can find a path that’s right for you and it will be easier to retool and move in new directions as the needs arise.
  1. Figure out how you’re going to measure impact before implementing anything.

Some great examples of the early use of analytics can be found by looking at the Capital One cards and how those guys went about crafting their programs. Also, UPS has used their data to improve their business in many highly effective ways.

I’ve always enjoyed your posts but this one was the most fun to read. It’s so rife with opportunity. I wish you well in finding the right person (or people) to help you move forward.

Posted by:  Tom Thomson
Date:  July 9, 2016

I am anxious to see the presentation.

It looks like Pete has done a terrific job developing a comprehensive reporting model with key performance metrics that apply across many of our businesses.  I am guessing that this is done with standard pivot table technology but curious about how he is aggregating the data from “core operational systems” and what he is using as his cloud data platform.

In my experience, development of the common the data model, and how we extract and aggregate data from multiple operational transaction systems into the BI model are the key challenges.  Having said that, defining the reporting outcomes that we want to utilize to measure and manage our businesses is exactly where we should start… in other words, let’s start our transformation process with the outcome in mind.  That will determine the work and projects that are then required to improve our day-to-day transaction systems (operations), and define what data is required from our accounting systems to allow the BI model to be executed on an automatic basis.

I am sure Jeff Wynn will have significant insights here as although EAS contains significantly different data that financial and business reporting metrics, in essence, it is a data aggregation platform with defined report out capabilities.  Also, the work that Jerry Hawk is currently doing for David’s Bridal, Vitamin World, and others is exactly this kind of performance management reporting in the retail sector utilizing the Microsoft Azure cloud and related data analytics reporting tools.

I look forward to getting together on this.

Posted by:  Chris Keslin
Date:  July 9, 2016

Loved your latest post and couldn’t agree more on the new direction.  Through the last couple of years I’ve become a firm believer that the big are quickly finding themselves at a disadvantage simply due to how slowly they can react to change.  Add in that easy access to capital is much less important due to how inexpensive the technology has become and it’s recipe for the midsized company with vision to disrupt the big boys….

Best of luck!  I think you’re really going to enjoy the level of insights your new initiative will bring to your fingertips.

From:  Joe Kreuz
Date:  July 9, 2016
Subject:  Business Intelligence (BI) SaaS product

I thought you would enjoy seeing this.  It is from my friend Peter Grandits.

I have been talking to him about his new business about being part of the ABX Resource Library.  As you can see from the attached document he has developed a SaaS product for business intelligence that seems pretty slick.

The Grand Metrics Mission

To provide cost effective, ready-to-use Business Intelligence solutions. Uniquely specific to an industry, capable of integrating data from multiple disparate information systems presented in easy to understand visualizations and designed to uncover hidden profit enhancing opportunities.

Business Intelligence just got easier!

Posted by:  Tony
Date:  July 4, 2016

Over the next few years, I imagine we will be building several significant apps, so it would be nice to have a strong stable of app developers to utilize.

I am designating $250k over the next three years for app development.  Along with the current app development for TW&Co, I feel we will need many more apps starting with:

  1. iWorld Fundraising
  2. Gift Giving Registry
  3. Grivani Golf
  4. Christian CoOp
  5. Cento Club [Boutique Hotel, Spa, Bazaar, Club Room, etc.]
  6. IBX Resource Library

Let’s put together an app development team.