Canadian Tire, McCain Foods share BI adoption tactics

TORONTO— Business intelligence (BI) reports still largely remain the domain of senior executives and power users, but frozen food manufacturer McCain Foods Ltd. has taken a very direct approach to bringing business intelligence down to the level of the plant worker.

An executive with the Florenceville, N.B.-based company explained that workers can see how their actions directly impact the plant’s OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) by being able to view on a large screen on the wall a dashboard displaying measurements for performance, availability and quality.

The ability to visualize worker impact on OEE ensured everyone paid attention to the dashboard, thereby driving adoption of the company’s BI strategy, said Soma Muruganandam, director of business intelligence at the frozen food manufacturer.

“You can develop all these beautiful things and it’s up on the wall but if you’re not making any progress out of it … it’s no use,” said Muruganandam.

Workers at McCain Foods can visualize how planned and unplanned events at the plant—such as cleaning hours when workers aren’t working, rejected products and misfeeds—affect the OEE, said Muruganandam.

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Muruganandam shared his company’s BI strategy with an audience at MicroStrategy Inc.’s Business Intelligence Symposium on Thursday where the McLean, Virginia-based BI vendor officially announced the extension of its mobile platform to Apple Inc.’s iPhone and iPad to take advantage of the 5 billion people on smart phones.

MicroStrategy already supports Research in Motion Ltd.’s BlackBerry since 2007. Extension to the iPhone and iPad reflects the fact that smart phones are becoming mainstream in business, said James Broadley, country manager for MicroStrategy Canada.

“This is not just another product add-on … this is the future of MicroStrategy,” said Broadley. The company, he added, is “putting the wood behind the arrow in the mobile space.”

Users of the iPhone and iPad will have capabilities including Google Maps integrated into GPS; multi-touch such as pinch and swipe; drill-down of information; app integration with iStore apps as well as other apps like Twitter and LinkedIn; and, sensory-based functionality such as shaking the device to refresh the screen.

Also at the Symposium was customer Canadian Tire Corp. who shared its BI deployment, a relatively new proof-of-concept initiative in its financial services group.

The Toronto-based retailer’s senior business analyst Matt Dalzell said analytics reporting was previously wrought with inefficiency and inconsistency. “We weren’t spending a lot of time providing that proactive analysis back to the business,” said Dalzell.

The goal was to “enable an information-centric view of the world” to the financial services’ insurance sales group by allowing visibility of performance by teams, products and channels, said Dalzell.

But in order to assure users that the reports were not based on unreliable information as they had been before, Dalzell said the approach was to place the onus on the business users to first define the metrics for the reports.

Another Canadian customer, Bank of Montreal  (BMO), shared its tactics to deploying, and getting user adoption of, a corporate profitability tool to mend the spotty profitability reporting for corporate accounts.

Steve Pederson, vice-president of corporate payments products and acquisition integration with the Toronto-based bank, recalls that profitability reports only captured the top twenty or so corporate accounts with no regard for the thousands of others.

“We’re an organization that has a wealth of data and a wealth of capabilities, yet all too often the business did not force the conversation of ‘Here’s what I need to run my business,’” said Pederson of the early days.

As with McCain Foods and Canadian Tire, BMO employed several tactics to ensure employees actually used the reports. The dashboards focused on important information to avoid overwhelming users. But more vital was that the report data was also used to calculate bonuses: “That’s one way to get sales people to read a report when they know their compensation is tied to it,” said Pederson. 

Among the next steps at BMO is to push mobile device usage of BI reports, said Pederson.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau

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