Labatt takes a call before you dig approach

It wasn’t exactly a keg party for Labatt Breweries of Canada when the company first realized the impact its outdated infrastructure was having on its business. Pools of fragmented information were causing several inefficiencies across its Canadian-based operations.

“We started looking at it as a spaghetti mess,” said Mike Ali, change management, enterprise business intelligence at Labatt in Toronto. “We had lots of people doing lots of things with different data.” He made the comments while delivering a keynote address at a gathering of Cognos Inc.. business intelligence software customers in Toronto on Thursday.

With 10 diverse provinces in the country selling 60 different kinds of Labatt beer, the company also discovered that it employed 10 different ways of compiling and recording its business data. It needed to organize its information to support its multiple views across various functions and subject areas, according to Ali. The company was also using 11 different systems with 74 transaction sets at its warehouse.

Labatt started to deploy a corporate performance management (CPM) system from Cognos, Ali said. Labatt started its deployment of CPM slowly, focusing first on the commercial side for its sales and marketing departments. Deciding to take the process in steps is also something that Karen Williams, vice-president of product marketing for Cognos in Ottawa, recommends.

“You have to start somewhere and work your way up,” she said. “It can’t all be done at once. Most organizations start with a specific business issue.”

With a new business intelligence and enterprise planning approach, Ali explained that the key thing Labatt learned along the way was the “call before you dig” mentality. “Understand what your business needs are in an enterprise context,” he added, otherwise it’s easy to start letting the technology drive the solution.”

He said it was important to manage and align the corporate and country-wide metrics; to facilitate best practices, knowledge sharing; and to provide access to information for all of the users.

The company started out having an inconsistent data framework and needed to organize its data to support many functions and subject areas and now territory managers across the country are using the same tools. “This reduces manual effort,” Ali said. “The company now has simple, standardized reports and nationally consistent views with focused metrics.”

Information fragmentation was also a problem for CIBC Insurance in Toronto. A group that is responsible for the development, marketing and sales of three product lines, Kal Omran, general manager, business solutions and information services with CIBC Insurance, said unorganized data was just one of the issues facing the organization before it decided to implement a BI and data warehouse infrastructure.

There were also problems with internal and external information not being integrated ,and there was little reuse and standardization happening with reporting and analysis.

“There was a long turnaround time for report generation,” he said, adding that they were also producing 100 to 200 reports – all different views of the same information. Today the company has a paperless, online reporting system and has an integrated data warehouse using BI tools from Cognos. Omran said sales volume have increase from $400,000 to $1 million.

“It’s very important to spend the time building a good data model,” he said.

Making sure CIBC Insurance followed a phased-in approach is one of the reasons the project was so successful, says Omran. But, it also had a lot to do with the fact that users were trained to become self sufficient, he added. “We involved the users from the beginning of the project,” and provided training for them to fully understand the new process.

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