Reitmans tries on business intelligence application

Canadian retailer Reitmans isn’t letting the consolidation within the business intelligence sector get in the way of its plan to get a better handle on its merchandizing data.

The Montreal-based firm, which also owns Smart-Set, RW & Co, Penningtons, Thyme Maternity, Addition-Elle and Cassis, is deploying an application designed exclusively for retailers running business intelligence (BI) software and data warehouses by Atlanta, Ga.-based QuantiSense.

Reitmans will use the QuantiSense’s visualization layer to examine operational information sourced from its Oracle database through dashboards. QuantiSense’s Playbooks, product, meanwhile, will offer best practices to determine what the retailer should do with the information it learns.

Diane Randolph, Reitman’s vice-president of information systems, said the company has been using business intelligence software from Microstrategy for years, and Quantisense’s applications were developed to work with the Microstrategy platform. While the company’s allocation teams and core merchandisers have been using retail BI products from Oracle, the project will bring a level of analytics its store operations teams have not experienced before.

“In the first phase, (the metrics) are going to be the reduction in manual effort required to collate and compile and produce and distribute these reports,” she said. “We want to see how much time are we saving from the operations analyst – removing that non-value-added activity.”

The BI space saw a number of mergers and acquisitions last year, including Oracle’s purchase of Hyperion, SAP’s purchase of Business Objects and IBM’s takeover of Ottawa-based Cognos Inc. SAP has also focused on retail-specific BI with the acquisition of Toronto’s Triversity a few years ago. Randolph said she’s not worried about the long-term shakeout.

“I’ve given up trying to forecast who is going to be acquired by whom. We just have to make the best decision based on the situation at the time,” she said.

QuantiSense CEO Jeff Buck said the company’s products handle the data loading from store systems onto a central location running off a database. It also handles the data modelling and BI components based on Microstrategy’s product line. This means it can be agnostic in regards to other enterprise software, such as Oracle’s and even various data warehouse vendors such as Teradata.

“We build off platforms that exist. We’re not recreating the wheel,” he said. “We’re a bit more insulated from some of the consolidation, in part because we have chosen our BI platform in Microstrategy. We inherit their independence.”

Randolph said the interoperability is particularly important at Reitmans, as was the fact that the dashboards are pre-built with retailers in mind.

“The challenge with BI solutions is you often end up with a toolkit, and then have to build your house. With QuantiSense, you just have to paint,” she said.

While the store operations division will serve as a test group at Reitmans, Randolph indicated the full deployment across the company could take some time. Key performance indicators that will be explored through the technology include store traffic and conversion, labour and real estate productivity, as well as sales and inventory performance at all levels of the company.

Two years ago, Reitmans was focusing on Web security by installing an appliance from Finjan Inc. to protect its desktop users.

In 2005, it turned to IBM for a point of sale upgrade.

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