Transforming Business Operations

By John Gowers  |  Posted 2008-07-30 Print this article Print

A business intelligence and performance management initiative transformed disparate pieces of data into actionable business information to help boost Blue Mountain Resorts’ bottom line.

Transforming Business Operations

With the implementation complete, we successfully streamlined our budgeting process and moved away from our legacy spreadsheet model. The implementation transformed disparate pieces of data into actionable business information and enabled us to improve reporting and reduce labor costs.

Our satisfaction with IBM Cognos TM1 can be credited to its ease of use, flexibility and real-time analytics. Deploying this solution has benefited us across all lines of business, particularly customer service, retail, hospitality and lodging. We also improved profitability and business operations as a whole.

The system’s interface makes it easy to use and adjust. We enter data in the same way for each line of business, and real-time analytics makes it easier for management to compare and analyze reports and view each department’s performance.

Our marketing team can view historical data and perform “what-if” analyses against daily revenue reports, and can focus more time on projects such as marketing campaigns and labor management to monitor spending more closely. For example, if a particular room type isn’t selling as well in 2008 as it did in 2007, a manager can compare the variables that have remained consistent over the years with those that have changed.

We can now slice and dice data in different ways to determine why a particular variable has dragged down sales. With this information in hand, the manager can update room rates, lower them to last year’s rates or implement a new marketing campaign to give additional visibility to the affected area.

Further, as in any resort, staffing accounts for a large part of our operating budget, and maintaining this line item is essential to our success. Though staffing is set during the budgeting process, the actual levels have to be adjusted daily, depending on the weather, the number of presold tickets, hotel arrivals and departures, major conferences and historic business patterns.

If staffing levels exceed budget constraints, overstaffing must be cleared with an area director. This highly variable and volatile line item tends to map closely to the budgeted targets at the end of the year; this helps us maximize our profits.

We also use IBM Cognos TM1 to maintain inventories in our rental shops from year to year. For example, taking the data from the application that runs the equipment rental shop and adding the expected number of skiers in a given year allows us to order the right number of boots in each size. The same model applies to inventories in our other retail shops.

Another critical area is customer service, which must be responsive and helpful. Our guests’ first interaction with us is through our call center. With our new system, managers can calculate inbound call volumes based on a number of factors, including time of year, time of day, proximity to a holiday and current resort promotions. This enables the call center to staff appropriately each day based on historical trends.

Other tangible benefits include the following:

Avoiding the addition of unnecessary headcount: We use IBM Cognos TM1 to monitor daily reservation volumes and guest activity. If we still had the previous manual process, we would have needed two new administrators.

Saving $2.5 million a year in labor costs: By creating six-day forecasts, we’ve enabled front-line managers to quickly adjust their workers’ schedules according to weather and market conditions, resulting in huge savings.

Reducing inventory levels: To maintain appropriate inventory levels in our retail stores, we use the system to track the most popular to the least popular items, so we can target slow sellers for discounts.

John Gowers is director of IT at Blue Mountain Resorts, Ontario’s largest mountain resort (a four-season recreational and conference destination.)

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