A Master of Outdoor Products Masters In-House Data

By Mel Heckman

The trouble started when a sales manager, Sarah, wanted to assess progress with one of the company’s top customers as the year end approached. Because of the company’s decentralized record-keeping system at the time, she couldn’t access the sales data and had to request it from each of the company’s subsidiaries.

That took days to compile. And once Sarah had the data in front of her, she had to sort through it manually to find relevant sales trends and patterns—a tedious exercise that inevitably missed some important insights.

As a wholesale distributor of a wide mix of outdoor products that span the hunting and fishing categories, Plano Synergy deals with large quantities of data on a daily basis. And we have grown rapidly in recent years, both organically and by acquiring companies.

Given the massive amounts of data these newly acquired companies brought with them, the acquisitions posed a serious data management challenge. All the acquired companies housed their data—everything from sales and financial info to purchasing data—on their own ERP systems, making it impossible to put the data to productive use and gain insights across the entire organization.

This created a big obstacle for our salespeople, especially as they tried to identify cross-selling opportunities. They had to operate on islands of information and struggled to recognize trends across the company. This slowed us down.

Without a business intelligence (BI) system in place—which would give our sales team easy access to data and the ability to efficiently analyze that data—the frustrating and cumbersome process Sarah went through repeated itself many times.

To improve the situation as part of the integration process, we sought help from data management experts. And with the help of the BI team from Sikich LLP, a professional services firm, we implemented a system that has revolutionized our business.

We are now able to better meet customer needs and have improved our selling processes. The BI system helped our sales team achieve what we call “one customer, one view.” That is, all the information a salesperson needs about a customer is now accessible in one place, with the touch of a few keystrokes.

Step-by-Step Approach Skirts Trouble

Plano Synergy brought in Sikich’s BI team in mid-2014 and named me the director of business intelligence in 2015. With a rigorous approach, we implemented a robust BI system using TARGIT Decision Suite. We introduced it to our sales team before rolling it out to other areas of the company.

With five overarching subsidiaries within Plano, devising a BI system that brought all their data together—along with data from any new acquisitions—wasn’t a simple process. A common mistake in designing and implementing BI systems is attempting to integrate all the data at once. We avoided that by honing in on data that the users identified as vital.

We started by talking with users about how they used the ERP system and interacted with data on a day-to-day basis. Once we grasped the core business needs, we designed an architecture and built a data cube on top of it.