Selling Up

By Brian P. Watson Print this article Print

What do a gasoline engine maker, publishing company and football franchise have in common? Their use of business intelligence software.

Selling Up

In recent years, a wave of acquisitions has helped business intelligence vendors bolster their product lines. Some examples include Business Objects buying Medience, which made enterprise integration middleware, and Cognos snatching up Adaytum Software, a provider of financial planning and forecasting products. According to Gartner, the consolidation was spurred by businesses seeking more strategic results from business intelligence and standardizing on fewer vendors to create consistency.

Also looming are some of the world's biggest software firms, which have also made buys. In February, Oracle announced it would acquire Siebel Systems and re-brand its analytics platform as the enterprise edition of Oracle's Business Intelligence Suite. Two months later, Microsoft announced it would buy ProClarity, a specialist in online analytical processing, a data mining technology.

Gartner, in a Sept. 15 report, predicted a second stage of consolidation in the business intelligence market. Gartner believes some large firms, like Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems, are among the candidates looking to broaden their platforms by buying up business intelligence vendors. The prophecy speaks to the research firm's belief that technology managers are increasingly focused on driving strategic initiatives through business intelligence, instead of creating reports, one by one, across different departments.

Thinking strategically helped Simon & Schuster, the $796 million publishing arm of CBS. In 2000, the company built a data warehouse—a collection of electronic documents and records, organized to enable companywide searching, reporting and analysis—to store sales data on its various titles. Using Business Objects XI, a reporting and analysis tool that integrates with data warehouses, Simon & Schuster created profit-and-loss records for every book release, based on sales, returns and remaining inventory, according to Stuart Mowat, vice president of information systems. That allowed the company to calculate how many more books it needed to ship—or not ship—to retailers following the title's initial release.

Senior financial systems analyst James Young says he hasn't quantified the software's performance, but he believes the biggest benefit is that technology staffers and business managers alike have "a general sense that the data is more available and under control—not under the mercy of a static paper report."

For Tery Howard, senior director of information technology for the Miami Dolphins, tackling business intelligence meant improving sales and scouting.

In 2002, the football franchise wanted to gauge how its ticket sales stood up against those of other National Football League clubs. But all it had at the time were static reports that, as Howard says, put the Dolphins in a "reactive mode" in terms of measuring the effectiveness of the club's sales strategies.

She brought in Hyperion's Per-formance Suite to mine sales records from the Dolphins' ticket vendor, Ticketmaster. Using the software, the club's staff reviews sales and revenue estimates, which help the franchise plan its budgets and gauge the performance of marketing promotions. Previously, staff would gather the sales figures weekly from the vendor, then plug the data into Excel and massage it to create forecasts. That process often took up to eight hours.

With Hyperion, Howard's team can create reusable templates for ticket sales reports or customize new reports to measure individual promotions. Automating weekly report generation freed up one worker in both the ticketing and finance departments, she says.

Now, business intelligence is making a difference in scouting operations. The Dolphins use the Hyperion software to evaluate players eligible for the annual draft. Howard and her team devised a system that creates depth charts for each position and tracks individual players' statistics compared with players of similar ability at that position.

As Howard puts it: "Not only is it a great value proposition for understanding our ticket sales and trends, but it can also help integrate our football operations."

This article was originally published on 2006-11-06
Associate Editor

Brian joined Baseline in March 2006. In addition to previous stints at Inter@ctive Week and The Net Economy, he's written for The News-Press in Fort Myers, Fla., as well as The Sunday Tribune in Dublin, Ireland. Brian has a B.A. from Bucknell University and a master's degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

eWeek eWeek

Have the latest technology news and resources emailed to you everyday.