At Indian domestic two-wheeler major TVS Motor Company, business intelligence represents continuous evolution and improvement. A journey that started out with rudimentary dabbling into BI in 2004-05, has now progressed to an advanced stage with SAP BI NetWeaver 7.3 for analysis and MicroStrategy for dashboarding and BI mobility.
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The SAP BI story
It all began when senior management at TVS called for a single report on sales performance. The report needed to include past, present and future growth trends across customers, geographies and vehicle models for any given period, necessitating heavy use of BI.
The IT and MIS team at TVS decided to implement SAP NetWeaver 7.3 in 2007. Earlier, the company had been using SAP BI 3.5 that came bundled with SAP ERP. Ranjith Radhakrishnan, general manager for ERP at TVS Motor Company, explains: “The tool we used earlier could not meet the speedy report generation needs of our users.”
Changing user-needs compelled the company to deploy the business intelligence tool. TVS carried out a user acceptance test with 20 employees from sales and manufacturing. Reports and dashboards were developed for MIS users and refined based on feedback. Data from SAP ERP, SAP CRM and other enterprise applications was integrated to develop reports. So far the company has created 30 dashboards for sales and 20 for the manufacturing department.
Today 80% of the users leverage the BI tool to generate standard MIS reports. The rest use BI for analytical reporting or analysis. The sales department looks at sales and growth numbers, market share and trends based on geography or category. The manufacturing department uses reports involving the quality, quantity and cost of products in specific geographies.
The next step
In 2010, as users began asking for more flexible, self-service options in BI, the company decided to implement a separate BI dashboard tool augmenting its existing business intelligence architecture. According to Radhakrishnan, “Once SAP business intelligence tool was implemented, users were quite happy with the reporting system; however, the need for a flexible dashboard was felt. The users wanted a simple user interface and slicing and dicing capabilities, as against SAP BI’s rigid front end.”
TVS laid down the criteria for the front end and invited three vendors for demo sessions. After six weeks, it chose MicroStrategy as it offered an easy-to-use solution compatible with SAP BI. Features such as access to the BI tool over browsers or mobile devices and the option to download the reports into Excel, tilted the balance in MicroStrategy’s favor.
Radhakrishnan says that TVS Motor Company is among the first Indian organizations to have deployed MicroStrategy. “We have begun developing Web-based reports for BI and integrated it with the SAP enterprise portal,” says Radhakrishnan. “We didn’t have any peer reference for the tool; however the overall product support, quality, usability and functionality helped us make the decision.”
Hurdles on the way
The first hurdle the business intelligence implementation team faced was encouraging users to abandon their traditional practices such as generating reports in Excel, and instead start using the tool. This was done through intensive training and by offering users ‘download to Excel’ as the dashboard option. The next challenge was that of data integrity. The data sourced from SAP applications was structured. However, data sourced from other applications and unstructured data lacked the required quality. TVS laid down tight ETL processes to combat this and created an eight-member BI team to plan and manage the integration process.
Benefits of business intelligence tool
Business intelligence has delivered multiple benefits to TVS. It has not only helped its internal business units but also the sales and support channels.
- Production planning
All production planning decisions are based on reports generated by the BI tool. For example, the number of models required for a particular month is determined by analyzing the reports on orders placed, actual billing, stocks held, and exact number of vehicles sold.
- Dealer sales
Improvement in dealer reports has enabled better dealer management. For instance, TVS is able to improve sales from rural outlets; find the best mode of payment for particular customers; and, bridge the gap between leads and deals. With the business intelligence tool, TVS has introduced more relevant incentive programs for dealers in smaller towns, helping boost their sales.
- Post-sales service
TVS can now track vehicle history with real-time generation of reports. Higher revenues for its service support partners are guaranteed, as it is now known exactly which vehicles are due to for service at any point in time. With the BI tool there is greater visibility about aspects such as parts replaced in a vehicle model, cost of replacement, and top complaints about the model, thus helping improve the customer-service experience.
- General benefits
As data is now available on the fly, employees need not spend time developing reports. Financial processes such as credit allocation and collections have become faster too.
Radhakrishnan explains: “The biggest benefit of business Intelligence is that the tool offers insights into the needs of our dealers and customers and offers more time for employees to engage with them.”
In future, TVS plans to also analyze unstructured data using the BI tool. For this the company will focus on data from social networking sites in order to understand its customers better.