BI implementation at Hypercity: An OLAP cube success story

To analyze large volumes of customer data generated on a daily basis, retail player Hypercity opted for a BI implementation. We take a look at the benefits.

Hypercity, a popular retail store format owned by the K Raheja Group offers a comprehensive product range - foods, homeware, home entertainment, high-tech products, appliances, furniture, sports, toys clothing and so on. The huge range also meant generation of vast amounts of data and more importantly, the need to analyze it.

Added to the task of managing large data volumes, Hypercity has to operate in a fiercely competitive retail environment where customers are becoming increasingly demanding. In view of the competition, the company was faced with the task of analyzing customer data to design promotions that would drive sales. This was the key reason why the company wanted to go in for BI implementation. Thus the decision to go in for a BI implementation was influenced by long-term needs.

Furthermore, Hypercity’s decision to go in for implementation of BI proved to be a progressive one, as it already had an underlying enterprise data warehouse (EDW) that could be leveraged to invest in analytics.  However, the company had no complete analytical tool before this BI implementation [except a Business Objects (BO) solution, which was deployed as the reporting tool].

When it comes to BI implementation, the common approach is to get the reporting requirements from the business departments and then roll out the reports in a phased manner for each department. In case of Hypercity’s BI implementation, it was slightly different. Explaining his company’s BI implementation, Veneeth Purushothaman, the head of technology at Hypercity Retail India states, “The general approach makes BI a reporting tool rather than an analytical tool. So how is this different from an on-line transaction processing (OLTP) system except for the fact that this allows you to do a little bit of down-drop? There is also no end to the reports that people need and the various formats that we can think of. Hence, the approach that we went in for was to create data online analytical processing (OLAP) cubes.” These cubes were specific to a data set—customer cube, vendor cube and a weekly sales cube. 

As for the details of the BI implementation, the EDW has Netezza Data Warehouse Appliance for its servers and storage component. A retail data model from Claraview, which uses Oracle Data Integrator (Sunopsis) for the extract-transform-load (ETL) process is topped by a reporting layer and analytics from SAS. The EDW is connected to all major data sources such as the JDA-MMS (JDA Merchandise Management System, which is the merchandising ERP), Oracle Financials for finance-related information, and the customer loyalty system. Thus the entire BI implementation has quite a comprehensive coverage.

Before going in for the BI implementation, Hypercity counted in on its experience of using a BO reporting tool while selecting the vendor. But when it came to the entire BI package for the BI implementation, SAS qualified. “SAS suited the needs perfectly and so we deployed toolset from SAS as the primary solution for analytics and reporting,” informs Purushothaman. The reporting tool is based on a licensing model.

While going in for the BI implementation, there was no need for a BI-readiness assessment since the reporting tool was already in usage within the organization. “I never felt the need to tackle user acceptability, as we had the buy-in from the business from the word 'go'.  We were only translating their requirements to a report, cube and dashboard. As the product went live they readily accepted it,” says Purushothaman.

The company handled the BI rollout by calling in the key-users, showing them the features, and ensuring that they used the tool.  In fact, the Business IT team worked collaboratively with the Central Merchandising team to rollout the tool in pursuit of the BI implementation.

Hypercity’s BI implementation continues to evolve with usage and time. Currently, Hypercity is creating meaningful cubes by either consolidating earlier ones or creating new cubes. The first phase of the BI implementation was completed in 10 months. The company is also working on a dashboard for the executives. 

With such an elaborate BI implementation in place, all customer information and customer-led reports are now extracted from the platform.  The Excel-based MIS system used for reporting has been phased out. The end-user avails cubes to look at the data in his own way, which allows him to have a report format of his own. Thus this BI implementation has succeeded at all levels.

The BI implementation’s benefits have already started pouring in. To start off with, the ease at which data is available to the business is very evident. The solution has helped the analytics team to publish numerous insights on customers, product category, buying behavior and so on, which has definitely helped the business in better planning and execution of promotions. Thus, the BI implementation is helping Hypercity in more ways than one.

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