Somerfield uses BI to improve agility

Somerfield hopes to achieve more consistent availability of goods and promotions across its 1,275 UK stores, by rolling out new...

Somerfield hopes to achieve more consistent availability of goods and promotions across its 1,275 UK stores, by rolling out new business intelligence software, the supermarket chain said last week.

The Application Foundation software from supplier Business Objects, will allow store managers to more effectively monitor and manage merchandise and inventory levels - key to the success of Somerfield's range review process, said Gordon Cooper, business intelligence director at the retailer.

Helena Schwenk, business intelligence analyst at research firm Ovum, said there has been resurgence in interest in business intelligence software as companies look to get the most out of the data they store.

"BI software is creeping up the corporate agenda because of the economic pressure companies are facing," she said. "Companies are using BI to save money, by, for example, cutting product lines and tightening inventory."

Somerfield staff will be able to monitor, interpret and act on changing factors such as sales, staff, pricing and promotions and receive alerts on any problem areas, allowing them to respond quickly, said Cooper.

"The software will allow users to see the relevant information at the same time as they are making decisions," Cooper said. "By bringing the information and the process closer together, the development cycle [for products and promotions] will be much quicker."

Somerfield, which will also use the Product and Service Intelligence application from Business Objects to analyse product performance, hopes the software will allow its stores to perform at a consistent level, Cooper said.

"With any process where you are taking decisions centrally, it is key that you are consistent across the business," he said.

Somerfield will measure the success of the software by analysing the quality of the implementation process on a case-by-case basis, Cooper said. "Success will be if we can close the gaps in the depots and the stores," he said.

The web-based Business Objects software, which will be accessed over thin clients, replaces a legacy Oracle BI application which struggled to integrate with Somerfield's IBM-based IT infrastructure, Cooper said.

"The connectivity was just not there with the Oracle system," he said. "Having a simplified and accelerated toolset was a key driver for us."

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