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Setting key performance indicators can boost BI software user adoption

Jeff Kelly

In this section of the Business Intelligence Buyer's Guide, find out how setting a small number of key performance indicators (KPIs) to analyze and report

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on increased the user adoption of BI software at one manufacturer and ultimately helped it save millions of dollars in business costs.


Business Intelligence Buyer's Guide Table of Contents

Selecting the best business intelligence tools for your business
Buying business intelligence software: Top 11 considerations
Gartner: Enterprise BI strategy rarely a one-size-fits-all approach
Setting key performance indicators can boost BI software user adoption
Business intelligence tools: Don't be 'tool myopic'


Execs at York Wallcovering were so impressed with their new business intelligence (BI) software that they soon decided to expand the deployment beyond the sales department to the shop floor.

The full functionality of the software was unleashed on the manufacturing department, but user adoption didn’t take off as expected. Turns out users were looking for a bit more direction.

Based in York, Pa., York designs, manufactures and sells wallpaper to both residential and commercial customers. And between hundreds of materials and around 16,000 stock-keeping units (SKUs), the company is awash in data.

When Pat O’Connell, the company’s vice president of operations, rolled out the BI software to the manufacturing department in 2005, it was, in his own words, a “mind dump.” Designers and shop floor workers were given access to huge volumes of data and the freedom to report and analyze it as they wished.

“I set up a buffet,” O’Connell said, allowing workers to “pick out what you want.” “We had some moderate success,” he said, but they did not reach the level of user adoption he had expected.

Setting KPIs increased user adoption

The problem was not with the software’s functionality or ease of use, according to O’Connell. York uses software from BI vendor QlikTech, which has been lauded by industry analysts like Gartner for its software’s user-friendliness.

No, the problem was not the software, but the approach.

“The mistake that was really made was the technique of getting wider participation,” O’Connell said.

York’s workers really didn’t understand the power of the software’s interactive reporting capabilities, he said. Also, they were used to doing their jobs a certain way and were reluctant to change without a directive from above.

So O’Connell decided to try a different tack. Rather than allowing workers to pick and choose when and how they used the BI software, he identified a handful of key process measures and key performance indicators (KPIs) to analyze and report on with the software.

One KPI O’Connell focused on was the amount of waste York creates during the manufacturing process. York designs its own wallpaper, meaning designers experiment with different materials, patterns and colors until they meet each customer’s needs, inevitably creating some level of waste.

“In this industry, sometimes waste is just unavoidable,” he said.

And as the company’s customer base has grown, York has taken on smaller and smaller jobs, increasing the amount of potential waste per job, O’Connell said. Keeping waste to a minimum, therefore, could save York millions.

So in January 2006 O’Connell introduced a new daily report, which both he and his managers receive each morning, which includes a tab that tracks the amount of waste created in the previous days and weeks. The report allows workers to quickly identify areas of waste and drill into the data to better understand what’s causing them.

“Then people got it,” he said.

Just last week, for example, “we had a problem with metallic ink not working, so we had some waste,” which was identified via the new report. O’Connell fired off an email to the manager involved, “then we worked on what we can do to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Defining KPIs saved millions of dollars

Because the new waste report is one of just a handful O’Connell created, his managers and their workers are not overwhelmed, he said. Adoption of the BI software has surged, with many workers using it as a jumping-off point for brainstorming new ways to reduce waste.

The results speak for themselves.

“Last year alone we cut $800,000 of waste,” O’Connell said. He estimates that York has reduced the amount of waste it produces by 45% per job since 2006, saving the company around $2 million.

In addition to waste, other KPIs he chose to focus the BI software on include the number of hours per job and the number of jobs per shift.


Business Intelligence Buyer's Guide Table of Contents

Selecting the best business intelligence tools for your business
Buying business intelligence software: Top 11 considerations
Gartner: Enterprise BI strategy rarely a one-size-fits-all approach
Setting key performance indicators can boost BI software user adoption
Business intelligence tools: Don't be 'tool myopic'


 


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