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Dunkin' Brands serves up real-time BI

Dunkin' Brands got a fresh start with a new BI project.

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – As Dunkin' Brands Inc. grew to include 12,000 retail outlets worldwide, so did its business intelligence (BI) troubles.

Business intelligence specialist Steve Allocco and IT Strategy Director Rick Broughton, who reports to Dunkin' Brands CIO Michael Furlow, presented their company's successful case study at this week's Pebble Beach conference hosted by CIO Decisions and, attended by 175 senior IT executives.

Dunkin' Brands, which includes Dunkin' Donuts, Baskin-Robbins and Togo's restaurants, decided to do take on a BI project as a way to get the data necessary to understand their products, franchisees and customers.

Allocco now heads all BI initiatives and was named leader of the BI Advisory Council, which grew out of the project's cross departmental cooperation and whose members now offers feedback and enhancement ideas to the IT department.

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Executive Guide: BI

At Dunkin' Brands, the goal was, "the Holy Grail of data" -- knowledge of which products sell well, why and under what conditions. Dunkin' Brands is part of the larger, U.K.-based Allied Domecq Plc., which was purchased by Pernod Ricard SA this week for $7.4 billion. In 2004, Dunkin' Brands' recorded $4.8 billion in sales.

For CIO Decisions Conference attendee Larry Lotenero, CIO at UCSF Medical Center, a clinical research operation, the DunkinBrands BI story was a lesson in the importance of data accuracy. "The accuracy of the data has to come first," said Lotenero, whose shop is just beginning a massive BI project.

"It'll be huge. There's probably 10-12 terabytes of data out there. Research data just gobbles up huge amounts of resources." Lotenero is on the right track by having a BI team in place, according to Alloco.

The presenters emphasized business-IT alignment in their presentation, encouraging CIOs to find "BI evangelists" within their organizations – not necessarily executives with the loudest voices, but key players whose support brings credibility to a project. They also emphasized the importance of short term 'wins' – quickly delivering milestone results along the way. That strategy helps keep executives and users on board, they said.

The Dunkin' executives had a clear set of goals. They needed to provide a single, central source of information, fast access to data, and the ability to use that information for comparisons and calculations in order to support Dunkin' Brands' strategic vision. Today the company uses several different vendors, including Oracle, Blue Cube and Hyperion, to support the Dunkin' Brands BI platform.

For an organizational change as significant as a new BI system, a diverse team, ranging from executives to vendors, is important. A strategy that Allocco called "cross-functional business team lifecycle" meant that the Dunkin' Brands BI team evolved over time. Dunkin' Brands has trained about 150 new system users, with plans to add another 50. The new system allows them "sunset," or phase out, two redundant reporting systems.

The BI application is now the primary system for data requests across the organization, moving the organization closer to 'fact-based decisions.' The application taps into 1.2TB of data.

"We can measure down to the half-hour how many cups of espresso we move in a particular region," Allocco said, or compare sales of a store with a drive-thru to one without a drive-thru.

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